Tag Archives: business

Can you set up an office using just free, open source software?

While we were setting up the Disruptive Communications office we were keen to use open source wherever possible. Why? Primarily to keep our costs down but also because it just kinda feels right – the open source community is a hotbed of innovation and creativity, with thousands of hugely talented people working towards the goal of building high quality tools that are free and open for anybody to use, modify and build upon. Something about that strikes a chord with us. Also, free is good.

So what open source office software are we using?

For our our office suite (word-processor, presentation tool, spreadsheet, etc) we chose LibreOffice. It’s a really polished, user friendly package that is reasonably compatible with MS Office and is capable of handling pretty much everything we need to do with a productivity suite. We’ve also played around with OpenOffice and IBM’s Lotus Symphony, both of which are impressive, but for our money LibreOffice is the best.

We’re using Mozilla Thunderbird for our email client, another professional quality package that’s easy to use and powerful enough for our requirements. We added calendaring capability with the Lightning plugin, and the Provider plugin enables us to synchronise with Google Calendar. All in all the bundle works nicely and we’re able to exchange calendar invites with Outlook users seamlessly.

Since we frequently need to do image editing work, we’re using GIMP for this – a great alternative to PhotoShop. In the old days GIMP had a reputation for being very clunky and difficult for newbies to learn, but the more recent versions have a much simpler to navigate interface and we find it a lot easier to use now. For photo editing, graphics manipulation and infographics creation, it’s a really useful tool.

Our website is built entirely on WordPress. While it’s best known as a blogging platform, WordPress has grown into a mature and stable content management system that can be used for building a much wider range of websites. It’s easy to set up, simple to use and incredibly flexible.

While we’re still using Windows on some of our computers, we’re also using Linux to breathe new life into a few of our older laptops. Specifically, we’re using Lubuntu – a variant of Ubuntu designed to run smoothly on lower-spec hardware. And run smoothly it does. The machines which were creaking under Windows are now zippy and responsive again. Best of all, most of the open source tools we’re running on our Windows machines are also available for Linux too, so all the machines can run the same apps.

We’re still using some proprietary software out of necessity (such as Skype) and, while we were keen to try out some open source accounting software like GnuCash, our accountant pleaded with us to stick with the widely used Sage package. We’re also struggling to find a good open source video editing tool for Windows – although now we have some Lubuntu boxes we can experiment with some of the Linux only editing software options.

As the business develops we’ll see how easy it is to carry on using open source software in a world dominated by proprietary and commercial packages, but for now it’s all working pretty well.