Open Source

Five must-have open source productivity tools

You don't have to turn to proprietary software to get your work done. Here are five feature-rich open source alternatives.

What do we need to produce our work? Although it has changed over the years -- with the browser becoming probably the most important productivity tool we now have -- certain constants remain. We must produce documents, we must be able to create/manipulate images, we must manage money, and we must be able to communicate and schedule. These constants dictate that we have sound tools to handle those tasks. Don't think Microsoft (and other creators of proprietary software) hold a monopoly on productivity. The open source community has done a great job of creating tools perfectly suited to help you get your job done.

Let's take a look at five such productivity tools. (We'll leave out the browser, since we all know Firefox is the flagship open source browser.)

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: LibreOffice

LibreOffice (Figure A) is the open source equivalent of Microsoft Office. It includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing, and database tools. All the tools are compatible with their Microsoft Office counterparts and strictly follow open standards. LibreOffice is free of charge and is available across all platforms.

Figure A

LibreOffice

2: Evolution

Evolution (Figure B) is to open source what Microsoft Outlook is to proprietary software. A groupware client with email, calendar, tasks, contacts, and notes, Evolution will help keep you connected and organized. Evolution is available only for the Linux platform. There have been some efforts to bring it to Windows, but most all failed or died out when Novell bought Evolution. But if you need to connect Evolution to Exchange, there are tools available to allow that to happen.

Figure B

Evolution

3: GIMP

GIMP (Figure C) is one of the most powerful image editing/creating tools on the open source market, offering similar user-friendliness to Photoshop. Some of the tasks you do with GIMP might take a few more steps than Photoshop requires. But in the end, the job gets done. I've been using GIMP for my book cover design business and it does quite well.

Figure C

GIMP

4: Scribus

Scribus (Figure D) is the easiest and most powerful way to create PDF documents in Linux. And this open source tool isn't just available for the Linux world. You can also enjoy the freedom of creating PDF (and editable PDF) documents on Mac and Windows. With a simple interface and all the features you'd expect in a PDF creation tool, Scribus will help you to get the job done quickly and easily.

Figure D

Scribus

5: GnuCash

GnuCash (Figure E) is the flagship personal and small business accounting software. Although it's only a single-user tool, it can easily handle the management of small business finances. GnuCash is a double-entry accounting tool, with checking, savings, stocks, assets, expenses, and more. GnuCash offers scheduled transactions, transaction matching, financial calculations, and importing, among other things.

Figure E

GnuCash

Wish list

The open source community has nearly every tool you need to get your work done efficiently. And that list of software grows every year. Soon, you'll have no reason to work outside of the scope of open source in your office.

Is there a proprietary app you'd like to see rolled out as an open source equivalent? If so, sound off here.

About

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.

30 comments
boucaria
boucaria

Good Set of Options. How about a set of AV and Anti-Malware Options? I plan to have a VM-Ware Workstation install to run the necessary OS's for my Job, but the Linux base is what I want to have, however, what do you recommend, maybe better, what do you use, for AV and Anti-Malware on Linux ?

cwarner7_11
cwarner7_11

Someone mentioned project management, which got me to thinking about how I organize projects. 1. I start with a mind-mapper, to basically outline the project. I like Xmind (http://www.xmind.net/), although there are a number of other Open Source options for this. Think of it as an electronic whiteboard where you can capture random ideas about a project, it's purpose, the processes required to complete the project, breaking the project down into tasks, etc. 2. From here, we go to a project planner, for allocating resources/assigning tasks, establishing a timeline, etc. I prefer the Gnome Planner (https://live.gnome.org/Planner). 3. Many of my projects require some sort of literature search. For keeping track of key references, there are applications like Mendeley (http://www.mendeley.com/features/) or Zotero (http://www.zotero.org/). Key here is the ability to annotate/highlight/write notes while reviewing the documents. 4. For keeping track of my own thoughts, project progress, etc., I like Zim Desktop (http://zim-wiki.org/).

rhetters
rhetters

I use GnuCash, GIMP, and LibreOffice. Great applications. I also use Mozilla's Thunderbird as an email client. I haven't tried Evolution. What would be the advantages vs Thunderbird?

jdaughtry
jdaughtry

Sometimes the price of "free" is too high. OO breaks MS-Office documents, so you can't collaborate with non-OO workers. Softmaker Office is half the price of MS, and very inexpensive in quantity, and I've never been able to break it.

