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Free Home Based Business Software Tools

written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/27/2011

Is it possible to save money with free home based business software tools? The short answer is a resounding "yes" but there are some caveats attached to it. Technical support and licensing limitations face off against zero dollar price tags. Who wins?

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    The Need for Free Home Based Business Software

    Considering the high start-up costs for franchises – or the investment in advertising and marketing that the average entrepreneur faces when pursuing the dream of business ownership – it only makes sense that saving money is paramount. Equipping a home office generally takes the backseat to buying supplies for the business or funding the public relations budget.

    Free software downloads enable the home office operator to save money on the day-to-day business operations that would otherwise divert much needed funds from other budget line items. Although it is frequently said that you get what you pay for, this is not always the case with free home based business software tools.

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    Free Office Software

    Microsoft Office comes with a rather sizeable price tag for the home office entrepreneur. The often already preloaded Microsoft Works lacks the transferability of data, which is evident when attaching files to emails only to be alerted that the recipient cannot open the files. A free choice is Open Office(1).

    The suite supports office productivity and unabashedly mimics Microsoft Office and also Corel Word Perfect. Open Office handles word processing, presentation creation, database generation and maintenance as well as spreadsheets. Best of all, it is available in a variety of languages. While support is generally a sticking point with any free software, Open Office offers a supported version – though not for free – from Sun Microsystems.

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    Free PDF Creator Software

    Acrobat offers a free PDF reader but creating the documents comes with a price tag. The PrimoPDF Creator(2) is free and works with Windows 2000/XP/7 and Vista. It is possible to convert Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel files into a PDF format with the program.

    Not surprisingly, small businesses that rely on eBook marketing find that PrimoPDF is a cost effective alternative to Adobe Acrobat. On the downside, it is not possible to scan paper documents into the PDF format or create PDF/A that conforms to the ISO 19005 standard.

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    Free Antivirus Software

    Protecting the home office computer is another expense that many entrepreneurs wish they could do without. Free antivirus software programs, such as AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 9.0(3), make it possible to have self-updating anti-virus and anti-spyware suites installed on the computer that may also be used for small business tasks. Link scanner technology investigates sites milliseconds before they load, which further enhances computer security.

    The free antivirus software may only be used on one computer for personal use. This greatly limits the business application under the permitted license. In addition, technical support – free with the paid versions – is not included.

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    The Downside of “Free”

    Perhaps the greatest sticking point of free home based business software tools is the lack of technical support – in most cases – and the sometimes very restrictive licensing requirements.

    While it is possible to operate a business and still fulfill licensing requirements in the short run, in the long term it may be worthwhile to invest net profits into the home office software budget and purchase the supported commercial versions or the for-pay office suites the free software mimics.

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    1. Open Office; accessed March 27, 2010
    2. PrimoPDF Creator; accessed March 27, 2010
    3. AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 9.0; accessed March 27, 2010