Does Linux have what it takes to meet the needs of the corporate desktop? Jack Wallen thinks so. Here's his list of office apps that can handle everything from word processing to project management to data backups.
Let's face it: Without a good set of office applications, your workday will be a waste of time. Productivity requires the right tools, and contrary to what some people think, Linux has everything you need to get you through the day without a hitch. We're going to look at applications that will satisfy everyone in the organization -- from HR to marketing to the front office.
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This one goes without saying, offering word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, database management, drawing, and Web page editing. Add to that the ability to read and write Microsoft Office files and export to PDF and Flash (among other formats), and you have a complete office suite that should meet every need your office has. The OpenOffice user interface has little to no learning curve, so users will hardly know the difference between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice. OpenOffice is also cross-platform capable, with installation binaries for Linux, Solaris, Windows, and OS X (both Intel and PPC).
This is the Linux version of Outlook. Another one-stop shop, only this time it's all about the PIM. E-mail, calendar, contacts, tasks, advanced searching, desktop integration, shared vCards, junk filters, encryption, LDAP support, iCal support, and much more. And if your company uses an Exchange server, you're in luck because the Evolution Connector will be able to keep you connected. Evolution tends to be the default e-mail client for the GNOME desktop, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy Evolution on KDE (or any other window manager.)
This is desktop publishing at its open source finest. Scribus can do almost anything Adobe Acrobat can do -- minus draining your wallet. Scribus does layering, opacity, ICC color management, CMYK color separations, and versatile PDF creation. With this tool, your newsletters, press packets, fliers, books, manuals, etc., are done in-house and on the cheap. I have used Scribus on numerous projects ranging from simple fliers to complex books.
Gnucash is one of the best accounting packages available for Linux. It uses double-entry bookkeeping and is a suitable replacement for individual accounting as well as a small business accounting. Gnucash is one of the only accounting packages that is available across most all platforms (Linux, Solaris, UNIX, OS X, and Windows).
This is the open source replacement for Microsoft Project. OpenProj has an equivalent user interface and functionality similar to Project and is interoperable with Project. OpenProj is released under the CPAL (Common Public Attribution License) license and is available for Linux, OS X, 32-bit Windows, BSD, and UNIX-like operating systems. OpenProj does require Java.
MRBS is a Web-based booking system for meeting rooms but can be altered to suit your needs. Although I wanted to include only applications that could be installed locally, I felt it necessary to include this application simply because it's so useful. For corporate environments that have multiple rooms to book, this small-footprint application is perfect. It can also be modified for use as an appointment book, too. MRBS can do repeated bookings, reports, DAY/WEEK/MONTH views, multiple authorization levels, and multiple language support. The installation is simple but requires both a Web server (Apache) and a database server (either MySQL or Postgres).
Formerly GTT, GnoTime is a desktop application that tracks time spent on projects and offers time-based invoice generation. Numerous reports can be generated (Journal, Activity, Daily, Status, To Do, Invoices, Query, Primer, New Reports, Edit Reports), and the interface is simple to use. GnoTime also includes a diary entry editor for each project. With GnoTime you can embed simple SQL queries into report templates. In addition, GnoTime benefits from autosave. So in the rare event your Linux desktop crashes, your data is safe from loss. GnoTime runs on Linux, UNIX, and OS X.
I realize that graphics software isn't always included in lists of necessary office software -- but if your office does any of its PR or marketing in-house, graphics tools are a necessity. And when using Linux, GIMP is the de facto standard for graphics creation and/or manipulation. GIMP is to Linux what Photoshop is to OS X and Windows. But GIMP goes Photoshop one better because it's cross-platform ready. You can install GIMP on Linux, OS X, or Windows. It features a customizable interface, photo enhancement, digital retouching, hardware support, a huge range of file format support, plug-in support, its own scripting language, filters, and a host of other outstanding features.
Many corporate businesses have started regarding instant messaging as a legitimate form of interoffice (or inter-cubicle) communication. And Pidgin is one of the finest of the instant messaging clients. Pidgen works with nearly all of the instant messaging services and can have multiple accounts configured. It's released under the GNU License, it's free, and it works on Linux, UNIX, Windows, and OS X. Pidgen supports file transfer, typing notification, spell-check, buddy pouncing, away messages, etc.
What office doesn't back up data? None, if they employ safe business practices. And the CD offers one of the safest means of data backup. K3b makes backing up to CD simple. Not only can you do multiple backup types (audio, data cd, data dvd, copy cd, iso cd, iso dvd), you can save the backup information to a file. If you do the same backup regularly, all you need to do is open up the particular backup file and click burn. (No more having to drag and drop or hunt for particular files/folders to back up.) K3b can also blank CDR-Ws, retrieve TOCs, and write cue/bin files. K3b is available only for Linux and has been optimized for KDE.
This short list includes software that can easily handle much of your day-to-day office needs and do it on the Linux operating system. The software listed here is simple to use, reliable, (mostly) scalable, and business ready. Of course, this is a generalized list. Far more specialized office-type software is available on the Linux platform. One of the best places to look for such software is in your Install Software tool, such as Synaptic or Yumex. (The tool you have will depend upon the distribution you use.) Fire that tool up and look through the various categories (a good place to start is the "Office" category) to find what you need.
Linux is an outstanding platform for the office. It is flexible, cost-effective, reliable, secure, and enjoys a small learning curve. So if you're doubting Linux can take over your office software needs, doubt no more!
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.