Criminologygrl
Criminologygrl

Personally, I love the open source tools, use them frequently and love GIMP especially. I also love CutePDF and Open Office. I would love to see an open source equivalent for AutoCAD, any out there?

downtoearthman
downtoearthman

Gimp is okay, but it just doesn't get it for real graphic designers. Don't get me wrong. Gimp is good and I use it all the time, but it really is just an image manipulator. In other words, it uses bitmaps. To really do professional graphics you need a vector graphics tool. Inkscape is really good too, but both products fall way behind photoshop and illustrator. It doesn't just take a few more steps to use gimp and inkscape. You may have to find the right pluggins or you might even have to program your own module to do the same things. In addition, adobe has tons of hard core professional detailed guides and tutorials and if you can't find an answer, you can pay a nominal fee to get the answer to what you need to do. No such luck with gimp and inkscape. You can find lots of tutorials for gimp and inkscape, but there's a lot that just isn't covered and it can take a lot longer to find answers. I've learned both photoshop, illustrator, gimp and inkscape, so I know. Although gimp and inkscape are the only programs that I have on my computer and I use them professionally, when I get on a computer with either illustrator or photoshop I can do a lot more in a fraction of the time. I wish inkscape and gimp were half as good as photoshop and illustrator, because I'm a hard core open source guy. The only proprietary software I use is a windows machine so that I can make sure that the websites I develop in that piece of trash IE function properly.

gmontes
gmontes

[ul]Notepad++ (http://notepadplusplus.org/) - A very good replacement for Windows Notepad.[/ul] [ul]Paint.Net (http://www.getpaint.net/index.html) - A Free Raster graphics editor, probably not as complete as the Gimp but powerful enough.[/ul] [ul]Inkscape (http://inkscape.org/) - An Open Source vector graphics editor[/ul] [ul]Blender3 (http://www.blender.org/) - A free open source 3D content creation suite. Not exaclty a CAD package but close enough.[/ul] [ul]Diffuse (http://diffuse.sourceforge.net/) - A tool for merging and comparing text files.[/ul] [ul]DiffMerge (http://www.sourcegear.com/diffmerge/index.html) - To visually compare and merge files [/ul] And several other bigger applications like SugarCRM (http://www.sugarcrm.com/community) an open source CRM or Project.Net (http://www.project.net/) - a project management solution. But I think these being business specific solution packages, are out of the "Productivity tools" group

said.fox
said.fox

I suggest to make another list for 100% free productivity tools, regarding less open source or not, I suggest for this list, Faststone Image viewer, It is free and offer great features for viewing, archiving and editing images.

prouton
prouton

Calling Scribus a PDF creation tool is like calling Excel a calculator -- yeah, it'll do that but that's not the real purpose of the product. Scribus is comparable to Adobe's PageMaker, not Acrobat. And thank you for bringing it to my attention. Since PageMaker is well past being compatible with current Windows, and I can't justify spending the money on InDesign, this will hopefully fulfill my needs.

kiemjp
kiemjp

How does Office Libre compare with Open Office?

kimbaslair
kimbaslair

Gimp is a great image editing/creating tool but it's a little too sophisticated for me (I only like to dabble) so I use http://www.irfanview.com/ - I find it's much more easier to work with.

iggerant
iggerant

I would like to see a Really Good business process and flowcharting tool. Also Project Management is not mentioned here, though I have never tried Open Source for that Appl'n.

cwarner7_11
cwarner7_11

1. Open Office- Calc withers when faced with serious engineering work when compared to Excel 2000- but, then again, I have the impression that newer versions of Excel are pretty wimpy when compared to 2000 as well. Writer can get really bogged down when you have a lot of images- and I STILL haven't figured out how to anchor images so they don't jump all over the place when editing. 2. Evolution- who needs an e-mail clinet these days? 3. GIMP- excellent product, but then I am not in to serious publishing. It meets my needs without hogging system resources. 4. Scrbus- I probably should be using this for my documentation projects, just too lazy to move up. 5. Gnucash- been using Gnucash since my Windows days, when an upgrade broke my commercial accounting package. I was able to import all my critical data from the old package. Excellent package. What is needed? A really good CAD package.

warrene
warrene

Way to go through life with blinders on, BRomeo!

terrydex
terrydex

Microsnob has owned the Corporate Desktop since the mid-'80s. However, a strange confluence of confusing new User Interfaces, continuing philosophy of 'Good Enough', the wide-open System Registry and ever higher prices makes their products unattractive at the least and down-right dangerous in the extreme. I use all of these Open Source apps on a Linux Desktop and much prefer them to Office/Windows. A bonus - no virii to worry about.

birdfrankm
birdfrankm

We do not need to do "cool" or "neat" things just because they are supported by technology. We need good, solid applications that are easy to use. If we continue down the Microsoft road, soon none of us will be able to do anyting. New and improved is not necessarily better. I agree, if it is not broken, don't fix it.

paulneaveill
paulneaveill

When has it become fashionable to waste valuable system resources with crapware like ribbons and all of that? We need solid stuff, not vaporware as is vomited out from Redmond. Most of computer world runs menus. Sorry there fanboy.

