6 Cost effective options for popular business software
Think of Office Productivity software suites, 9 out of 10 times you will probably think of Microsoft Office. Think creative design software, Adobe Creative Suite must come to your mind first. Try searching for CRM software, we are sure that search results will crowd with the likes of SAP and Salesforce.com. These mainstream Leviathans have a grip on their areas of expertise that are hard to escape, especially now that they have been around for years and have defined certain job titles themselves.
But these are often not the tools you need. In fact, standard software suites often come with features and updates that are not used by most users. A complex, chaotic, omnipotent application can actually be detrimental to a business that is just starting out, which requires dedicated knowledge and training. Also, the prices of some of these mainstream software suites and applications are quite high, which can be a problem for a new business or a personal professional. For example, Microsoft Office 2016 Professional Edition costs a lot of money. 30999 and the annual membership fee of Adobe Creative Cloud is Rs. 32,400. Considering these are quite large numbers there are equally capable, if not better, options available there.
Office Productivity – LibreOffice
A thorn in the side of the OpenOffice project, LibreOffice is open-source and free and maintained by The Document Foundation. Available in 110 languages, it contains a simple set of word processing tools, presentation tools, spreadsheet tools, diagrams and drawing tools. LibreOffice uses the ISO / IEC standard OpenDocument Format (ODF) as its own format to store all its applications, as well as many file formats from other popular suites that you can import and export.
LibreOffice is actually very good to be free
If you are looking for a comparison between LibreOffice and Microsoft Office, you can get more than what you signed up for. For starters, LibreOffice 5.1 is available with the same codebase for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD, whereas MS Office is available for Windows and Mac OS X, with different codebases that lead to compatibility issues. , With reasons such as not having MS access in OS X MS Office version. LibreOffice also comes in a portable format that can be used directly from a pen drive, which can be very useful in a small office situation. Files from one application have a very strong integration of all office components with files from another application and easy access from a centralized start center. You will get a centralized access page for any extension you want to install. This is one of the best options in a more casual suite. And the best part is – it’s all for free.
Photo Editing – GIMP
This one requires no introduction. GIMP has been known for some time as a free Photoshop alternative, and the current version is a highly capable application with full scale photo editing and digital painting capabilities. It is completely open source and anyone can change its source code and redistribute the changes. The plugins and add-ons available for GIMP have a very rich ecosystem which gives it a lot of power. GIMP Plugin Registry contains plugins created by users worldwide.
GIMP is good enough for most needs
While Photoshop is quite unchanging for many uses, it is also true that GIMP is a very useful and powerful alternative. For example, if you have a tight budget and don’t always need a very powerful photo editing tool at your disposal, GIMP is the best option you can take. This is definitely more powerful than the standard photo-editing options you get in apps like Instagram and Google Photos, and with the right combination of extensions, you can do wonderful things with this popular open source app. Sweet Bit – GIMP supports PSD out of the box, so don’t worry about your coworker sending you that WIP file.
Special Note – If you are on Linux, close your eyes and get GIMP.
Digital Illustration – Inkscape
Inkscape is a recurring name for free or low cost alternatives to Adobe Illustrator. As its native format is scalable vector graphics (SVG), it is really powerful in vector designing, with support for shape building, gradient mesh and much more. In a showdown with Illustrator, one of the first pain points to be clearly shown is the price, 12 12,000 / year with an Adobe Illustrator license, compared to Inkscape completely free. In terms of features, this is a difficult call to make because both have features that the other does not have For example, Illustrator supports gradient mesh and multiple strokes and fills for an object, where Inkscape supports direct SVG source editing as well as considering sizes as objects.
Still want to pay for Illustrator?
Even when it comes to user interface and user support, Inkscape opts for simplicity and readability, which is often perceived by power users as a lack of actual power. Note that both Inkscape and Illustrator are aimed at SVG development, which is primarily for web-use, and not heavy raster-graphics. If you want to try Inkscape, here are some interesting tutorials to get you started.
