Top 10 open source alternatives

We run down the 10 best open source alternatives to the business software we use every day.

Scribus

Alternative to QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Publisher

Scribus

Mention desktop publishing solutions to most people in the know and more often than not you will end up talking about Quark or Adobe's InDesign. When it comes to professional standard DTP solutions there's never really been much else but that all changed in 2003 when Scribus made its debut.

Based on the Qt framework (that's the same as Google Earth and Opera, for the anoraks amongst us), Scribus aims to offer users a powerful, professional quality application for none of the cost.

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The app boasts a rich feature set which includes support for importing common text formats (including Microsoft Word and Open Document), PDF creation, bar-code support and the ability to use custom Python scripts to add personal features.

Scribus is every inch the contender. Behind its dated, banal UI you'll find everything a user could ever want for layout design and when you take into consideration its cost, that makes for a very impressive package.

While there's room for improvement - more templates would be nice -you'll be hard pushed to find anything as extensive without paying a hefty price. And even then Scribus won't be surpassed where it counts.

Our view: 5/6

AbiWord

Alternative to Microsoft Word, Apple Pages

Abiword

We could have gone for the obvious choice here: Open Office Writer, but we chose to give the nod to AbiWord, which has been a steady, reliable alternative to Word and Pages for four years longer than Open Office.

It's simple, familiar UI and great functionality will take care of business in all but the most exceptional circumstances. Among the laundry list of usual wordy features is the outstanding AbiCollab option, which is a service that allows users to work on the same document in real time.

Co-workers can collaborate on presentations or print materials, bosses can edit material on the fly or you could simply just ask for a critical eye from a friend or colleague - it's a really nice touch.

As with a lot of open source software it will run well on lower end hardware too, which means it's an ideal replacement for a bloated office suite on a modestly specced company laptop or netbook.

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Do beware the prohibitive spellcheck functionality though, it has all the flexibility of a cane-wielding school master.

Our view: 4/6

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