These days, more and more people work at home at least part of the time. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than half of the 29.6 million small businesses in the country are home-based.
If you add to those figures the number of people who telecommute to their jobs part of the time, the Telework Research Network estimates that between 20 to 30 million people work from home at least once a week. And WorldatWork claims that approximately 44 million Americans work at home at least one day a year.
Whether they work for themselves, a small business or a large multinational corporation, all of these workers need good software for their home offices. And many of these people who work at home don't have a lot of money to spend on that software -- especially if they work for themselves.
With those workers in mind, we've created a list of open source applications that are the most helpful for home offices. Unlike many of our other Datamation lists, we've kept the number of applications in each category small—usually just the one or two top apps in each category. Nearly all of this software will run on Windows, and these are some of the most mature and user-friendly open source applications available. If you're reasonably tech-savvy, you should be able to set up and use any of these apps.
Also, recognizing that home office computers get used for more than just work, we've included a mix of business software, utilities, and "fun" apps for those times when you need a break.
As always, if you'd like to recommend another open source app that we've missed, feel free to add a comment below.
If you run a business from your home office, consider this easy-to-use Web-based accounting system with some ERP features. You can install it on your own Web server or pay a fee to use the on-demand version. Operating System: OS Independent.
GnuCash works well for very small businesses and/or for tracking your personal finances. It can import data from Quicken, and it offers good reporting capabilities. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
3. Areca Backup
Ideal for daily backup, Areca is user-friendly and very versatile. It supports compression and encryption, as well as incremental, differential, full and delta backup. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
While many backup solutions only store your data files, Redo saves a complete image of your system to a thumb drive or CD. It takes a little longer to create these backup files, but it gives you the ability to do a bare metal restore if your system experiences massive failure. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
Used by more than 25 million people, WordPress is a tremendously popular blogging platform. It's owners describe it as "both free and priceless at the same time." Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Available in both desktop and mobile versions, Firefox offers ease-of-use, fast performance, advanced security and many customization and personalization features. According to StatCounter, about 30 percent of the people browsing the Internet use Firefox. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
7. Collabtive This Basecamp alternative makes it easy to track projects, milestones and tasks. You can host it yourself or use the online SaaS version. Operating System: OS Independent.
If you need to compress, extract or encrypt a file, PeaZip does the job nicely. And it supports a huge number of archive file formats—it creates 12 different types and reads 133 different types. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
Most desktop publishing programs are very expensive, but Scribus offers the same features for free. Whether you need to create a press-ready four-color brochure design or you just need to make fliers about your upcoming block party, Scribus helps you create professional-looking documents. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Together, Mozilla's Thunderbird and Lightning applications provide an alternative to Microsoft Outlook with e-mail, calendar, to-do list, etc. They offer an intuitive tabbed interface, spam protection and good search capabilities. Operating System: OS Independent.
If you have employees or partners and need a mail server for your home-based business, Zimbra offers an open source alternative to Microsoft Exchange. Users can access their mail accounts through the Web interface or the free desktop client that offers similar functionality as Microsoft Outlook. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Downloaded more than 2.2 million times, AxCrypt is the most popular open source encryption software for Windows. Simply right-click on a file in the Windows Explorer in order to encrypt it or double-click to decrypt. Operating System: Windows.
Downloaded more than 45 million times, WinSCP offers a very popular client for downloading files via FTP, FTPS or SFTP protocols. However, as the name suggests, it only supports Windows. Operating System: Windows.
If you're on Linux or a Mac, try the FileZilla ftp client. And this site also includes a Windows server version if you want to set up your own ftp server. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
In this puzzle game, the goal is to uncover matching pairs of Oxyd stones while avoiding various traps and obstacles. With more than 1,000 levels, it will keep you busy for a long time. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, OS X.
16. Frozen Bubble
This extremely addictive game offers one-player or multi-player play. Shoot the cannon and pop the bubbles. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
Downloaded more than a million times, this version of Texas Hold 'Em offers a very nice interface. You can play against up to ten computer-generated or online opponents. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Another addictive puzzle game, SokoSolve is a Sokoban game, where you push crates around in order to achieve various objectives. The rules are simple, but the puzzles can be tougher than you expect. Operating System: Windows.