THE BLOG
05/23/2013 09:00 am ET Updated Jul 23, 2013

Best Available Free Software for Your Business

To run a business successfully, you need to bootstrap and find free resources wherever you can get them. I have tried my hand at picking some of the best free software for businesses. These are not free 30 day free trials, but actually free software.

1. GIMP
This is similar to Photoshop, though it is not as robust as Photoshop. It does have many similarities and is defiantly a great alternative. It is an open source program written in C and GTK+. GIMP has typical photo editing capabilities such as lighting and contrast. It also has selective cropping, airbrush, pencil, paint and eraser. There are also layering options, filters, blurring, stamping, color matching tools, and available plug-ins. If you are going to do in-house photo touchups, rather than hiring a designer, this may be a program for you (especially if you are not planning on doing it that often). With this program, you may be able to save some cash on simple projects that call for the use of pictures. For example, if you are putting together a blog post, a news letter or a flier, this may be the way to go to get a great photo for such an in-house endeavor. The software is available for both Mac and Windows. It is not a cloud based software and thus requires you to download it straight to the computer. According to my research, I have not found anything that prohibits users from commercial use.

2. Open Office
Open Office is open source presentation, word processing, and spreadsheet software. It is put out by Apache. One of the common arguments with open source software is that the bugs are worked out because of the many developers compared to software that is not open source. Users can download the software for without licensing fees and use it for virtually any purpose (student, personal, commercial, etc). I have used the software before. It is comparable to Microsoft Office. If you are starting a business with not much money to spare, this software may be a good alternative to Microsoft Office software. Another reason why this software is great is that you don't have to spend money on the upgrades.

3. Google
There are many great business applications from Google:

Google Drive
I have used this software many times for collaborative activities. It is great because you can have several people writing up a draft at the same time and contribute/ make changes anytime. You can download the final draft as a Microsoft Office, Open Office, PDF, or other formatted document.

Google Hangout
This video chat program allows for several users to meet virtually all at once. The person who is speaking will be displayed on the main screen. You can also have a person display a document to the rest of the group while it is being worked on.

Google Voice
This is a phone service. Many of the calls are free. They charge a fee for calls out of the country.

4. Doodle
I love this software. Have you ever had to try to make schedules mesh to no avail? This is great software for finding the right time for everyone to meet. You set aside several time slots that work and everyone puts in all their available times within those time slots. The program finds the best time for most people to meet in the group.

5. Weebly
This allows you to build a website for free. You can upgrade your website for a low price. While I have never used this software, I have several friends who say it is the greatest. Upgrading your blog or website can be as low as $4/month. The company allows for you to use a free subdomain. If you want to have your own domain, you will need to purchase it yourself.

6. Dropbox
Dropbox is a cloud based file hosting service which allows you to keep all your files in one place. You start out with 2 GB of storage for free and receive more storage space if you invite others to get an account. There are other options if you want a paid subscription. You can share folders with others allowing for people to access files at any time. Dropbox is great. You can download the app and access your files anywhere. If you are working on another computer and want to save a file to your Dropbox account, you can simply go to the website, login and upload the file to your account. If you are collaborating, need access to your files from multiple location, or would like to backup some files on a cloud server, Dropbox is a great tool.

7. xmind
Xmind is diagram software for brainstorming, making Gnatt charts, mind mapping and other similar uses. Xmind has free use under the individual license. As your needs grow, there are pay options to license the software. This software helps make charts easy to create and use.

What software have you found to be helpful? Let me know.

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