Open Source Pro­duc­tiv­ity Tools that Run on Win­dows

Pro­duc­tiv­ity tools are soft­ware pro­grams that al­low a com­puter user to do cer­tain spe­cific tasks quickly and ef­fi­ciently. The pro­duc­tiv­ity tools listed here are open source and specif­i­cally meant for the Win­dows op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

OpenSource For You - - Contents -

The per­sonal com­puter has be­come a part of most pro­fes­sion­als' lives, ir­re­spec­tive of the arena in which they work. Even a small shop­keeper uses a PC to main­tain the records of his daily sales and pur­chases. To­day, we are all pretty de­pen­dent on com­put­ers, and their ef­fi­ciency and pro­duc­tiv­ity di­rectly im­pacts our per­sonal pro­duc­tiv­ity. If we spend around three hours a day to do a set of tasks, a quick and pro­duc­tive com­puter sys­tem may help us fin­ish the same tasks in, maybe, around two-and-a-half hours. More than 86 per cent of the com­put­ers used in our homes and of­fices run on some form of the Win­dows OS. Hence, the pro­duc­tiv­ity of Win­dows' com­puter sys­tems is really im­por­tant.

There has been an enor­mous in­crease in the amount of data that our com­puter needs to process on a daily ba­sis. For in­stance, a com­puter at a shop­ping cen­tre needs to add and main­tain the records of nu­mer­ous cus­tomers who make daily pur­chases along with the list of items pur­chased by them, their prices and of­fers, etc. All this adds up to gi­ga­bytes of data, which im­pacts the per­for­mance of the com­puter when it com­putes large data sets. The pro­duc­tiv­ity of Win­dows sys­tems also de­pends upon fac­tors like the fre­quency with which the dif­fer­ent sys­tem files are cleaned, the way the large log files or a file sys­tem are han­dled, drive space util­i­sa­tion, etc.

Thank­fully, there are many open source tools run­ning on Win­dows that can in­crease a sys­tem's pro­duc­tiv­ity.

These are avail­able free of cost and can be eas­ily tried out by any­one. Also, there is enough doc­u­men­ta­tion and many write-ups avail­able for these open source tools, which makes it much eas­ier to use them. It is also eas­ier to mod­ify them as per our re­quire­ments since, be­ing open source, their source code is eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble.

The need for open source pro­duc­tiv­ity tools

I feel pro­duc­tiv­ity tools should be named fa­cil­i­ta­tion tools. Also, these tools of­fer a lot more than what we dis­cussed. Let's check out why they are in such great de­mand.

1. Pro­duc­tiv­ity tools are in high de­mand as they help users to per­form any spe­cific task with much ease and flex­i­bil­ity, in less time. They are quite user­friendly.

2. Open source pro­duc­tiv­ity tools are avail­able free of cost and do not carry any pric­ing over­heads, which is one of the main rea­sons why these tools are pre­ferred.

3. Also, the devel­op­ers of open source pro­duc­tiv­ity tools make some or all of the source code freely avail­able to the pub­lic. This al­lows oth­ers to take the code and al­ter it to cre­ate their own soft­ware.

4. Since all open source pro­duc­tiv­ity tools are han­dled by the open source com­mu­nity, devel­op­ers can ac­tu­ally mon­i­tor the user re­sponse and tweak their ap­pli­ca­tions to bet­ter meet user needs. This really ben­e­fits users. 5. Pro­duc­tiv­ity soft­ware or­gan­ises dif­fer­ent fea­tures in an in­tu­itive way with­out ac­tu­ally copy­ing an­other de­vel­oper's work. Some of the users are quite picky about spe­cific fea­tures of the sys­tem. If they need to switch from one prod­uct to the other, they might get frus­trated in case the sec­ond prod­uct does not or­gan­ise its dif­fer­ent fea­tures in the same way as the one they've be­come used to.

