Open Source Software: 5 Products That Rival Commercial Offerings

The open source movement is a worldwide collaboration of software developers who share a common philosophy: great software should be openly available to every person. Open source software offers users a wide variety of products from web browsers to high-end graphics editors. Users shouldn’t be fooled into thinking open source means a product lacks functionality. On the contrary, these products are often more robust than their commercial counterparts. In addition, they normally feature cleaner code and more intuitive interfaces: this means open source products often run faster, use less computing resources, and are easier to learn. Following are five recommendations to get any user started in the open source movement.

1. Open Office is a productivity suite that offers everything you need for personal or business use. Writer is the word processing component. It is as robust as any commercial word processor on the market. Calc is for creating and manipulating spreadsheets. Impress is a powerful presentation product. Draw is a fully functional drawing product. Base is the database component, and Math allows users to work with equations and graphs. The best part about Open Office is that documents can be saved in formats compatible with the major commercial products, including Microsoft Word and WordPerfect. It can also open products created by commercial productivity suites. This means users can easily share documents across platforms. Another useful feature of Open Office is that documents can be saved as PDF files from within the software: an extremely useful option when a user wishes to share a document but does not want it to be editable by the recipient.

2. Mozilla is the open source project behind the popular FireFox web browser. Users may not know that Mozillo also offers a large number of other open source alternatives. Thunderbird is an email client that offers security, privacy, and top-notch spam protection. Sea Monkey is another web browser, but its most useful feature is its built-in WYSIWYG HTML editor.

3. CamStudio is a deceptively simple screen capture utility. This product allows the user to record a portion of or the entire computer screen. The recording can include audio, annotations, and a video feed of the user. This product is useful when creating how-to videos or any video in which the user wants the viewers to follow along.

4. InkScape is a piece of high-quality vector drawing software. Average users and graphic artists will appreciate InkScape’s wide range of drawing tools and ease of use. The most attractive feature is its use of scalable vector graphics. Like other open source software, InkScape documents can be saved in file formats compatible with other drawing software and can open a variety of file formats, including SVG, SVGZ, PDF, AI, JPEG, PNG, GIF.

5. GnuCash is a personal and small business accounting product. It has a simple interface that works very much like keeping a checkbook register. However, it includes all the tools the individual or business owner needs to keep the books in good order: investment accounts, invoices, accounts payable, statement reconciliation and more.

Each of these open source products is free for the user to download and use. Users who think they need to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for quality software are missing out on the robust offerings in the open source community.

5 Tips to Balancing Your Checkbook

Ok, I have a confession to make. I hate balancing my checkbook each month. It is tedious and boring at best, and downright painful at worst. It always seems as if I make a calculation error that takes me forever to track down. So why do I do it? Because I constantly find mistakes that my bank makes that could have cost me money (did you ever notice that the mistakes banks make never work in your favor). Here are my top 5 ways to make balancing your checkbook easier.

Take Advantage of Technology:

The internet has changed everything about banking and personal finance. There are a ton of great software programs out there to help you balance your checkbook and understand where your money is going. Spend a few minutes per week entering the checks you wrote into a quality program like Quicken and the job becomes much easier.

Watch Your Account Between Statements:

You don’t need to look at your account everyday, but online banking now allows you to take a quick look at your account anytime you want. This allows you to identify problems or mistakes and get them resolved quickly.

Don’t blow it off:

Faced with the task of balancing your checkbook or watching this week’s episode of American Idol or the ballgame, most of us are going to opt for American Idol or the ballgame. Then, before you know it, you have to balance your checkbook for 3 or 4 months. This can make the task seem overwhelming. Make sure to spend some time each month and balance it completely. You can even do it while you watch American Idol or the ballgame.

Keep Track:

Make sure you keep track of your transactions. When your write check make sure to write the information in your checkbook register or get checks with a carbon copy. Save your cash station receipts and make sure to document anywhere you are having automatic withdrawals from your account done.

Work With Your Bank:

If you find a problem, call your bank right away. It is much easier to sort out a problem and fix it when the problem is recent and can be tracked down quickly. If the problem was caused by the bank, ask them to fix it. If the problem was cause by you, and you have been a good customer, ask the bank to waive any fees they may have assessed you. They most likely will in the interest of good customer service.

Keeping your banking records up to date and accurate can often be a grind, but your diligence can save you a ton of money over the long haul.

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