BRomeroT
BRomeroT

I don't see this programs like options nor necessary. I see them just like old fashion little programs from last decade. They're so useless that use menus, never upgrade to some like Ribbons Bars or Metro Style or in-line edit tools or Apple Style; they are they just an old fashion copy of Windows 95 programs style. This is the reason of Linux failure.

Gimper66
Gimper66

"Gimp is okay, but it just doesn't get it for real graphic designers. Don't get me wrong. Gimp is good and I use it all the time, but it really is just an image manipulator. In other words, it uses bitmaps. To really do professional graphics you need a vector graphics tool. Inkscape is really good too, but both products fall way behind photoshop and illustrator. It doesn't just take a few more steps to use gimp and inkscape. You may have to find the right pluggins or you might even have to program your own module to do the same things. In addition, adobe has tons of hard core professional detailed guides and tutorials and if you can't find an answer, you can pay a nominal fee to get the answer to what you need to do. No such luck with gimp and inkscape." As a graphics artist who uses GIMP everyday I have to disagree with your statement that it doesn't "get it" for real graphics designers. I've been using GIMP since the first Beta was released and would never trade it on an overly expensive program like Photoshop. As to tutorials and help... there are just as many if not more resources on the net for GIMP (plug-ins, tuts, support groups, a "Help Desk" staffed by thousands of Users and Programmers, etc.) While its true that GIMP may take a longer route to the finished products, the results are equal to, if not better than, using PS. Tell Adobe to drop their product costs by at least 60% and maybe some of us "Open Sourcers" will try making the switch to PS or IS.

kashyap.bikram
kashyap.bikram

Notepad++, really good. Best feature is you can ,minimize a block of code. Also many plugins. For comparing differences and merging, I use winmerge.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

After all, Notepad++ shows what a notepad program ought to be able to do... and then some. After that Windows notepad is just a "what were they thinking".

janitorman
janitorman

the "new" OpenOffice. OpenOffice was taken over from Sun Microsystems by Oracle, and has now been released to Apache Software Foundation. LibreOffice is an independent project, a branch of the "old" OpenOffice from pre-Oracle, and actually more current, containing more bug fixes and features than the current OpenOffice. There's a good article about it here: open.salon.com/blog/the_weird_writer/2011/12/07/libreoffice_vs_openofficeorg_showdown_for_best_open_source_office_suite

swade
swade

I have been using OpenProj for doing project management. It's a little clunky but it gets the job done for me on small projects. I'm not sure I'd use it for larger projects (either in terms of $$ or people).

Jim-Bob_z
Jim-Bob_z

It's Open Source, interfaces to "just about everything", and produces workflow server files that will run on Open-standards servers. Amazing User Interface. What do others think of it? Jim-MN

ed
ed

When people--who are stuck on Windows--ask me about an Office package, for years I've been saying get an Office 97 package on eBay. The only exception is if you have to be compatible with an Access database, get Office 2000, or 2003 at the latest. I've been teaching the Office '07 and '10 since the university switched. There are some ribbon items that were easy to find in the old menus and I still have to go to help to find them. (Looks really cool to have to do that in front of a class with the spreadsheet on the projector--though it does show how the help system works.) With your attitude (and mine!) I'd be afraid you'd run screaming from the room about fifteen minutes into using one of your engineering files on the ribbon. And for my own use, I'm glad they haven't changed the keyboard shortcuts I use in '07 and '10.

nick
nick

Already the previews of Windows 8 and just announced Office 15 (or is it 13) have dumbed the interfaces down to work with touch screens. Suddenly feature rich applications get an interface that means many features are difficult to find and hard to use if found.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

Nothing wrong with menus. They actually work (and faster). Metro and Ribbon suck. Put down the MS Kool Aid.

Rich.H
Rich.H

This is precisely why so many of us prefer them, instead of the if-it-ain't-broke-we'll-fix-it-anyway approach Microsoft has been so fond of lately.

Owen Glendower
Owen Glendower

"...get an Office 97 package on eBay. The only exception is if you have to be compatible with an Access database, get Office 2000, or 2003 at the latest." Agreed. I reluctantly moved from Office 97 to Office 2003 (also readily available on ebay, often in the academic edition) and hope I never have to "move up" again, having more important things to do (like make a living) than learning a new interface.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

...but I'm afraid it's a forlorn hope

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