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58 Open Source Replacements for Small Business Software

Many small business owners have never heard of open source software. That's unfortunate because in many ways small businesses are ideal environments for open source applications.

In a small business, every dollar matters. Open source offers opportunities for companies to cut their software costs. Even if you need paid support, you'll probably pay less for an open source solution than for a comparable closed source solution.

In addition, many small businesses don't need all the fancy features that drive up the prices on commercial software. In some cases, those extra features just get in the way and make the applications more difficult to use. While many open source tools are quite complex, others are much simpler, allowing companies to pick the level of functionality that works for them.

In addition, many small business owners are trying to do something completely new or do something in a different way than it's ever been done before. They need software that can be customized or personalized to meet the unique needs of their businesses. Open source software gives them the freedom to modify the code so that it suits their needs.

With those benefits in mind, here are 58 open source tools that can replace the software you might use at your small business.


This bookkeeping app boasts more than 80,000 users and invites users to compare its extensive feature list to QuickBooks and Sage. Although its owners are based in the UK, it's available in a US edition and has been localized for many other countries and languages as well. Operating System: Windows.

2. GnuCash Replaces: Quicken

If you run a very small or home-based business and you've been using Quicken to track your accounts, GnuCash can give you some of the additional business features you need, like tracking customers, vendors, invoices, accounts payable and accounts receivable. And it's compataible with Quicken and OFX formats, so you can transfer you existing data. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

If your business is large enough to have multiple users who need access to your accounting system, FrontAccounting offers a Web-based app that also adds some ERP features. The interface is basic but easy to use, and the site includes an extensive wiki with lots of support. Operating System: OS Independent.

Another Web-based accounting and ERP package, Phreebooks is designed specifically for small businesses. It offers a comparison chart that shows how its features compare to Sage and QuickBooks as well as some other open source products. Operating System: OS Independent.

If you've been doing your accounting old-school, that is, keeping track of your books with a paper and pencil or a simple spreadsheet, Lazy8Ledger gives you a step up. The interface looks just like a paper-based system, so you won't have to spend any time learning something new. It's also available in a Web-based version that can be used by multiple users. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

This Web-based app combines basic CRM features with accounting capabilities. While it can be accessed from any browser, you'll need a Linux server running Apache, PHP, Zend, and PostgreSQL to host the software. Operating System: Windows, OS Independent.


Areca Backup offers compression, encryption, file version tracking, backup simulation, and many other features. In addition to typical incremental, differential, and full backup options, it also offers delta backup, which only stores the modified parts of files. Operating System: Windows, Linux.


8. jBilling Replaces: QuickTel

Used by a variety of ISPs, telecoms, ASPs, media and software companies, jBilling makes it easy to manage even the most complicated subscription systems. It's Web-based and completely scalable, so it can grow with your company. Operating System: OS Independent .


According to NetApplications, almost 23 percent of people used Firefox in July 2010. This browser from Mozilla boasts better performance, security, and customization than Microsoft's IE. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.


10. 7-zip Replaces: WinZip

This app isn't quite as fancy-looking as WinZip, but it can compress files more tightly so that they take up less space on your drive and are easier to transmit. 7-zip can also read and write WinZip files and many other popular compression formats. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

11. PeaZip Replaces: WinZip

PeaZip reads and writes WinZip, 7-zip and dozens of other archive file formats. It also offers powerful search capabilities, encryption and secure deletion. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

Content Management

If your business is large enough to need a content management system, Alfresco claims to be able to reduce your content management costs by up to 96 percent compared to Sharepoint, Documentum and Open Text. It's used by a wide variety of organizations, including the Small Business Administration. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

"The leading open source collaboration platform," MindTouch focuses on helping companies manage "strategic content." Like Alfresco, it's geared to slightly larger companies. Operating System: Windows, Linux.

Unlike Alfresco and MindTouch, Owl is aimed at smaller companies or even single users who want to create an intranet or knowledgebase to manage documents. You can choose the regular version or the lite version, which doesn't require a separate database. Operating System: Windows, Linux.

As you might expect from the name, this content management system prides itself on its simplicity and usability. Its lite, database-free setup is ideal for small businesses who don't need the full features of an enterprise-focused CMS like Sharepoint. Operating System: Linux.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

16. SugarCRM Replaces: SalesForce.com

Sugar says it offers "CRM made simple." The open source community edition is suitable for small businesses. You can also upgrade to a professional edition that's available on a SaaS model like SalesForce.com. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

17. vTiger Replaces: SalesForce.com

Made for small and medium businesses, vTiger offers sales force automation, marketing automation, customer support and service, inventory management, activity management, reporting and dashboards. The full version is completely free, but you can also purchase a support subscription or a Salesforce.com-style hosted version which costs $12 per user per month. Operating System: Windows, Linux.

