Free to be…

We all realize that,as Don Hall so eloquently put it in his beautiful and ambitious Off Loop Freedom Charter:

"Most of the problems associated with the American theater in the 21st Century has to do with the fact that it costs too much to create."

Why yes I DO focus on the bold parts… when I’m looking for springboards (and looking to pimp the Off Loop Freedom Charter).

Technology can’t help you find an affordable well equipped space. If I find a technological answer to that y’all will be the second to know.

But being the software hoarder that I am I do know of some back-office solutions that may be of use to you.

Alright, so your call for a computer in the "needs" section of your program or website got you a midrange tower from last years Black Friday sale. It’s underpowered and doesn’t have what you need to get everything rolling.

So let’s hook you up.
(Please note: I’m not saying anything here you can’t get from LifeHacker. I’m just putting it in one place for those of you who don’t read LifeHacker.)

Start by getting a Google account. There are too many free tools from Google to ignore. Get a professional name. Keep it.

Next? You should head to OpenOffice.org. OpenOffice is a complete office software package to replace Microsoft’s Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Access. It does it very well and very similarly. You don’t have to learn a new language to use it, and it’s free. Use it with an extension  to save to GoogleDocs to share with your tribe. It also saves natively to .PDF for all your press release needs. (Zoho has a great suite of online tools, but we need the full package Google is giving us… so that’s my online app of choice)

The rest? Here’s a conversion table and some straight recommends:

Instead of Outlook : Thunderbird from Mozilla. Link it to your Google account and feel the love. Link it to your Google Calendar. Feel the love. It’s Outlook. It’s Free.

Instead of Pagemaker: Scribus – poster layout, program layout.

Sort of instead of Photoshop: Paint.Net – I need to be clear. Paint.net isn’t as powerful as Photoshop. But you need to be honest, you weren’t using Photoshop anywhere near it’s capabilities anyway.  GIMPShop is a much more powerful photo editing system, but it’s buggier and requires more system resources. (though Scribus above does integrate with it).

Photo Organization: Picasa from Google. Why? You need to organize your photos Promo photos, show calls, cat blogging, Kai blogging. Picasa does that while integrating seamlessly with Blogger (which many of you use) and uploading directly to the free space that comes with your Google Account to allow you to hotlink your photos. It also allows you to do very basic photo fixes.

I just shared this with Freedom Spice and I figured I’d splash it some more. Zhura.com is a free online app like GoogleDocs except that it has a light Final Draft shell on it. It’s for screen writers, but stage writers will be able to figure it out. Great if you’re collaborating.

CutePDF: for printing .PDFs of things that aren’t in OpenOffice.

OpenProj: Is the Open Source variation of Microsoft Project.

Audacity: For simple audio editing and recording

Windows Live Writer: The most powerful blogging client that I’ve met. Works with just about every platform.

WordPress: The most powerful blogging platform I’ve used. It’s extensible beyond the beyond when you host it yourself, but still very powerful on the site.

RemembertheMilk: a Task management system that integrates tightly with your GMail and Google Calendars. Play with it. It’s pretty amazing, and difficult to summarize.

GrandCentral: At Length Here

What about you?

What Open Source and/or Free software tools are you using that everyone should know about?