50 Open Source Replacements For Really Expensive Software

Published on: August 17, 2010
Last Updated: August 17, 2010

50 Open Source Replacements For Really Expensive Software

Published on: August 17, 2010
Last Updated: August 17, 2010

The “Great Recession” has businesses and consumers alike looking for ways to cut costs. That includes looking for cheaper alternatives to expensive software.

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.

Resource Contents show


1.) TurboCASH 

Replaces: QuickBooks Pro ($199.95), Sage Peachtree Complete Accounting 2011 ($299.95)

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

2.) Phreebooks 

Replaces: QuickBooks Pro ($199.95), Sage Peachtree Complete Accounting 2011 ($299.95)

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

Business Intelligence

3.) Jaspersoft 

Replaces Oracle Business Intelligence Standard ($1,200)

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

4.) Pentaho

Replaces Oracle Business Intelligence Standard ($1,200)

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

5.) Palo BI Suite 

Replaces Oracle Business Intelligence Standard ($1,200)

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

6.) JMagallanes 

Replaces SAP Crystal Reports ($495), DBxtra ($1,170 and up)

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

7.) OpenReports

Replaces SAP Crystal Reports ($495), DBxtra ($1,170 and up)

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

Business Process Management

8.) ProcessMaker 

Replaces: Oracle Business Process Analysis Suite ($10,500)

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


9.) BRL-CAD 

Replaces: AutoCAD ($1,289)

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.

10.) Archimedes 

Replaces: AutoCAD ($1,289)

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.

Customer Relationship Management

11.) Sugar Community Edition 

Replaces: ACT! ($229.99)

The Sugar Community Edition offers basic sales, marketing and support features, along with dashboards.

The Professional and Enterprise editions add functionality for an annual subscription. Operating System: OS Independent


12.) MySQL 

Replaces: Microsoft SQL Server Standard ($5,999)

The “world’s most popular open source database,” Oracle-owned MySQL offers a reliable, secure RDBMS.

Its list of thousands of enterprise customers includes Yahoo!, LinkedIn, Alcatel-Lucent, Google, TweetMeme, Nokia, YouTube, Craigslist, Sears and Zappos.com. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, OS X

13.) Firebird 

Replaces: Microsoft SQL Server Standard ($5,999)

At 20 years old, Firebird offers a mature, stable code base. And despite its lightweight installer, it’s been proven to handle databases as large as 1 terabyte.

It’s currently available in four versions–SuperServer, Classic, SuperClassic and Embedded—all of which are available free of charge. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, OS X, Solaris.

14.) Kexi 

Replaces: Microsoft Access ($139.99), FileMaker Pro 11 ($299)

Kexi boldly proclaims itself “a long-awaited competitor for programs like MS Access or Filemaker.”

And unlike the commercial alternatives it supports native, dedicated, database connections for MySQL and PostgreSQL. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

Desktop Publishing

15.) Scribus 

Replaces: InDesign CS5 ($599), QuarkXPress ($899)

Most good desktop publishing programs cost a lot—but not Scribus. This app gives you professional-quality page layout features, including CMYK color separations, spot colors, ICC color management, and PDF creation.

The interface is easy to use, and you can find a lot of help on the Web site. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X


16.) Zimbra 

Replaces: Microsoft Exchange Server Enterprise ($3,999)

Like Exchange, Zimbra offers shared e-mail and calendaring capabilities, plus it adds document storage and editing, instant messaging, and simplified administrative controls, all accessible via a Web-based interface.

Note that while Zimbra runs on a Linux or Mac server, users can access it from any browser or even from the Microsoft Outlook client. It’s also available in hosted versions. Operating System: Linux, Unix, OS X

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

17.) OpenERP 

Replaces: Microsoft Dynamics ($2,879.00 and up)

OpenERP’s claim to fame is a modular design that lets you select only the functionality you need.

It’s available in commercially supported and SaaS versions as well as the free community edition.

And if you’d like to see how open-source ERP compares to commercial products (including ones we haven’t listed here), OpenERP offers links to a couple of charts. Operating System: Windows, Linux

18.) Openbravo 

Replaces: Microsoft Dynamics ($2,879.00 and up)

The self-proclaimed “leading web-based open source ERP,” Openbravo can be deployed on-site or in the cloud.

It’s available in both a free community version or in a supported professional version that can be purchased from third-party Openbravo partners. Operating System: OS Independent

19.) ADempiere 

Replaces: Microsoft Dynamics ($2,879.00 and up)

Compared to the other ERP options, Adempiere is much more community-oriented.

It also includes some POS and CRM functionality, and integrates well with a number of other business-focused open source applications. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X, others

Gateway Security Appliances

20.) Endian Firewall Community 

Replaces: Check Point Security Gateways ($850 and up), McAfee ($319 and up), SonicWall ($896 and up)

Instead of purchasing a hardware appliance, you can use Endian to turn any old PC into a Gateway Security Appliance for your network.

