The question then is not whether free and open source software can work, or has worked, at any scale. It’s what particular open source programs can work for what you do every day. If you’re wondering whether there are apps you can try to explore, or software that’s free, functional, and minded by a big community of watchful eyes, we have a small starter pack to share with you.
First, a word of advice: Start small. Don’t try to replace Microsoft Office or your entire payroll scheme all at once. Start by installing these apps on your own system, and then maybe recommending them to a few coworkers. If they work for you and your team, then see about bringing up open source to the IT team for consideration.
SugarCRM: Customer and marketing management software, but not from big firms with restrictive licenses. There are multiple pricing tiers, but scroll to the bottom to find the free trial and entirely free community edition.
WordPress: WordPress powers nearly one-fifth of the web, and is the backbone for some massive and complex sites – WorkIntelligent.ly being just one example. But WordPress can also power even a single section of your site with its own blog, or be used as an internal progress and issue-tracking blog, as they do at WordPress itself to maintain their 100 percent mobile workforce. (Free, server-based, with apps for many devices)
VLC media player: This one is a no-brainer. It’s a media-playing app that can play almost any file out there, no matter what weird format your client sent over or country that DVD is from. Ever have a media file with an extension you don’t recognize? Chances are VLC can play it. Keep it handy, and it will save the day. (Free download for Windows/Mac/mobile/other)
7-Zip: Like VLC, 7-Zip can save you in a pinch, while making you wonder why the professional and expensive versions of this utility aren’t nearly as good. ZIP files, RAR files, and other weird compression schemes are all easily handled by 7-Zip. Oh, and it archives pretty well, too. (Free download for Windows/Mac/mobile/other)
Thunderbird: Having worked at many offices, I know the many ways that different email clients can excel at making email difficult to manage. Thunderbird has a familiar and adjustable three-pane look, is easy to set up, and does a lot of smart things to make email less painful, such as offering to send large attachments to online storage services. (Free download for Windows/Mac/mobile/other)
Are you using open source software in your day-to-day work? Anything that’s helped you be more productive? Let us know about it in the comments below.