Ubuntu for Entrepreneurs: 15 Business Apps for Our Favorite OS

Tuesday, August 28, 2007 at 3:34pm by Site Administrator

With the entire biz-world buzzing about cause marketing and corporate responsibility, it’s no surprise that in the truest democracy on the planet – the World Wide Web – Netizens have adopted Open Source as their moral code. Not only have many migrated to open-source applications like FireFox and OpenOffice from their Microsoft counterparts, but more and more people are making the leap to Linux, fueling its rise as one of the most powerful influences in computing today – consumer demand even forced Dell to finally offer factory-installed Linux PCs.

In fact, Mr. Chairman and CEO Michael Dell himself uses the Feisty Fawn version of Ubuntu Linux at home on his Dell Precision M90 laptop. And who wouldn’t want to be like Mike? Ubuntu‘s easy installation, configuration, and support community have shaped it into what is probably the most popular personal distribution. For entrepreneurs, the widespread adoption of Ubuntu – and offshoots like Xubuntu, which uses the Xfce desktop environment and is lighter on system requirements – mean greater flexibility and cost savings. Not only is open source free, but you can avoid app bloat by picking and using (or even mashing up!) exactly what you need to run your business.

Like Mike, it is easy to understand why many entrepreneurs have crossed over Ubuntu Linux. With the ease of adoption and business utility of the following apps. And when you’re bootstrapping, who can argue with the open source promise of always free?

  1. Automatix

    In technologese, Automatix is a free graphical package manager for the installation, un-installation and configuration of the most commonly requested applications in Debian-based Linux operating systems. That translates roughly to say Automatix is a great tool to help beginners get their machine up and running quickly instead of spending billable hours trying to learn Linux from the ground up. As you evolve into an Ubuntu-guru, you may find you don’t need it anymore; but if you’re just getting started and want to quickly add tools like Skype or Google Earth, Automatix is the way to go.

  2. Firestarter

    When your most important assets, like client files and accounting records, are stored on your computer, security becomes a top priority. With helpful options like viewing active network connections and real time events, defining inbound and outbound access policy, and whitelisting or blacklisting traffic, the Firestarter firewall is a must-have in your defense arsenal.

  3. KDE Kontact

    Entrepreneurs must be experts at juggling all the minutiae of business and daily life. To keep all balls flying high use KDE Kontact Personal Information Manager to organize and manage your business. Kontact is a fully customizable alternative to MS Outlook that unites mature KDE applications, like Kmail‘s shared email folders, Kolab groupware, KOrganizer calendar sharing, KNotes sticky notes, and Google synchronization into one comprehensive suite.

  4. KMyMoney

    A contender for SourceForge.net’s 2007 Community Choice Awards, KMyMoney is a free, easy to use, personal finance manager for KDE. It provides all the same important features found in commercially-available personal finance managers like Quicken or MSMoney. For entrepreneurs, KMyMoney strives to be the easiest open source personal finance manager to use for tracking profits and loss; and it’s easy to transition to use since it follows traditional double entry accounting principles.

  5. CrossOver Office

    Here is the methadone for your Microsoft Office addiction. If you find it impossible to quit Microsoft cold turkey, CrossOver will enable you to install popular Windows productivity applications and browser plugins – including programs like Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Quicken, QuickBooks, and Lotus Notes – in Ubuntu without needing a Microsoft operating system CD or license. It includes a simple user-friendly interface and integrates directly with the Ubuntu/Kubuntu environment. You just click the application icon or name to launch exactly as you would in Windows. And even better than its contenders, any documents created using CrossOver Office applications may be opened and edited with other native Linux programs, such as OpenOffice or GIMP, so you can eventually wean yourself away to full open source freedom. The downside? CrossOver Office is only free for evaluation for 30 days, so be prepared to shell out $39.95 for a license from Codeweavers when the trial expires.

  6. Skype

    If your business knows no boundaries, Skype is a no brainer. Skype saves international entrepreneurs serious cents on long distance charges by allowing you to make calls over the Internet using your computer using decentralized peer-to-peer technologies so all calls avoid a central server. For those who are considering outsourcing customer support, Skype can be used to set up a cost-effective call center. Security is not an issue, as all communications are encrypted from end to end to quell worries of unwanted listeners spying in on calls. In fact, you can even use Skype as a home securitysystem!

  7. Pidgin

    Entrepreneurs who do most of their communicating online should try chatting in Pidgin, an instant messaging program for Windows, Linux, BSD, and other Unixes. Pidgin can log in to several accounts simulatenously on multiple IM networks – including AIM, ICQ, Jabber/XMPP, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, IRC, Novell GroupWise Messenger, QQ, Lotus Sametime, SILC, SIMPLE, Zephyr, and even MySpace , so your clients and peers can always contact you from whichever network they currently use. Pidgin also supports many features of the various networks, such as file transfer, away messages, and typing notification.

  8. Scribus

    Design and produce press-ready output magazines, newsletters, brochures, booklets, calendars, and all other branding and marketing collateral for your company with Scribus. Scribus has similar features as professional desktop publishing programs like Quark, PageMaker, and InDesign, with spot color support, CMYK color, high grade PDF creation, Encapsulated Postscript import and export, and creation of color separations. A versatile, award-winning professional page layout program, Scribus can run on the Linux/Unix, MacOS X, OS/2 and Windows desktops.

  9. Compiz-Fusion (Beryl/Compiz)

    Impress your clients with the stunning 3-D graphics accelerated visual effects and features of OpenGL window and compositing window manager Compiz-Fusion. The fluidity and continuous evolution of open source ware are exemplified by Compiz-Fusion‘s history of the forking of Beryl from Compiz, and its reconvening back (hence the fusion). Usable in any desktop environment, including Gnome and KDE, Compiz is flexible enough to add more features through a plugin system. Infuse creativity into your workspace and visualize it through the very cool transparent 3-D cube form that can even be set up to be controlled by WiiMote!

