Why spend thousands or even hundreds or thousands of dollars on a closed source application when you can get a comparable open source app for free? Even if you need commercial support, many open source programs now offer paid support that costs much less than the alternatives.
For this list, we looked for quality, open source alternatives to software that has a reputation for being expensive. Whenever possible, we included MSRPs for the expensive software, though in some cases, the pricing scheme is so complicated that it's nearly impossible to pin down.
We published a similar list last year, and we've updated and expanded the list for 2011. If you have suggestions for next year's list, feel free to note them in the comments section below.
2. FrontAccounting Replaces QuickBooks Pro ($229.95), Sage Peachtree Complete Accounting 2011 ($254.99) Like Imperium, FrontAccounting is Web-based and includes some ERP functionality. It prides itself on being powerful, yet simple. Operating System: OS Independent
3. TurboCASH Replaces QuickBooks Pro ($229.95), Sage Peachtree Complete Accounting 2011 ($254.99) This small business accounting package offers many similar features to QuickBooks and Sage. It tracks up to 10 bank accounts, 999 sets of books, 12000 accounts, 40000 debtors and creditors, and 64000 stock items. Operating System: Windows
4. XIWA Replaces QuickBooks Pro ($229.95), Sage Peachtree Complete Accounting 2011 ($254.99) First released in 1999, XIWA is an older accounting program for Linux only. One benefit for owners of very small businesses is that it offers the option of using double-entry accounting or not, depending on the background of the user. Operating System: Linux
5. Audacity Replaces Apple LogicPro ($499), FL Studio Producer Edition ($199) Apple's audio editor aims to let amateur musicians create professional sounding mixes—Audacity does the same thing without charging you an arm and a leg. With it you can record live audio, convert files to different formats, cut and splice tracks, change pitch and more. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
6. Frinika Replaces Apple LogicPro ($499), FL Studio Producer Edition ($199) This Java-based audio editor includes a sequencer, midi support, soft synthesizers, audio recorder, piano roll/tracker/notation editing and more. It's billed as a "complete platform for making music with your computer." Operating System: OS Independent
7. Linux MultiMedia Studio Replaces Apple LogicPro ($499), FL Studio Producer Edition ($199) LMMS is a music composing and mixing tool designed as an alternative to FL Studio. The name on this app is a little misleading: Although it says "MultiMedia," it's really an audio tool, and although it says "Linux," it also runs on Windows. Operating System: Windows, Linux
8. Jaspersoft Replaces Oracle Business Intelligence Standard ($2,000+) The self-proclaimed "most widely used business intelligence software," Jaspersoft products offer reporting, dashboards, analysis and data integration capabilities. The link above primarily promotes the commercial versions of the software, which include paid support. More info on the community versions can be found at JasperForge.org. Operating System: OS Independent
9. Pentaho Replaces Oracle Business Intelligence Standard ($2,000+) Pentaho likes to calls itself "the open source business intelligence leader." It claims to reduce BI costs by 90 percent, and it's also available on an SaaS basis. Operating System: OS Independent
10. Palo BI Suite Replaces Oracle Business Intelligence Standard ($2,000+) Palo offers planning, reporting, analysis, dashboards, consolidation and more. The community version essentially extends the capabilities of Excel or OpenOffice, while the paid premium verison adds more reporting and OLAP modules. Operating System: OS Independent
11. JMagallanes Replaces SAP Crystal Reports ($495), DBxtra ($490 and up) If you only need reporting capabilities, JMagallanes might be right for you. It leverages code from several other open source projects to create static reports, Swing pivot tables for OLAP analysis, and charts. Operating System: OS Independent
12. OpenReports Replaces SAP Crystal Reports ($495), DBxtra ($490 and up) Another Web-based reporting-only BI tool, OpenReports offers flexible scheduling, a variety of output formats, fine-grained security controls, built-in auditing and more. The paid professional version adds capabilities like dashboards, conditional scheduling, and others. Operating System: OS Independent
13. ProcessMaker Replaces Oracle Business Process Analysis Suite ($10,500+) Web-based ProcessMaker helps simplify workflows with tools for modeling workflows, automatic notification, reporting and optimization. It's available in a free community edition, a subscription-based enterprise edition or in a cloud-based version with a free trial. Operating System: Windows, Linux
14. BRL-CAD Replaces AutoCAD ($3,995.00 and up) For more than 20 years, the U.S. military has used BRL-CAD for solid modeling. Key features include interactive 3D solid geometry editing, high-performance ray-tracing support, network-distributed framebuffer support, image and signal-processing tools, path-tracing and photon mapping support, a system performance analysis benchmark suite, an embedded scripting interface, and more. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X, others.
15. Archimedes Replaces AutoCAD ($3,995.00 and up) Designed for architects, Archimedes is a Java-based CAD program with a fairly minimal feature set. Note that this is different than the GNU Archimedes program for semiconductor design and testing. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
16. Sugar Community Edition Replaces Sage ACT! ($229.99 and up), Microsoft Dynamics Used by companies like Coca-Cola, Avis, Chevrolet and thousands of others, SugarCRM includes sales and marketing support, e-mail integration, reporting, mobility and support for social networking. In addition to the open source community edition, it's available in a variety of on-premise and cloud-based paid editions. Operating System: OS Independent
17. MySQL Replaces Microsoft SQL Server Standard ($7,171 per processor) Calling itself the “world’s most popular open source database,” Oracle-owned MySQL's customers include Yahoo!, LinkedIn, Alcatel-Lucent, Google, Nokia, YouTube, Craigslist, Sears and Zappos.com. In addition to the free download, it's also available in supported standard, enterprise and cluster carrier-grade editions which are priced per server. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, OS X
18. Firebird Replaces Microsoft SQL Server Standard ($7,171 per processor) Going on 30 years old, Firebird boasts "excellent concurrency, high performance, and powerful language support for stored procedures and triggers." This community-based project isn't owned by any commercial entity, but you can get paid support from a variety of third-party partners. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, OS X, Solaris
19.Kexi Replaces Microsoft Office Access 2010 ($139.95), FileMaker Pro 11 ($299) Calling itself “a long-awaited competitor for programs like MS Access or Filemaker,” KDE's Kexi offers a set of features similar to both applications. Those features include tools for importing files from spreadsheets, Access, CSV files, MySQL or PostgreSQL or for exporting to CSV files, MySQL or PostgreSQL. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X