Features include a firewall, antivirus, spam-filtering, content filtering of Web traffic and a VPN solution. Operating System: Linux

21.) Untangle 

Replaces: Check Point Security Gateways ($850 and up), McAfee ($319 and up), SonicWall ($896 and up)

Like Endian, Untangle lets you use an older PC as a gateway security appliance, but it also comes in a software version for protecting a single PC.

The free version includes spam and spyware blocking, anti-virus, intrusion prevention, firewall, reporting, phishing prevention and more.

Additional features and support are available with a paid subscription. Operating System: Windows, Linux


22.) Dia 

Replaces: Visio Professional ($559.95)

Like Visio, Dia is great for creating network diagrams, flowcharts, org charts and other simple relational graphics.

It can save files in XML format or export to EPS, SVG, XFIG, WMF or PNG files. Operating System: Windows, Linux

23.) Gimp 

Replaces: Photoshop CS5 ($699)

The “GNU Image Manipulation Program,” lets you manipulate photographs much like you can with Photoshop.

Features include a full suite of painting tools, sub-pixel sampling, full alpha channel support, layers and channels, advanced tool path, quick mask and much more.

For the Windows version, you’ll need to download Gimp-win. Operating System: Windows, Linux

24.) Inkscape

Replaces: Illustrator ($599), CorelDraw ($199)

This vector graphics program is powerful enough to meet the needs of professionals with many advanced SVG features (markers, clones, alpha blending, etc.) But it also offers a simple interface that makes it easy for novices to get started creating their own graphics or manipulating the free clip art available through the site. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

25. Paint.Net 

Replaces: Photoshop ($699)

PaintNet isn’t quite as as powerful as Photoshop and The Gimp, but it’s also not as complicated to use.

It handles most photo-editing and re-touching tasks easily and supports layers, unlimited undo, special effects and many other features. Operating System: Windows

Office Productivity

26.) OpenOffice.org

Replaces: Microsoft Office ($499)

OpenOffice.org combines a word processor, spreadsheet, database and a graphics program with all of the features most people need.

It also reads and saves in Microsoft Office formats, so no one will ever know you’re not using Microsoft software. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

27. KOffice 

Replaces: Microsoft Office ($499)

This office suite from KDE is very easy to learn, and it’s easy to customize the interface so that it looks and feels just the way you want.

It combines apps for word processing/desktop publishing (KWord), spreadsheets (KSpread), presentations (KPresenter), database (Kexi), project planning (KPlato), flowcharts (Kivio), vector drawing (Karbon) and photo editing (Krita). Operating System: Windows, Linux

28.) NeoOffice 

Replaces: Microsoft Office ($499)

The NeoOffice team took OpenOffice.org and customized it for the Mac. As a result, it’s faster and more stable and includes features like native OS X text highlighting.

It’s also available in mobile versions for the iPad, iPod, and iPhone. Operating System: OS X, iOS

29.) Oracle OpenOffice 

Replaces: Microsoft Office ($499)

If you’re nervous about using open-source software because you think you’ll need tech support, Oracle OpenOffice (formerly StarOffice) might be for you.

It’s almost exactly the same as OpenOffice.org, but with professional support from Oracle. Licenses start at $49.95 per user. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

Operating System

30.) Red Hat Replaces: Windows 7 Professional ($299.99)

Designed primarily for enterprise users, Red Hat aims to give IT administrators maximum flexibility.

One-year subscriptions with basic support start at $80 for the desktop version, or try Fedora for a nearly identical non-supported, free version.

31.) SUSE 

Replaces: Windows 7 Professional ($299.99)

Like Red Hat, Novel makes SUSE primarily for enterprise customers, with support licenses starting at $50 for the basic desktop version. But you can get a similar program for free (without the support) from openSUSE.

32.) Ubuntu Replaces: Windows 7 Professional ($299.99)

One of the most user-friendly Linux variants, Ubuntu is particularly popular with home desktop users and netbook owners.

The latest version offers new mobile syncing, communication and social networking features that suit the way people use their computers today.

33.) Debian Replaces: Windows 7 Professional ($299.99)

Debian and Ubuntu are fairly similar; however, Debian has the reputation of catering to people who are more knowledgeable about Linux.

It’s supported by an active community, and it gives users a lot of control and flexibility.

PDF Tools

34.PDFCreator Replaces: Adobe Acrobat Standard ($299)

As the name suggests, this app lets you create PDFs from any printable file—without buying any software from Adobe.

It even includes advanced capabilities like encryption, digital signatures and PDF/A files for long-term archives. Operating System: Windows

Point Of Sale

35.) Openbravo POS

Replaces QuickBooks Point of Sale Basic ($899.95), AccuPOS ($795)

With nearly 10,000 installations per month, Java-based Openbravo POS is very popular with all types of retailers.

