6 pieces of open source software your company needs

Open source software is software that is available in source code form. That means anyone can access the underlying computer code that makes up the software. It is possible to change and adapt it in any way you want.

However, unless you’re a computer programmer, you most likely don’t possess the skills to accomplish this. So for the majority of businesses, the big appeal of open source software is that it is typically free.

What’s more, because there’s a huge, worldwide community of people who offer their time to operate on open source software, it’s also every bit as good as the closed source computer software you have to pay for.

Getting started with open source software is easy – just download it and try it. Here are six packages to get you going:

1. OpenOffice.org

OpenOffice.org is the open source equivalent of Microsoft Office. It includes word processor, presentation, spreadsheet and database tools, and compares well to the Microsoft software. It can even open and save Microsoft Office files.

2. Gimp

Gimp is a surprisingly-advanced image editing package that’s helpful have on hand. Whether you need to crop photos for your website or resize product images for a catalogue, it can do it – and in case you’ve the patience to learn, you can also carry out much more complex tasks.

3. Firefox

If you’re still using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer as your web browser, give Firefox a try. It’s flexible and easy-to-use – but the killer is you can pick from a huge number of add-ons to make using the web easier.

4. Audacity

You might not have any use for a sound recording and editing program at the moment. So just store Audacity up for when you decide to create a podcast or record your local radio appearance for your website. It’s one of the best audio editors out there – and it’s totally free.

5. VideoLAN

VideoLAN can play virtually any video file you throw at it. Unlike other video players, it doesn’t take up much space on your PC and won’t need to download updates to play certain files. It’s the only video player you’ll need.

6. Notepad++

Notepad++ is one of those little tools you didn’t know you needed until you tried it. It’s basically a replacement for the Notepad utility built into Microsoft Windows, but with loads more features. If you ever have to make changes to any kind of computer code – like editing the text in your website HTML – it’s great for that. And even if not, it’s worth using in place of Notepad.

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Jonathan Edwards is MD and founder of Integral IT, a preferred IT support partner to many UK businesses. Jonathan has been working in the IT support industry since 1996 and is a Microsoft Certified Professional. He is actively involved with all aspects of client relationships and ensures Integral's IT support is of the highest quality possible.