In most cases, open source applications offer much lower prices, even if you need to purchase paid support. With that in mind, we've put together a list of open source alternatives to software that tends to cost a lot.
This list comes with a few caveats. First, it's nearly impossible to find prices for the very most expensive software you can buy. Many enterprise software vendors don't release their prices because they negotiate separately with each customer or because their licensing schemes are so complicated that they could never explain them adequately in less than 5,000 words.
In addition, custom applications can be extremely expensive, but are also difficult to price. Because we wanted to list prices in this article, we limited ourselves to "off-the-shelf" products with relatively easy-to-find suggested retail prices.
Second, we don't mean to suggest that the commercial applications we've listed in each category are necessarily the most expensive options available. In some cases (particularly in the enterprise-related categories like ERP and business intelligence), the closed source software listed comes from the one or two vendors brave enough to list some prices online. Instead, you can take the prices listed as an example of retail prices you might expect to pay for software in that category.
Finally, different people have different definitions of the word "expensive." And a really expensive price for an office productivity program might be a really inexpensive price for an ERP application. We had to draw a line somewhere though. For this list, we included open source replacements for commercial applications that cost around $200 or more.
TurboCASH makes it easy to set up and track multiple accounts for multiple companies with multiple users who speak multiple languages. The Web site offers a chart to let you compare it to QuickBooks and Sage. Operating System: Windows
In many ways Phreebooks is even more advanced than QuickBooks or Sage, because it includes basic ERP capabilities as well as accounting. It offers sales forecasting, data backup and bill pay, as well as the full set of accounting features you need to run your business. Operating System: OS Independent
The "most widely used open source business intelligence," Jaspersoft Business Intelligence Suite provides end-to-end enterprise BI capabilities, including reporting, ETL and analysis. The paid editions add dashboard and other features, as well as support. Operating System: OS Independent
Not to be out-done, Pentaho calls itself "the open source business intelligence leader." Separate modules provide reporting, analysis, dashboards, data integration and data mining capabilities. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
Palo doesn't claim to be the biggest or the best, it just gives you a step up from Excel-based reports. You can enter data in a spreadsheet program or a Web-based form, and Palo creates the visual reports that let you see what is happening in your business. Operating System: OS Independent
JMagallanes users can create static reports, pivot tables and charts from SQL, Excel, XML, and other file types. The interface isn't particularly polished, but it gets the job done. Operating System: OS Independent
Another Web-based reporting tool, OpenReports leverages many other open source projects to provide a very powerful and flexible reporting engine. The commercial version adds capabilities like dashboards and conditional scheduling. Operating System: OS Independent
A Web-based tool, ProcessMaker lets companies automate document-intensive, approval-based processes, create and share workflows, customize forms, create reports and more. In addition to the free community edition, the vendor offers a supported version with a user-based licensing fee. Operating System: Windows, Linux
Originally developed by the military, BRL-CAD has been around for more than 20 years, so it's both stable and full-featured. Its modeling capabilities have been used to design and analyze vehicles, houses, mechanical parts, weapons systems and more. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X, others.
Aimed primarily at architects, Archimedes can create both 2D and 3D designs like AutoCAD. However, because it's still in the earlier stages of development, its features aren't quite as robust as AutoCAD. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X