If there is a buzzword going through a great renaissance right now than “open source” it would probably be “productivity”. If you’re not hacking your productivity, improving it or replicating the tips and secrets of at least 10 highly-productive people then you’re getting left behind (or you’ve really lucked out with your LinkedIn feed)!
Happily, open source productivity tools can help you in this regard too. While most big companies operating in these areas are either expensive or restrictive, the open source alternatives provide great accessibility and power. Best of all, whether you’re a freelancer trying to get work done in your own time, a small business aiming to cut costs or an enterprise organization wanting complete control, the same solutions can all be used.
Here we’ll run through a selection of some of the best open source productivity tools available today and how exactly they might be able to help you.
Thunderbird – No one particularly enjoys email. Receiving and replying is a hassle but before that someone needs to set it up, add all the users and keep it running. Most companies will be using Gmail or Outlook and here the obvious alternative is still the best. Thunderbird has long been the most popular open source alternative to other kinds of email clients. It’s easy to set-up, it supports an unlimited amount of email accounts, it has a huge range of plug-ins and it has the backing of a huge community. While the UI could undoubtedly do with an update, the fact it is easy to implement means it’s a great choice for individuals and small businesses.
This solution offers users a way of managing multiple communication channels at the same time. Regardless of the type of work you do, it’s highly likely that you might be using email to communicate with a supplier, WhatsApp to talk with colleagues and then Twitter to handle some of your customers. The beauty of Rambox is that it can aggregate all these different services (and much more besides) into one place. It’s an essential tool for keeping track of the various messages and channels that make the simple act of talking to people an unnecessary hassle. This is geared towards making customer service much more streamlined, but because you can add in multiple accounts (including personal ones), it’s also a great stand-alone tool for people who just want more control over their personal life. In addition to the free community option, there are paid plans available for people needing more resources or support.
Salesforce, HubSpot and Microsoft may dominate the market but they can also be quite expensive (and in the case of Dynamics, very user unfriendly). In all cases, there is a tradeoff between functionality and customizability. SugarCRM stands out from the crowd though in being both very powerful but also retaining an open API that encourages an almost endless possibility for tweaks, integrations and changes. It is basically unparalleled when it comes to giving you complete control over sales, marketing and customer service processes. It doesn’t come cheap with the basic plan coming in at $40 per month. But anyone who has ever used a CRM can testify to the fact that one that is both easy to use and easy to customize is worth its weight in gold. SuiteCRM offers a very similar service completely free of charge however if costs are a concern.
Bitrix24 provides some of the basic features of a CRM like SugarCRM. But where it comes into its own is in project and task management. While a collection of notepads, emails to yourself, post-its and smartphone apps might just about work for a single person managing a simple task, anything more complex requires a more sophisticated tool. Trello remains incredibly popular but Bitrtix24 is an open source alternative that manages to keep project management simple. Projects can be broken down into individual tasks (and task dependencies) to be assigned to other people with shared files. From there you can run templates, automations, reports and workflows while also monitoring and managing progress. Kanboard gets an honorable mention as it is completely free to use and also perhaps has the most minimalistic interface. This makes it incredibly easy and a great option for anyone not requiring so much power.
Probably the most well-known and ubiquitous open source productivity tool around. As with Thunderbird, Libreoffice is such an obvious alternative to Microsoft’s and Google’s offerings that it’s almost not worth mentioning. It’s such an exceptional service though that we make no apologies for mentioning it anyway. Libreoffice is completely free to use, even for commercial use, yet new features are added to it all the time. It’s a full suite of office software that works with all file formats and is completely accessible to everyone. It handles word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, vector graphics, formulas and databases so there is something for everyone. Quite simply better than all the rest.
Keeping track of your daily activities and having the tools to do them well can be tricky. With these open source solutions though you’ll be powering through your to-do list in no times, regardless of it being for personal or professional reasons.