  10. GIMP

    To manipulate images or photos for quick uploading to websites, emails, or newsletters, bring out the GIMP. GIMP – or GNU Image Manipulation Program – provides Photoshop functionality in a free package, giving you the ability to retouch photos and compose images, with CMYK support in the works. Anyone who has used advanced graphics editors before will be easily adjust to using its familiar interface. Much better than Paint, GIMP is best for business owners who need an easy way to resize and make basic edits to images. And with the portable version, you can edit your snapshots from anywhere.

  11. Beagle

    Give your business enough time and you’ll accumulate more files in storage than you can remember. When things start to go missing, Beagle is a search tool that ransacks your personal information space to find whatever you’re looking for. Beagle also allows users to write their own simple filters by using external programs.

  12. Kompozer

    Kompozer is one of the most popular WYSIWYG HTML editor available on Windows and Linux and is open source and free. Nvu is based on Composer component of Mozilla Application Suite . Nvu allows novice or beginners who have little or no knowledge of CSS/HTML to create attractive web pages .Nvu was started by Linspire. As of now Nvu development has ceased and there is a project called Kompozer which if fork of Nvu and is unoffical bug-fix release of Nvu.

  13. Deluge

    Share files with your clients, team members, or staff with Deluge, a BitTorrent client created as an effective native, GTK-based torrent solution for Linux. Deluge is among the most feature-rich clients in development (second only to Azureus, but without the bloat, and tied with µTorrent according to Wikipedia) , and it does this without the need of tools such as Java or Wine. Because Deluge was created with the intention of being lightweight and unobtrusivewwithout monopolizing system resources, it is ideal for entrepreneurs who regularly run several programs simultaneously on their desktop.

  14. Evince

    This quick and light version of Acrobat Reader, allowing you to view documents in various formats, including PDF, postscript, djvu, tiff and dvi. This little app efficiently replaces the multiple document viewers that exist on the GNOME Desktop with a single simple application.

  15. gLabels

    Doomsday types may have predicted the death of direct mail with the rise of e-mail; yet direct mail continues to prove itself an effective approach to market reach and penetration for growing businesses. gLabels can help you with your company’s direct mail strategy by helping you create address labels, business cards, CD labels, and covers on the GNOME desktop environment. You can save on printing costs by taking advantage of gLabels database of common label and sticker formats like Avery, Neato, and Memorex, and then stopping by your local office supply store to buy and print only as many laser/inkjet peel-off labels and business cards as you’ll need per campaign.

Jetsetting entrepreneurs will have even more options available as Linux-based mobile devices enter the fray. At the recent Ubuntu Developer Summit, development of the new Ubuntu Mobile and Embedded project was underway as programmers discussed a mobile version of their OS in collaboration with Intel, which plans a new low-power processor and chipset architecture for full Internet capability on mobile devices. The mobile edition is slated for release in October, together with the new Ubuntu 7.10 version.

While the use of Linux in smartphones is still comparatively low, accounting for only 6 percent of the phone OS market in 2006, demand for open source is expected to increase as more handset makers move away from older proprietary systems, an analyst with Canalys.com, surmises. He also expects demand to be strong in Asia, particularly in China. It seems even Mao would happily embrace the virtual democracy and freedom of open source.

Viable open source applications have exploded in the past few years and will continue to do so as the movement gains more and more traction. The wide user base combined with growing industry acceptance should continue to provide exciting options for entrepreneurs in the coming years.

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  1. Hi there. While I thank you for considering free and open-source software as productivity tools for entrepreneurs, some of your selections would not be ideal for some users, and may actually cause problems for some users.

    First, you list Automatix as a great tool to help beginners get their systems up and running, but the Ubuntu team has noted a number of problems with Automatix, and it is not recommended by Ubuntu developers. A summary of the Ubuntu Technical Board’s review of Automatix is provided here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/22unky. As a possible alternative to Automatix, the next release of Ubuntu, called “Gutsy Gibbon,” will include the option to install a package called “ubuntu-restricted-extras,” and this package should provide much of the same functionality provided by Automatix.

    Also, while it wouldn’t cause any major problems for new users, combining KDE-based applications with Gnome-based applications on a system isn’t typically recommended. This is because running both types of applications would require your system to load both KDE and Gnome system libraries, which would require more RAM and CPU usage than if your system only used KDE or Gnome applications.

    Additionally, various user-interface elements are oftentimes different between KDE and Gnome applications, so some users may find the differences a bit confusing. Again, mixing KDE and Gnome software would still work on a computer, but it would not be the most efficient way to do things.

    Comment by Jim Campbell — August 28, 2007 @ 5:40 pm

  2. I agree that there are some good programs here but there are some choices you present that may be a little beyond a first-time open source user. For example, Compiz-Fusion is in my opinion not ready for prime time use. I have it running and find that after a time it simply stops working the way it was designed to work. Entrepreneurs need mission-critical programs to work and work straight out of the box; some of the programs listed do not work so easily. In general, however, you do present the best of Ubuntu. My emphasis for entrepreneurs is on programs that work within a browser, across the Internet, rather than having programs work on a desktop. There is far greater mobility available through this source of programming.

    Comment by Elwyn Jenkins — August 29, 2007 @ 11:21 pm

  3. I’d use ubuntu, as an entrepreneur if it wasn’t for the fact I need industry-standard software :( Great list though, thanks.

    Comment by Phil — September 20, 2007 @ 10:12 am

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