It provides sales, refunds, daily reports, cash management, warehouse management and other capabilities, including a special restaurant module for tracking reservations and tables. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

36.) Lemon POS 

Replaces QuickBooks Point of Sale Basic ($899.95), AccuPOS ($795)

This POS system for medium, small or micro businesses offers a simple, customizable interface, role-based permissions, reporting and inventory control.

Because it stores data in a MySQL database, you’ll also need MySQL in order to use the app. Operating System: Linux

Project Management

37. OpenProj 

Replaces: Microsoft Project Professional ($999.95), Primavera P6 Professional Project Management ($2,500)

This popular app has been downloaded more than 1.2 million times and is being used in more than 142 countries.

It opens both Microsoft Project and Primavera files and can create Gantt Charts, Network Diagrams (PERT Charts), WBS and RBS charts, earned value costing and more. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, OS X

38. GanttProject 

Replaces: Microsoft Project Professional ($999.95), Primavera P6 Professional Project Management ($2,500)

While not as robust as OpenProj or either of the commercial options, GanttProject works well for smaller teams that don’t need a lot of bells and whistles.

It creates both Gantt and PERT charts, and it can import and export files from Microsoft Project formats. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

Speech Recognition

39.) Simon 

Replaces: Dragon Naturally Speaking Premium ($199.99)

While it was designed specifically to assist the handicapped, anyone can use Simon to control the desktop and create documents without using a keyboard or mouse.

Note that while some of the documentation is only available in German, the program does work for English and Spanish speakers as well. Operating System: Windows, Linux

Video Tools

40.) Blender

Replaces: AutoDesk Maya ($3,495)

This 3D animation tool offers professional-quality modeling, shading, rendering and compositing.

Check out the Web site to see actual clips of movies and shorts made with Blender. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

41.) Cinelerra 

Replaces: Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 ($799)

Cinelerra aims to bring professional-quality video editing to Linux. It boasts a huge (and growing) list of features that make it, in the Web site’s words, “a movie studio in a box.”

In addition to the main version of Cinelerra at the site above, there’s also a community fork available from Cinelerra.org. Operating System: Linux

42.) OpenShot Video Editor 

Replaces: Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 ($799)

This video editor offers an intuitive interface, with extensive tools for editing and compositing with high-definition video.

Key features include chroma key (bluescreen/greenscreen), rotoscoping support, scrolling credits, compositing, custom transitions and more. Operating System: Linux

43. Kdenlive 

Replaces: Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 ($799)

While aimed at home users, Kdenlive still offers a fairly robust feature set of video editing tools.

It boasts multiple audio and video track support, easy drag and drop editing and a wide range of transitions and effects. Operating System: Linux, OS X

44.) CineFX 

Replaces: Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 ($799)

CineFX (formerly known as Jahshaka) combines a video player, encoding tool, and editing tool into one package.

It doesn’t have near the capabilities of CineFX, but it does the job for lower-budget projects. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

45.) Avidemux

Replaces: Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 ($799)

Like CineFX, Avidemux offers a much smaller feature set than Adobe Premiere. However, it’s very effective for simple cutting, filtering, and encoding tasks. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

Web Application Tools

46.) Open BlueDragon 

Replaces: Adobe ColdFusion 9 ($1,299)

Open BlueDragon gives users an open-source option for working with the ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML).

The site includes extension help and documentation to get you up and running quickly. Operating System: Windows, Linux

Web Site Authoring

47. Kompozer 

Replaces: Adobe Dreamweaver ($399), Microsoft Expression Web ($149)

Kompozer aims to be an open-source replacement for Dreamweaver or Expression and offers WYSIWYG Web authoring capabilities. You can use it whether you know how to write code or not. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

48. NVU 

Replaces: Adobe Dreamweaver ($399), Microsoft Expression Web ($149)

Calling itself “the number one free Web authoring system,” NVU can help even newbies get a site up and operating within minutes. It’s based on the same code as Kompozer. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

49. Bluefish 

Replaces: Adobe Dreamweaver ($399), Microsoft Expression Web ($149)

Bluefish’s claim to fame is its fast load and run time. It’s a good option for Web designers who are very comfortable writing code. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

50.) SeaMonkey

Replaces: Adobe Dreamweaver ($399), Microsoft Expression Web ($149)

SeaMonkey is slightly different than the other tools in this category, because it includes a Web browser, feed reader, chat and e-mail client, as well as an HTML editor.

It’s based on a lot of Mozilla code, so it should feel familiar to users of Firefox and Thunderbird. Operating System: Windows, Linux

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Written by Bobby

Bobby Lawson is a seasoned technology writer with over a decade of experience in the industry. He has written extensively on topics such as cybersecurity, cloud computing, and data analytics. His articles have been featured in several prominent publications, and he is known for his ability to distill complex technical concepts into easily digestible content.