Open source tools are great alternatives for new businesses. If you are bootstrapping your business then free and low cost open source tools are the way to go. Most if not all Open Source tools are cross platform or even portable applications which means they are less resource intensive on your machine as well as being free.
One of the great things about Open Source tools is the community. You can head for the website for any Open Source program and as questions. You can also find some great additional resources such as extensions and templates. You can create your own and share them with others! Some great tools are below:
Open Office feels and looks like an older version of MS Office but has the functions and bells & whistles of the latest version. It has standard menus and not the Ribbon of Office 2007 and later but the same functions are available. It may take a few minutes to explore the menus to find a tool but it is worth the effort as your PC or laptop will be more responsive. You will find that the later versions of Office are not as stable and crash frequently, with Open Office you open it and can do my work without fear of it going **poof**! It is fully compatible with Office and Google Docs and just about every other office suite on the market.
Inkscape is for vector graphics like CorelDraw or Illustrator only with half the system resources used. Again it has all the bells and whistles of the paid programs but without the price tag. Some of the tools are in different places or might be called something different but once you are used to the layout it’s like any other graphics program, incredibly powerful!
Scribus for desktop publishing and layout work like Publisher and InDesign. While I am familiar with Publisher, Scribus is a lot like it in layout and feel and so I am very excited to be learning this Open Source tool. You will love doing layout work and usually have worked in CorelDraw or Inkscape to do it but the tools in Scribus are built with layout in mind so I’ll be creating my assets in Inkscape and doing mock-ups and layouts in Scribus from here on. I might even be writing a book in it at some point.