Worthwhile Free Applications For Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 at 10:00pm by Site Administrator

During the past two years, there’s been an explosion of new applications – both web browser-based and old-school downloadable. Both have their merits, with web-based apps offering the ability to share files, sometimes to even collaborate remotely in real time. How much more ideal could that be for online entrepreneurs who may have colleagues, partners, or clients around the world?

With the explosion of online culture, there are now hundreds of new applications coming out yearly, covering a wide range of uses. It’s hard to keep up with it all, but there are some that have been immensely useful to me in my online endeavors. I’m not saying you’ll need them all, but if you’re bootstrapping your business, these applications may be very helpful to you for various reasons if you’re maintaining a weblog – even more so because they’re all free. I should point out that I’ve only tried the Windows XP versions, but some are multi-platform and a few are browser based.

  1. Audacity.
    A cross-platform audio editor that supports industry-standard VST audio plugins. Useful if you want to record audio podcasts for your website/ weblog. I’ve heard rumors of similar software running from a web browser, but I haven’t seen any yet.

  2. Camstudio.
    Screencast capture tool for “how to use this software” type of videos. Similar to TechSmith’s Camtasia Studio but not as full-featured. Actually works  better in some ways because it’s simple to use and generate video files. I use both, depending on what I need. There is no web-based equivalent, and for technical reasons, I can’t see how there could be.

  3. Freemind.
    Mindmapping tool for brainstorming ideas, organizing your thoughts, managing projects, setting and tracking goals, etc. I use it (and about 5 other mindmapping tools) to organize some thoughts if I’m planning something long-term. Web-based alternatives are bubbl.us, Mindmeister and Mindomo. These three allow some degree of online collaboration.

  4. Gantt Project.
    Project management tool similar to Microsoft Project. It’s still in its early stages and cannot yet handle tasks that are less than a day in duration. But if you can put up with that, it’ll save you the several hundred dollars that MS Project costs. Many web-based applications that categorize themselves as “project management” are nothing close to Gantt Project and MS Project, so I’m not mentioning them just yet.

  5. Gliffy.
    A very MS Visio-like diagramming tool. I find the interface a bit restrictive and prefer SmartDraw, though it may be a bit pricey for some. All of the diagrams you see on this site are from SmartDraw, though some could be created in Gliffy.

  6. Google Calendar.
    There are loads of web-based calendars out there that allow team members to share their schedules. It’s just my opinion, but I think Google Calendar is amongst the best, despite that are many things about it that could be fixed.

  7. Google Analytics.
    Google Analytics is by far one of the most full-featured web-based (or otherwise) web site analytics packages available, period. And it’s free. It’s great for marketing efforts, tracking and analyzing online ad campaigns, detecting visitor patterns, determining some visitor demographics and much more. Free alternatives include Sitemeter and Performancing PMetrics.

  8. Inkscape.
    Inkscape is still in early stages and buggy, though it’s a free alternative to vector drawing tools such as Illustrator and Fireworks. This tool is suitable to desiging a logo for your business, if you have some creative skills. (Though of course, if you don’t, go witih a professional.)

  9. Open Office.
    Even though I have a paid copy of Microsoft Office (MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) on 3 of my 4 computers, I only have MS Word on my primary desktop. So I started using Open Office exclusively and never use MS Word except when it opens on its own (when I click a .DOC or .RTF link on a web page). It’s a great alternative suite, and I don’t miss MS Office, despite about 20 years of using it. I also use the web-based Zoho Writer and some of the other Zoho suite of “office” tools, as well as Google Docs and Spreadsheets.

  10. Skype.
    While there are a lot of things I don’t like about the way eBay has handled Skype and PR (public relations, not PageRank) since purchasing the latter, Skype is one of the best VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) software clients available, with many millions of users worldwide. You can call other Skype users over your computer for free, and call out to regular phone lines. There are many good alternatives, such as SightSpeed (especially good for video calls), though they often don’t have as many users. Even after a nearly a year of writing about VoIP, I know no one well enough that uses it. On the other hand, because of the multitude of people I communicate with, I also have to use VoIM clients all the time, such as Google Talk, AIM, MSN/Live Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger. These are mostly used for text chat, though some offer member to member voice over the Internet. A few of these also allow calling to regular phone lines.

  11. SplashCast.
    SplashCast Media’s SplashCast player is my embeddedable video player of choice. Just try it and you’ll see why. You can create different channels, with multiple shows each, include documents, images, and videos. Very mixed media. It’s free at the time of this writing, though there may be a “pro” version coming soon. It’s ideal if you want to add lots of visual content in a single footprint – i.e., one media player.

  12. Wink.
    Wink is a complementary tool to Camstudio. It captures a single screen rather than a screencast video.

I’ve only given a brief explanation of each, not a true review. I use many of these tools regularly, even daily, as part of my regular online activities.

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