Desktop Publishing

Many small businesses would like to save money by creating their brochures, sales sheets, newsletters and other materials in-house, but the desktop publishing software necessary to achieve a professional look is prohibitively expensive. Scribus fills the void with professional-quality features without the high price tag. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.


19. Collabtive Replaces: Basecamp

Collabtive is so much like Basecamp, it can even import Basecamp files. It tracks projects, tasks and milestones with complete time tracking and reporting capabilities. Operating System: OS Independent.

"The Outlook of Linux," Evolution offers group e-mail, calendar, and addressbook functionality for the Gnome desktop. Key features include junk filtering, Web calendars, customized reminders and advanced security. Operating System: Linux.

Group-Office combines a calendar, file sharing, CRM, e-mail, project management, and some billing features. With a paid upgrade, you can also synch your files with your mobile device. Operating System: OS Independent.

If you're looking for a particularly flexible app, phpGroupWare includes more than 50 different applications that you can mix and match as you like. That breadth also helps it meet the needs of both small and large organizations. Operating System: Windows, Linux.

Made by Mozilla (the people behind the Firefox browser), Thunderbird is an e-mail client with a tabbed interface, excellent search capabilities and e-mail archiving. Use it with Lightning for calendar and to-do list capabilities that make it more like Outlook. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

24. Zimbra Replaces: Microsoft Exchange

This client-server app includes e-mail, calendar, contact management and other collaboration capabilities. If you use Zimbra as your mail server, you can choose to use the Zimbra desktop client or another client like Outlook or Thunderbird. Operating System: Linux, Unix, OS X.


Because it was designed in part by retailers, Zen Cart does an excellent job of meeting the needs of small business owners. Even if you only have the most basic of computer skills, you can use this app to set up your own online business very quickly. Operating System: OS Independent.

Used by more than 40,000 businesses, PrestaShop is lightwieght, fast, scalable and modular. The user interface is also very intuitive, which makes it easy for customers to see your products and helps increase your sales. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

Part of a full Web Business Suite, Order Portal caters to the e-commerce needs of mid-size, multi-channel manufacturers, distributors, and rental companies. The full Web Business Suite adds a dashboard, CMS, data migration, and other features. Operating System: Linux.


The Postbooks version of xTuple handles the accounting, sales tracking, CRM, purchasing, product definition, inventory, distribution and reporting needs of smaller businesses. Commercial support and paid versions for larger companies are also available. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

Downloaded 5,000 times per month, this Web-based ERP offers a good alternative to NetSuite. Particularly suited to wholesalers and distributors, it prides itself on its security, reliability and ease of use. Operating System: OS Independent.

A fork of WebERP with a more community-oriented approach, EdgeERP also boasts about its reliability and accessibility. Key features include multi-currency, multi-language, multiple warehousing, banking, recurring orders and more. Operating System: OS Independent.

The "world's leading web-based open source ERP," Openbravo tries to make ERP functionality accessible to companies of all sizes. It integrates with Openbravo POS, and you can find a range of add-ons for specific industries through Openbravo Exchange. Although the Web site pushes the commercial editions of Openbravo products, you can still download the source code for free. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

32. Neogia Replaces: NetSuite, Sage AccPac

Unlike most ERP apps which are designed primarily for large enterprises, this ERP/CRM/eCommerce app is specifically aimed at small to midsize companies. Its modular design helps make it very customizable. Note: Although the application is available in English, much of the documentation is in French or badly translated English (for example, the word for "server" gets translated as "waiter"). Operating System: Windows, Linux.

Gateway Security Appliances

You can protect your small business network without spending a lot of money by installing Endian on an older PC to create your own gateway security appliance. It includes firewall, antivirus, anti-spam, content filtering, VPN, proxy server and other capabilities. Endian also sells pre-configured appliances that come with support and additional features. Operating System: Linux.

Like Endian, Untangle comes in a free "Lite" version that allows you to make your own security appliance. It also comes in a number of commercial versions, some of which have been customized for the needs of education, credit union, government, small business, and other types of customers. Operating System: Windows, Linux.


35. Dia Replaces: Visio

If you have employees, you probably need to be able to create org charts and network diagrams on occasion. While it doesn't have as many pre-built templates and features as Visio, Dia makes it easy to create basic charts without spending a lot of money on software. Operating System: Windows, Linux.

36. Gimp Replaces: Photoshop

You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on Photoshop in order to create professional-looking images. Gimp offers a full range of retouching, image enhancement, special effects, filters and other image manipulation tools to meet almost any need. The link above works for Linux; if you run Windows, you'll need Gimp-win. Operating System: Windows, Linux

Like Illustrator or CorelDraw, Inkscape lets you draw your own graphics using a variety of virtual paintbrushes and other drawing tools. It's a high-quality program suitable for graphic designers, while still usable for those with less experience. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

38. Paint.Net Replaces: Photoshop

Originally intended as a replacement for Microsoft Paint, this app has evolved far beyond the simple capabilities of Paint. It's not quite as advanced as Photoshop or the Gimp, but some people find it easier to use. Operating System: Windows.

