Linux for a Small Business

If you're self-employed or run a small shop, here are some office applications you should be using.
Contact Manager/E-Mail Client

Although Linux has many available options for both contact managers and e-mail, I prefer to combine them. Doing so makes things more convenient—everything is right there, so I don't have to open two different applications. Ximian Evolution fills this need quite nicely. It is at once an e-mail client and a contact manager/task scheduler, and it provides the writer/consultant with a one-stop information resource. Upon starting the program for the first time, you will be taken to the summary screen (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Starting Ximian Evolution

Along with weather information and a listing of recent articles about Linux, Evolution shows how many messages are in your inbox and outbox. It also shows any pending tasks or appointments for the day. Down the left-hand side of the Summary Window are the different areas within Evolution that allow you to set up appointments, schedule tasks and send and receive e-mail. Clicking the Inbox icon will take you to Evolution's e-mail client (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Checking the Inbox

Evolution has a look and feel similar to Microsoft's Outlook program. All of the usual e-mail buttons and services are listed across the top of the page. One nice feature with the release of Evolution 1.2.1 is the New button. With a click, you can create a new mail message or contact without having to navigate to that specific area of Evolution.

With Evolution's contact client, contacts are easily created and managed (Figure 7). I can enter the usual name, address, phone number and so on, but I also can click on the details panel and violà! I have another screen to record additional information. And, the more information I have on clients, the better my ability to communicate with them. In case you're wondering, the collaboration panel allows you to record the URLs for those clients who publish their calendar information on the Internet. It's another example of how Evolution's developers have put a lot of thought into the components of this program.

Figure 7. A Contact in Evolution

Once I build a list of contacts, I can search the list based on any number of different search criteria: alphabetical order, e-mail address or category (Figure 8). You even can create your own search criteria using the Advanced selection. You then can file contacts under any category you choose and search for them accordingly. For me, this makes prospecting a snap.

Figure 8. Classifying a Contact

The Calendar client (Figure 9) is pretty straightforward, and you can set up the calendar window to suit your tastes. The window areas can be changed simply by dragging the borders to the desired size. Once you've navigated to the desired day, double-click on the appointment time and a separate window opens up (Figure 10). You then can fill in the details of your appointment and store it for later viewing. You also can set up your calendar to remind you several minutes, hours or days in advance of an appointment.

Figure 9. Evolution Calendar

Figure 10. Appointment Specifics

The Task Scheduler works in a similar fashion. Navigate to the New button and choose task. A window opens up that allows you to type in the details of your task. The tasks are stored in the “task” area of Evolution and can be displayed in order of time and date, allowing you to see whether you are on track in a project or group of tasks. Also, once a task is completed, you can check it off and know exactly what you have finished as well as what else you have left to do.

Several more features are available that you can explore for yourself. Like Linux, Evolution allows you to accomplish the same task in several different ways.



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Great to see

SteveT's picture

Great to see get a mention on this excellent blog. This software is really good and offers a good free alternative to students and small business owners alike. Thanks.

Steve from Business Ideas.

Web site address change

Gary L Maxwell's picture

Hello! My name is Gary Maxwell the author of this article. Just writing to let you know that my web site address has changed to:

For questions or comments you may email at:

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for a very well

uldics's picture

Thanks for a very well written rewiev. It convinced me for using GnuCash. The programs help system seems to be a good help for small business starters.