6. Dif­fer­ent pro­duc­tiv­ity tools also take care of the tricky tasks such as con­vert­ing spread­sheets full of data into graphs and charts, which makes it really easy to per­form dif­fer­ent anal­y­sis tasks on large data sets. This also saves a lot of the man­ual ef­fort re­quired to an­a­lyse huge data sets.

7. One of the emerg­ing trends in pro­duc­tiv­ity soft­ware is col­lab­o­ra­tive soft­ware. This means that mul­ti­ple peo­ple can work to­gether on the same file and that too, at the same time. For dif­fer­ent desk­top ap­pli­ca­tions, all files must be saved on a net­worked disk drive that is ac­ces­si­ble to all the col­lab­o­ra­tors. In the case of Web ser­vices, dif­fer­ent users save files to a data­base present on the Web. All the col­lab­o­ra­tors can work on the spe­cific file from any of the com­put­ers con­nected to the In­ter­net.

A few open source pro­duc­tiv­ity tools and their fea­tures

Scribus: This is an open source desk­top pub­lish­ing pro­gram which is avail­able free of cost. It is de­vel­oped keep­ing in mind the user in­ter­face as dis­played in case of Paint.NET and Inkscape.

Its fea­tures are listed below.

It sports a dif­fer­ent lay­out, and the de­sign tools are at par with its com­mer­cial com­peti­tors.

It uses a macro lan­guage called GIMP, which is avail­able with a num­ber of pre-pack­aged macros (e.g., a cal­en­dar gen­er­a­tor).

It can pro­duce pro­fes­sional-qual­ity CMYK PDFs. It also has a ‘pre­flight check’ func­tion in or­der to make sure that what we see is really what we even­tu­ally get.

We can get the best re­sults out of Scribus when we use it in con­junc­tion with a text pro­cess­ing sys­tem; it is not really a word pro­ces­sor in its own right and is not suited yet to lay­ing out long-form doc­u­ments. Also, as in the case of Inkscape, it's in­ter­nal sup­port for colour match­ing sys­tems is miss­ing. We can partly work around this lim­i­ta­tion.

SeaMon­key 2.0.6: SeaMon­key bun­dles dif­fer­ent ap­pli­ca­tions like Web brows­ing, IRC chat, e-mail and an HTML ed­i­tor, into a sin­gle ap­pli­ca­tion. It is quite sim­i­lar to Fire­fox and Thun­der­bird but, un­for­tu­nately, it hasn’t at­tracted much at­ten­tion yet. SeaMon­key 2.0 is really worth a look. Apart from the plugin-friendly browser and the email client, the most at­trac­tive part is the HTML ed­i­tor, which is slightly more pol­ished than Kom­poZer but is not avail­able sep­a­rately. It is not a sub­sti­tute for any full-blown page de­sign ap­pli­ca­tion like DreamWeaver, but it really works well for the ba­sic HTML as­sem­bly and the clean­up. It can also ex­am­ine the tag struc­ture of the ex­ist­ing pages.

AbiWord 2.8.6: This is ac­tu­ally a sim­ple word pro­cess­ing ap­pli­ca­tion. It has been de­vel­oped to em­u­late the look and feel of Mi­crosoft Word circa Of­fice 97 through Mi­crosoft Of­fice 2003. AbiWord also em­u­lates the vast ma­jor­ity of Word's func­tions. This is es­pe­cially use­ful for a livecol­lab­o­ra­tion func­tion, which lets us con­nect to some other AbiWord user present across a net­work and to work on the same set of doc­u­ments in real-time.

How­ever, users do need to be cau­tious about a few things. AbiWord can be tripped up by the doc­u­ments cre­ated in other pro­grams.

Some of the for­mats are not prop­erly pre­served, and some fea­tures sup­ported in Word don't al­ways func­tion as ex­pected.

When work­ing with the files cre­ated out­side AbiWord, we should use copies in­stead of orig­i­nals.

