As most people, not unlike myself, have realized, once the high of the holidays has worn off, the month of December takes a hefty toll on our pocket books.
Between travelling, gifts, food, family, and friends – not to mention a saggy economy – people are looking for every opportunity to pinch pennies and make cuts in order to pay off holiday debt or in some cases just keep the lights on another month.
One of the easiest – and most often overlooked – areas of cost cutting is the productivity software you use on a daily basis for your business. When you consider that the software you purchase is essentially just proprietary 1s and 0s, the exorbitant prices that are charged can be a bit hard to swallow; especially when there are so many viable alternatives out there – and no, I’m not talking about software pirating!
What I am talking about is open-source software, sometimes referred to “freeware”. These alternative programs keep the functionality of the programs you are familiar with (like Outlook for instance), and in many cases make improvements over the original that can end up increasing your productivity, all while remaining completely free to the user.
We’ve compiled a list of the best open-source alternatives to the productivity software that real estate professional uses on a daily basis in the hopes that you find something that saves you money and helps you continue to be a real estate rockstar.
Replaces: Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
Saves You: $399.95
Why it Rocks: In addition to mirroring the functionality of the entire Office suite of products, right down to the most obscure Excel function, Open Office lets you create PDFs right from documents without a plug-in and it runs on all major computing platforms.
Replaces: Adobe Photoshop
Saves You: $699.00
Why it Rocks: GIMP, which stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Tool” gives you great features like the ability to edit in full screen, correct common photo ailments like perspective distortion with the click of a button, and has loads of integrated device support right out of the box so you can increase your work flow – all in addition to emulating the Photoshop environment.
Replaces: Microsoft Outlook
Saves You: $109.95
Why it Rocks: Make your email work for you rather then the other way around with great Thunderbird features like custom message tagging (ala Gmail), Message history navigation, themes, customizable folder views, and access to your webmail services with just a username and password. The only thing it’s missing is a calendar – but don’t worry, Mozilla has you covered with Lightning and Sunbird.
PDFCreator / Foxit Reader
Replaces: Adobe Acrobat
Saves You: $449.00
Why it Rocks: Use PDFCreator to create PDFs out of any Windows program whenever you need them, and then use the speedy Foxit Reader to read them or view them in your browser – you can even annotate them! These two programs are basically the one-two punch for anything PDF related.
Saves You: $179.95 and up
Why it Rocks: If you think it is too difficult to switch away from the ERP standard, think again. Compiere gives you all the same functionality of Quickbooks and integrates CRM software solutions for your business – in addition to providing some of the best support around.
Saves You: Nothing, but your sanity
Why it Rocks: Alright, alright. I know that all of the aforementioned IM programs are actually free, but each one requires a separate client in order to use, which inevitably leads to having them all open at once…which leads to insanity, trust me. Keep everything tidy with the cross-platform Pidgin and never have to worry about juggling IM programs again.
VLC Media Player
Replaces: Quicktime Pro or any other paid media player
Saves You: $29.99 and up
Why it Rocks: This thing will play anything you throw at it. Seriously. I have never found a media type that VLC won’t play, and believe me, I have tried. It is also dead simple to use for new users, and has a backend full of powerful options for those media pros. Say hello to your new favorite program.
As always, we’d love to hear about your favorite open-source software or anything else you would like to share in the replies!