Ten Free Software Tools for the Cost-Conscious Consultant - Slide 4

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Email and calendaring: Thunderbird + Lightning

Recommending software from the Mozilla foundation is not exactly a bold move, but with the addition of the Lightning calendaring add-on (now in beta 1.0), Mozilla's Thunderbird 3.1 email client is now officially the best one Ken has ever used. Lightning integrates the retired Sunbird calendaring applet closely with Thunderbird, adding an Events and Tasks menu and a handy calendar sidebar to the intuitive tab-based Mozilla interface. Attachments, recurrence, event-level privacy for shared calendars – it's all there. The only drawback to Thunderbird now is that it does not play seamlessly with Microsoft’s messaging systems, but then again, what does? Ken just copies himself when using a client's Web-based Outlook account – inelegant, but it works.

Free, 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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