Ten Free Software Tools for the Cost-Conscious Consultant - Slide 10

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Document Review: PDF-XChange Viewer

Suggesting a free alternative to an already free product (Adobe's Reader X) may seem like a stretch, but PDF-XChange Viewer from Tracker Software is so feature-rich that Ken scores brownie points by recommending it to folks. You can actually create visible type inside a PDF with PDF-XChange Viewer, which makes filling out business docs a snap. There are also embedded screen grab tools, a slew of drawing tools (including one for "thought bubbles"), opacity controls, and a tabbed view for multiple docs. It even has built-in zip compression for sending PDFs via email. Tracker Software uses the freeware to upsell to a pro version (you still can't extract or combine files) and its development competitors to Acrobat, so you will see some menus for non-available functionality. Still, PDF-XChange Viewer is just great free software.

Free with some upsell, unlimited use.

Consultants need to do a little bit of everything, and that can mean loading up on a lot of potentially expensive software packages. Thank goodness for open source freeware projects and proprietary software publishers who give away powerful free samples as a marketing tactic.

These software packages provide more than adequate – sometimes surprisingly powerful – functionality for your Windows-based PC, and interoperate quite nicely with brand-name apps. They won't necessarily replace industry-standard tools for your core business; professional project managers are still going to have to bite that $500 bullet for a seat of MS Project.

But for general productivity and most niche tasks, software doesn't have to cost a lot, or anything, for that matter. These tools don't expire and won't frustrate you by suppressing necessary functionality. They just work.

This slideshow features 10 free client software packages identified by Ken-Hardin, an independent business analyst and management consultant, as well as an IT Business Edge alumnus.

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