Task Coach 1.1.3: Task Coach is an ap­pli­ca­tion that uses a sim­pler and check­list-ori­ented ap­proach to help us stay on top of our work­load. Dif­fer­ent tasks that need to be done can be or­gan­ised into dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories such as the as­signed dates and progress per­cent­ages. They can also be time-tracked, so that we get an idea of how much time we are really spend­ing on any given project.

Some of the ad­vanced fea­tures of this tool are:

Can cre­ate sub-tasks and add ‘ef­fort' an­no­ta­tions to a given task, but we don't need to know about how to use them to make use of Task Coach.

We can also vi­su­alise our tasks as more than just a list. We can see them us­ing a time­line, a cal­en­dar view and a hi­er­ar­chi­cal view (for the sub-tasks).

These task lists can also be synced us­ing iCal­en­dar, or through a Fu­nam­bol server if we use one of them.

Dia 0.97: Dia is ac­tu­ally an open source tool that helps in draw­ing flow­charts and di­a­grams. It is much like AbiWord for il­lus­tra­tions. How­ever, AbiWord just gives us what we need to cre­ate a cer­tain class of the de­sign and does not really bur­den

us be­yond that. Its con­trols can be a lit­tle dif­fi­cult to work with. For in­stance, it as­sumes that dif­fer­ent peo­ple will draw the new shapes by start­ing from the top-left cor­ner and then mov­ing down, be­fore mov­ing to the right. (We get some odd re­sults if we try draw­ing ob­jects go­ing from right to left.)

Dia is easy to use, and comes with a slew of com­mon ob­ject cat­e­gories such as hy­draulic, elec­tri­cal, pro­gram­ming, and so on. With Dia, it is really easy to jump-start a draw­ing of any sort.

Ad­van­tages of open source pro­duc­tiv­ity tools

1. Avail­able free of cost: First of all, as soon as we add an open source tag to any tool, it cer­ti­fies that the tool is avail­able free of cost. 2. Ver­sa­tile and flex­i­ble: Peo­ple choose open source pro­duc­tiv­ity tools be­cause they have more free­dom over such tools. They can an­a­lyse the code in or­der to be sure that it does not do any­thing they don't want it to, and can also change it if they want to do so. Even a non-pro­gram­mer can use these tools by mod­i­fy­ing them to spe­cific needs.

3. Doc­u­men­ta­tion and help avail­able: All open source pro­duc­tiv­ity tools have doc­u­men­ta­tion avail­able on­line, which really helps to use them eas­ily. Since the doc­u­men­ta­tion is pub­licly avail­able, users can study it to im­prove and make finer soft­ware. They can also share their code with the oth­ers, hence evolv­ing their skills.

4. Highly sta­ble: Peo­ple usu­ally choose open source pro­duc­tiv­ity tools rather than the li­censed ver­sions for some es­sen­tial and long-term projects. As we know, pro­gram­mers pub­licly dis­trib­ute the code for dif­fer­ent

open source tools. In­di­vid­u­als who have faith in that tool for dif­fi­cult com­put­ing tasks can really be cer­tain that such open source tools won't dis­ap­pear if their orig­i­nal cre­ators stop work­ing on them. They will al­ways be sup­ported by the open source com­mu­nity.

5. Se­cu­rity: Open source pro­duc­tiv­ity tools are com­par­a­tively safer and stead­ier than the li­censed ones. Just as any­one can view and change the code for dif­fer­ent open source tools, they can also point out and cor­rect the faults that a pro­gram's orig­i­nal de­vel­oper might have missed out. Also, since many devel­op­ers can work on dif­fer­ent parts of open source tool code with­out ac­tu­ally ask­ing for the ap­proval of the orig­i­nal de­vel­oper, they can

Fig­ure 1: Plugin load­ing screen for Scribus (Im­age source: googleim­ages.com)

Fig­ure 3: Ad­van­tages of open source pro­duc­tiv­ity tools (Im­age source: googleim­ages.com)

Fig­ure 2: Draw­ing flow­charts us­ing Dia (Im­age source: googleim­ages.com)

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