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Free Software for the Home Office
If you are like most people, the first thing you do when you sit down in your home office is open a web browser and read the morning news. Many people are happy using the default browser installed on their computer (usually Internet Explorer). However, there is a good alternative that is (of course!) free. Mozilla Firefox is much faster and more secure than IE. The best part is you can customize it with Add-ons that add functionality to your browser. There are hundreds of add-ons to choose from which means everyone's Firefox installation will end up being unique to them. You can also choose from a variety of skins that change the look and feel of the browser, from the buttons to the color scheme.
We spend an untold amount of time checking email every day. Waiting for a slow application to load or fighting with a program that just doesn't do what you want can ruin your day. Thunderbird is developed by the same great community that develops Firefox. As a result, you can install Thunderbird add-ons that change the program to do just what you want it to do. In addition to handling all of your emails, Thunderbird can also be used to manage your home office RSS feeds. This is great news, especially if you subscribe to many feeds. Thunderbird allows you to see at a glance what emails and RSS feeds haven't been read yet. This can add up to hours a week that you would otherwise spend searching in your inbox for new messages.
This is a simple program you can download for free that acts as another printer on your PC. This means that any program that allows you to print your work, be it graphics, a word document, spreadsheet, or power point slides, can now print your work directly to PDF. Without this nifty program you'd have to shell out hundreds of dollars to buy Adobe Acrobat. With it, you can generate PDFs at the click of a button and increase your digital document productivity for free.
The Gnumeric Spreadsheet is part of the GNOME desktop, a free desktop environment for the Linux operating system. However, Gnumeric is not just for Linux; you can also download a Windows version. It offers all the features of Microsoft Excel and can import and export files to and from Excel so you can share your work with colleagues who use MS Office. Gnumeric is fast, accurate, and best of all, free.
AbiWord is a fast and free cross-platform word processor. It offers all the features of MS Word and similar to Gnumeric, you can import and export files to and from Word so you aren't cut off from colleagues who use MS Office software. This is one download that is sure to increase productivity in your small or home office.
Photoscape is great piece of software for taking screen captures and doing basic image manipulation. It is incredibly easy to learn, makes it easy to take a screen capture either of the whole screen or a specific window, and has a batch editor for those times when you need to work with a group of photos. Tools include a color picker, raw converter, and an animated gif creator.
For those who need a full-featured graphics program The Gimp is available as a free download. This is a program that rivals Photoshop when it comes to features. The interface is definitely not as intuitive or easy to learn as Photoshop but there are many tutorials available online and once you get used to using the program, you will be able to do any image manipulation tasks, whether it's modifying photos you've taken or creating images from scratch.
These are all some great tools that are backed by the Open Source Community, which is dedicated to developing full-featured applications freely available for all. There is ongoing development of all of these programs and new features are always being added. They will help you create a strong collection of small office software. With these free software packages, you are sure to save more than a penny in your home office.