A little over a month ago I posted about using Mozilla Thunderbird as an Outlook replacement, and how our company is planning on transitioning in to using more open source software. As I said back then, we’re anticipating having a staff that grows by a handful of people each year for the next few years, and – as any small business should be – we’re concerned about software costs.
So we came up with a plan. We would have a set of desktop workstations (one to start) that have the full Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection (the $2,500 one) and Microsoft Office Professional 2007. Our laptops would then use the OSALT (open source alternative). Aside from that warm and fuzzy feeling you get from using great open source software, this move will save us thousands of dollars each year. We figure that 95%+ of tasks can be complete with the OSALT, but when we need to use the standard software for better performance or file compatibility we’ll have desktops at our disposal. The only way this really breaks down is if the 95% doesn’t hold up (in which case we’d probably buy a copy of the software needed for that individual) or if too many people *need* the desktops at one time.
At the time of that post we didn’t have a hard time frame for the transition, but when George purchased a new laptop last month he and I decided it was a good time to go OSALT across the board and give it a shot. There was certainly a bit of trepidation on our parts, but I’ve gone about a month now with only OSALT software on my laptop and I love it. More specifically:
- Hands down I now prefer Thunderbird to Outlook. If they both cost the same amount, I’d buy Thunderbird. It took some tweaking, but now the Thunderbird/Lightning combination work like a charm and is extremely simple to use. My absolute favorite part is that the spam filter ACTUALLY WORKS. I get hundreds of spam messages each day, and I had heard great things about the Thunderbird spam filter so I was really anxious to see how it handled my spam. After about 2 weeks of marking my spam as it came through I got to the point where I’m no longer greeted with more than a few spam messages each day. There’s also only been one false-positive thus far. All in all, much better than what I observed with Outlook.
- OpenOffice is much more functional than I expected. It is a legit replacement for the Microsoft Office suite. I only found two cases where I go over to my desktop and use Microsoft Office: mail merges in Word that we use to create labels for Faceup postcards, and an advanced filter in Excel for a SportsLizard product upload. Now, OO has both of those features, but I have templates that I was using in Word/Excel and those don’t quite work the way I want them too without some tweaking. I also LOVE the “print to PDF” button in all OO software. No Adobe Acrobat, and no stupid plugins. PDF integration is sooooo helpful.
- Paint.net (with the .PSD file plugin for Photoshop files) also surprised me with how functional it was. If you’re hard-core into photo editing you’ll still want Photoshop, but for the editing I do for images on the web I find Paint.net simpler with more intuitive keyboard short-cuts…meaning I work faster. I used it for putting that image above together and it took about 30 seconds.
In each instance there are things I like better about the Adobe/Microsoft versions of the software, but there are also things I like better about the OSALT. Considering the OSALT’s have no trouble opening .doc, .xls, .ppt, .psd, etc files, I really can’t see why the normal business user would need the Adobe and Microsoft counterparts. If you make your life doing data analysis in Excel or graphic design in Photoshop, than you should spring for the real thing. Otherwise, I say save your cash and go with the OSALT. I never thought the transition would be this smooth for us, and I’m thrilled that we freed up some extra cash for our company.