Helpful Software Programs for Small Business Owners

No one wants to spend money unnecessarily. A person starting a small business is no different. In fact, anytime one can cut costs while keeping quality, it’s really an investment in that business. Still, many people insist on purchasing brand name software to use for their start-ups. It’s not always necessary. With the variety of open source software or limited feature software packages available, the expenses for this aspect of running a business can be cut to nearly nothing.

I run a small web design and tech support business from my home.  Either through recommendations from fellow techies or research on my own, I found — and still use — these several tools.

Graphic tools

Providing images to graphic artists or for advertising means the small business owner may want first to have a go at providing the best image possible. Being able to manipulate those images a bit before sending them means a better chance of getting what you want in the end result.

There are two software options I use for image manipulation. The first is for basic stuff, primarily cropping, resizing, and rotating of images. This is IrfanView. I use this for personal as well as professional purposes and have recommended to friends and family, as well as clients. It is easy to install and very easy to use.

For grander scale image work, The Gimp is the tool. This is for special effects, shapes, putting a dog’s head on a cat’s body, making fancy text graphics. That sort of thing. The Gimp involves a learning curve, but it is exceptional for working with graphic and photographic images. It is open source software, and is always improving and kept equal with it’s expensive store-bought competitor.

Office Tools

There are basic tools that any business needs.

Documents and images accumulate over time. Keeping them accessible can become a hassle and a hard drive space hog. They can take up a lot of storage space. If one is done using a document or image, but still wants it accessible, a file compression tool like Zip Genius is the way to go. It takes many items and compresses them into one archive, thereby clearing up disk space but still having them available for reference.

Speaking about documents, most people still uses fax machines but instead of attaching them to a expensive dedicated fax-phone line it can be easily set by email, you can learn to set it by yourself within a few steps reading the following article

One last thing that I use regularly is an organizational tool called Treepad. Treepad is a way to keep notes, phone numbers, and other useful things in a single place. Organizing is easy. There can be categories and subcategories and sub-subcategories. There is no security attached, so this probably not the place to store sensitive data, but its uses far outweigh its limitations.

Other Miscellaneous

One tool that I’ve found really useful in and outside of small business web design is to use an online form builder. This has been a time saver over and again. I’ve used it to capture data where information is easily connected and immediately processed by the work team or customer using a friendly and customized layout; form builder enhances operations giving consistency in your organization eliminating double data, incomplete information and data errors.

On-line chat is something I often use in dealing with clients. It saves phone calls and emails and is really the best way to answer or ask a quick question, for example. The issue comes when several contacts use several different chat platforms. One certainly doesn’t want Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Chat, and an AIM client all open at once. This is where a multi-platform chat manager like Trillian comes in handy. Trillian comes in a free and a feature enhanced pay version. I’ve ever only used the free. It’s quite adequate to the task.

In sum

The bottom line is, before you shell out big money for a name brand software tool, check to see if there is a free alternative. Check free download sites like,,, and, for example. These sites carry lots of options and also include user ratings and/or comments. That makes it easier to make an informed choice for the pennywise small business person.

Photo credit L. Marie

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