When cost is no concern, you can buy great software that helps you get and stay organized, streamline your work processes, track your income and expenses and handle your billing and collections. In Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice, I devote considerable attention to ways to eliminate or significantly reduce expenses for the rest of us who really do want to keep the overhead low.
A good example is software for creating documents. You already know about and may use Microsoft Office or at least Microsoft Word. If you have not purchased Word, however, you could consider OpenOffice. OpenOffice was originally known as StarOffice, a product acquired by Sun Microsystems in 1999 and eventually released “into the wild” by Oracle after it acquired Sun. Now supported by the Apache Software Foundation, the OpenOffice suite is completely free, works on almost every type of computer operating system, and includes word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing, and database applications. Each works very much as you would expect their full-price counterparts to function, so your existing office suite skills will transfer easily. And, as important as most any other feature, OpenOffice can open files from and its output can be opened by its blue-blooded cousins in case you need to exchange documents (though not all features will be available) because it uses the universal “open document format.”
As with the full-price office suites, there are applications available to extend and enhance the base functionality of the OpenOffice apps. For example, Oracle’s PDF Import Extension allows you to open an existing PDF document and edit it. With Toools, from ICSTools of Italy, you can generate invoices, build project plans and create reports. And Dmitri Popov’s Writer’s Tools adds a bunch of utilities that could be quite useful such as the timer (so you know how much time you really spent with that document open) and “Add to Notebook” to let you quickly add paragraphs, etc., to a database for later re-use. The OpenOffice.org website includes links to document and spreadsheet templates (think fax cover sheets, calendars, brochures, etc.) and an extensive set of help manuals.
Unless (and until) you need another productivity application that requires a full-priced word processor or office suite, a free alternative such as OpenOffice is both smart and easy to obtain.