Starting a business can be an expensive proposition and is a time when costs need to be controlled very tightly until you start generating that all important cash-flow. One way to save costs initially is to avoid spending hundreds of euro on common office software and instead explore the free alternatives that exist out there.

One such option is a suite of web based applications to be found on Unlike, for example, Microsoft Office, which needs to be purchased and installed on your pc or laptop the Zoho range of applications are web based meaning that you can access your office anywhere, anytime from any laptop or pc! Zoho Writer, Sheet and Show are Zoho variations of the popular Microsoft Office applications Word, Excel and Powerpoint and files are compatible with these applications as well. The Zoho applications will not be able to handle large files as effectively as Microsoft but for your typical small home/office user (which is where the name Zoho came from by the way) they should be fine.

Other applications available on Zoho include an online note taker, wiki, organizer, web-based e-mail, project management, invoicing, reports and meeting applications. There are quite a lot to browse through including a CRM application which is free for the first 3 users in a company/organisation. Most applications are free for the small business user with charges applying for larger scale organisations.

Another free suite of office applications worth looking at is ThinkFree Online which consists of Write, Calc and Show (again similar to Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint). Each user is allotted 1 GB of online storage space for saving documents. ThinkFree Online lets users collaborate on documents with others, publish to a blog or the web. ThinkFree Online also keeps a version history per document of the changes that are made.

We shall shortly be adding a facility for registered users to comment on our articles. Anyone who ends up trying any of the Zoho or ThinkFree applications is welcome to leave your comments here then or post a message on our Forum.

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