Human Resource Management (HRM)

39. Orange HRM Replaces: iVantage, iCIMS

This human resource management tool offers modules for personnel information, employee self service, leave, time/attendance‚ benefits and recruitment. In addition to the core free version, Orange offers paid support, training, add-ons, customization, and an SaaS version. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, OS X.

Office Productivity

This open source office productivity suite includes word processor (Write), spreadsheet (Calc), presentation (Impress), graphics (Draw) and database (Base) applications. It reads and writes Office file formats, and it even creates pdfs. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

41. AbiWord Replaces: Microsoft Word

AbiWord is a full-featured word processor capable of creating documents with tables, charts, bulleted lists, endnotes, footnotes, mail merge fields, and more. The interface is similar to Microsoft Word and it can even save files in Word formats. Also, it also now offers online collaboration features through theAbiCollab.net service. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

Like MindManager, Freemind lets you create visual diagrams that show the relationship between words and ideas—just like you would on a white board or yellow pad during a brainstorming session. However, FreeMind's one-click "fold / unfold" and "follow link" operations make it a little faster than the commercial product. Operating System: OS Independent.

43. Gnumeric Replaces: Microsoft Excel

Gnumeric isn't meant to be an Excel clone, but it can read Excel files. It also offers some features Excel doesn't, like 154 exclusive functions, basic support for financial derivatives, basic support for telecommunication engineering, and more. Operating System: Windows, Linux.

In addition to a word processor (KWord), spreadsheet (KSpread), presentation (KPresenter) and database (Kexi), this office productivity suite also includes vector drawing (Karbon), project planning (KPlato), diagramming (Kivio) and painting (Krita) tools. While the interfaces are easy to use, they are quite different than Microsoft's, so it might take a while to get comfortable with the tools. Operating System: Windows, Linux.

Operating System

45. Ubuntu Replaces: Windows

One of the most popular Linux distributions available, Ubuntu comes in both desktop and server versions. And unlike Windows, Linux distributions come with a huge library of software included, so you'll have access to all the apps you'll need right away—and they're free.

46. Debian Replaces: Windows

Calling itself "the universal operating system," Debian runs on mobile systems, supercomputers and everything in between. Like Ubuntu, it's easy to use, but while Ubuntu is aimed at Linux novices, Debian tends to be used by people with a little bit more Linux experience.

PDF Tools

47. PDFCreator Replaces: Adobe Acrobat

This tool lets you create PDF files from any application that can print. The latest version even includes advanced features like encryption, digital signatures and PDF/A archive file creation. Operating System: Windows.

Point-of-Sale (POS)

With nearly 10,000 installations per month, Openbravo POS is one of the more popular open source POS solutions available. It integrates with Openbravo ERP and supports a wide range of point-of-sale hardware. Although the Web site pushes the commercial editions of Openbravo products, you can still download the source code for free. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

Lemon stores information in an open source MySQL database and offers a simple, safe, customizable POS solution. With role-based permissions, it's suitable for small or mid-size businesses, and it's also used successfully by micro-businesses. Operating System: Linux.

This point-of-sale solution for restaurants makes it easy to take orders, track tables, settle tickets, balance the drawer, track staff and more. It's used by a number of well-known restaurants, including Denny's. Operating System: OS Independent.

Project Management

Specifically designed to replace Microsoft Project, OpenProj opens both Project and Primavera files. It can create Gantt Charts, Network Diagrams (PERT Charts), WBS and RBS charts and more. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

Owned by CA, Open Workbench lets you schedule projects manually or automatically, create and manage subprojects and dependencies, associate guidelines with features, assign resources, and track progress with a variety of charts. The Web site includes a detailed comparison of the relative merits of Open Workbench and Microsoft Project and explains which tool works better in various situations. Operating System: Windows.

While not quite as robust, GanttProject offers many of the same features as OpenProj and Project. It tracks tasks, resources, milestones, dependencies, etc. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

Server Software

You can use Zentyal as a gateway, infrastructure manager, unified threat manager, office server and/or a unified communication server. The 2.0 version (currently in beta) will add Web server and FTP server capabilities, as well as many other improvements. It's based on Linux.

Time Tracking

When your small business grows to the point that it becomes difficult to track employee time with paper forms or spreadsheets, TimeTrex offers a step up. It handles employee scheduling, attendance, job costing and payroll. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

This Web-based app is designed for small firms of consultants, freelancers, lawyers, etc. who charge by the hour. It can track multiple employees working on multiple projects for multiple clients. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

Web Site Creation

An excellent option for first-time Web site creators, NVU walks you through building a Web site in three simple steps. It aims to make creating Web pages as easy as using a word processor. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

Very similar to NVU, Kompozer offers a WYSIWYG editor that feels a lot like the Dreamweaver interface. It claims to be "the easiest-to-use, most powerful Web Authoring System available." Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
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