Special Note: Some of you may be wondering why we didn’t put Coreldraw here. Well, if you drop some features for a low price, why not go all the way?
Desktop Publishing – Scribus
As an alternative to Adobe’s desktop publishing software Indesign, Scribus is an open source tool packed with useful tools for all the publications you may need – typesetting, print design, creating interactive PDFs, layout design and much more. The Scribus user community provides many standard templates that you can use in your projects, or you can go ahead and create your own. The interface is quite unique and gives you the ability to adjust the amount of space taken by program features and tools and the document you are currently working on.
Scribus can easily take a host of formats imported from mainstream applications. This includes CMYK support, spot color and ICC profile. This allows you to edit objects within the wide layers of the document. Also, you can create PostScript and PDF files from documents to check before sending them for printing. Some unexpected extra features actually help speed up the page layout. In particular, drawing tools with a default size and a polygon tool are quite powerful for a DTP. You can even attach text to a path and stream text inside a shaped frame, and you can even have linked frames in your multi-page document to ensure word-flow across the layout.
Scribus is actually used a lot already
PDF / PostScript Generation is an exceptionally simple Export dialog call with just a one-click button. You can even choose PDF / X3 which is an ISO standard for the format. In fact, Scribus was the first application to support this feature.
Customer Relationship Management – SugarCRM
Since the launch of Salesforce.com in the early 2000’s, it has been repeatedly cited as one of the best examples of cloud computing. In fact, it replaces some of the leading CRM solutions of market and business leaders of the time. In this day and age of entrepreneurs and customer-oriented products and companies, it is no wonder that there is a need for a good CRM solution and something that even small businesses cannot do without. On that note, you may want to look at an alternative that is more affordable than Salesforce and that’s where SugarCRM comes in.
At $ 40 per user / monthly fee for the professional version and $ 65 per user / month fee for the enterprise version, SugarCRM costs about half as much as Salesforce.com. Highly customizable with SugarCRM modules that can be rotated with simple drag and drop action. Since it is open source and PHP based, SugarCRM is a very good choice for customized implementation, since PHP is one of the most taught languages on the Internet.
SugarCRM is exactly what small businesses need
Considering the deployment method, Salesforce goes for single tenant implementation, which means everyone gets the same URL, whereas SugarCRM goes for a multi-tenant system, where everyone gets their own URL. Because of the single rental system, you can never own software with Salesforce. Overall, SugarCRM adopts an all-in-one approach that is suitable for small businesses who may feel that the A-la carte mode is too expensive.
Computer Aided Design – BricsCAD
When looking for alternatives to something as powerful and design-based as AutoCAD by Autodesk, it would be a good idea to keep the free options away, at least initially. But it does not make you think that this option is not going to be an economic advantage. In fact, BricsCAD gives you all the power of AutoCAD at about half the price. AutoCAD is listed at 80 1680, and is only listed with resellers on the Indian website. On the other hand, the best version of BricsCAD, BricsCAD Platinum at Rs 48,000.
Along with all the standard CAD functions, BricsCAD Platinum comes with full LISP, VBA, BRX and .NET support. It comes with electrical and sheet metal design support, which is not present in the AutoCAD suite. Although BricsCAD lacks some features, it still supports reading 13 file types, compared to AutoCAD’s 8 file types. BricsCAD also has a strong support structure and it comes with an all-in-one extra that gives you priority support and full access to subsequent releases.
BricsCAD is half the price of power like AutoCAD
Compared to AutoCAD’s 6GB hard-disk space, BricsCAD takes up only 1GB of space and AutoCAD requires only 1GB of RAM compared to its 4GB requirement. It has extremely positive feedback regarding launch time. According to the developer, it supports ‘hundreds of third party applications’. The learning curve is only steep in the document management system but it is not entirely impossible.
This article was first published in the March 2016 issue of Magazine. To read Digit articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit e-Magazine app.