Software costs hitting your start-up cash flow?

Start up software costs can be a substantial part of the cost of setting up a home office or small business.

As all this has to come from my own pocket, the desire to minimize this spend at the start has meant that I have spent more time looking at the open source alternatives than I might otherwise have.

The accepted knowledge is that you “need” Microsoft Office, Microsoft Project, Outlook and if you are crunching significant data – an small business server for it’s SQL engine.

All the above are great products, I have used them for years and was happy doing so.

So why change?

The change from Employee to owning the Company meant formatting computers that had held my former employers details and rather than simply getting a personal pack from PC world covering me for a desktop and laptop I decided to look around first.

Also as a self confessed Technophile I have several aged computers lovingly rebuilt over the years and repaired from spare parts in a manner that would have made Dr Frankenstein himself jealous. These older junk based machines get used by the ladies in my family to research cross-stitch, do homework and a variety of other tasks.
Getting office for each is a problem because some won’t run it, others haven’t space for it and lastly we can’t afford it*

What did I need?

  • Office Software – Word processor, Spreadsheet and Presentation
  • Mail client – because Outlook isn’t the only client
  • Paint software – for retouching image

I say need because there are some “nice to have” pieces of software that will likely be acquired simply because they will make my life simpler.

Chief among these is Sage as my accountants Albert Goodman are familiar with it and thus will be better able to make sense of my end of year accounts.

So – What where my alternatives?

Office Software

Windows Lgog

Microsoft Supply Windows Live essentials (free but limited in what it can do) and Office 365.

Office 365 costs money on a subscription basis but does give you Office web applications meaning you can edit Word, OneNote, Excel, and PowerPoint files using a browser.  You need Internet access to use it so if you live in a highly connected area with good speed it could be an option.

Google logo

Google supply Google Docs – a part of Google Drive.  It’s free to use and integrates into your online Google account environment.   There’s no charge as yet but it does feed you with adverts whose astonishing accuracy shows how carefully they pay attention to what you are doing.  If you can live with that (and I can) this is quite a good product.   I use a Gmail account to handle day to day transactions and I forward all my domain mail to it.

It also handles backup.

OpenOffice Logo

Apache supply Open Office – The completely free office suite that installs to your pc.  It’s traditional software rather than cloud and gives you the full suite of tools.  It isn’t Microsoft Office so takes a little time to build experience and has it’s own formats but they are open standards formats and office users should be able to open them although not necessarily vice-versa.

My daughter uses this for her homework and I write most of my quotes and export as PDF as it’s much more mobile friendly.  Before you dismiss open source you might like to know Microsoft just won an open source award.

NB:-  also see footnote#

Paint Software

I have to say that I am incredibly, possibly unreasonably, biased in my choice of paint software.

My two choices are both free and are :

  • Paint.net – there is so much to love about this simple package.  It is easy to use withgood retouching tools and periodically updates itself to a newer, better version.
  • GIMP  – this is the GNU Image Manipulation Program.  Sophisticated with add ons, filters and a wealth of tools.  I have been using it for years and am still learning all it’s tricks.

In the interest of full disclosure I should add that I also have a copy of PaintShop Pro 7 bought when it was new, before Jasc became part of Corel.  Both Corel and Adobe provide top of the line graphics packages.

These are the options that stood out to me and I considered to be suitable for my needs.  This does not imply a recommendation of suitability for any other person or company – you should make up your own mind as to their suitability for your purpose.

# This list isn’t exhaustive : – if this has caught your imagination there are further options at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_office_suites

* Please remember my better half reads my blog….

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