Top 5 free, open source applications for lawyers

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4-Step Computer Security Upgrade

Learn to encrypt your files, secure your computer when using public Wi-Fi, enable two-factor authentication, and use good passwords.

Free is better, and open source is superior. There are fantastic free and open source alternatives to the software lawyers use every day. Here are my top 5 most valuable free applications for lawyers:

  1. OpenOffice.org

Office 2007 is pretty, but from a user perspective, it is an upgrade hardly worth the pricetag. Plus, Microsoft’s rejection of Open Document Format, which is becoming the world standard (and should be the courts’ standard, if they can de-Microsoft their thinking), is troubling. OpenOffice.org, or OOo, is a fantastic alternative. It is also in wide use worldwide, and sponsored by Sun Microsystems. This is a full replacement for Office, minus Outlook, and attorneys can make the switch and not look back. Among other things, OOo can save to .doc format, and makes it easier than ever to create PDF versions.

  1. TrueCrypt

As I have said many times, encryption is no longer optional. Law firms that do not encrypt client data are risking lawsuits if and when client data is stolen. TrueCrypt is a serious piece of encryption software that makes encryption easy and convenient. My favorite feature is the ability to back up the encrypted container so that my backups are encrypted, as well.

Warning: TrueCrypt is not secure. See this post for details and information on migrating to Bitlocker or FileVault.

  1. AVG or Avast anti-virus

It is a bit eerie how much Norton and McAfee resemble the viruses they protect your computer in. Virus-like, they invade every nook and cranny of your operating system, bogging your computer down. Uninstall them and go with a free alternative that protects just as well and doesn’t slow you to a crawl.

  1. GnuCash

Looking to move beyond your outdated accounting software? GnuCash is a double-entry accounting package that should do the trick just fine. If you like sending Quicken files to your accountant, you can do that, too will have to make do with printing out HTML reports (see comment, below).

  1. UltraVNC

UltraVNC (and numerous other free VNC applications) lets you access your computer remotely from anywhere. Setup takes just a bit of knowhow, but once you are up and running, it is amazingly smooth. Best of all, you can access your computer using any VNC with any operating system for maximum versatility.

Finally, if you do use free, open-source software, support the project by donating.

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