Practical, zero-cost, noncommercial, registration-free functional industrial-grade software

If you know the right places to go, you can grab all sorts of free software available for scheduling, CAD, budgeting, CMMS and more. This article will direct you to numerous destinations on the Internet that can help you reach your goals without spending a penny.

By Russell L. Kratowicz, P.E.

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Computer literacy will set you free. The very idea implies that every freedom-loving person needs software. Those harboring delusions of being the quintessential paragon of productivity probably already are using many collections of those prearranged binary digits. The only people who eschew such ubiquitous technology probably have a different agenda, maybe one that’s way out of the mainstream.

Think about it. Name a contemporary viable business that doesn’t rely on digital technology. As an aside, software development is the only business endeavor in which you can build something once and sell it thousands of times. It’s a veritable money machine. Just ask Mr. Gates.

Speaking of money, many commercially available software packages are expensive, the justification being the buyer’s perception of a genuine ROI. Users are paying for value that produces labor savings. One way to get the software you need is by getting your wants into someone else’s budget. What is one to do when there’s no easy access to the coffers? Your need for software isn’t likely to vanish, that’s for sure, whereas the money is unlikely to appear.

It’s pretty well accepted that you can’t smuggle company software offsite to load it on the computer in your cousin’s bait shop. Nevertheless, many side businesses, social clubs and other entities can use the same software packages used in the plant. When budgets, either personal or business, are a bit anemic, freeware can serve as a stopgap measure that keeps productivity trends moving in the correct general direction. That’s why I’m inviting you to join me for another dive into the morass we call the Web in search of practical, zero-cost, noncommercial, registration-free functional industrial-grade software. Remember, we search the Web so you don't have to.

We might as well begin with the obvious, something near and dear to the heart and pocketbook of every plant professional. The computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) has been around for decades and keeps getting better. Yep, free versions are available, but keep in mind that their capabilities aren’t as grand as their commercial cousins.

If you can write code, you might be interested in an open-source CMMS package that can be modified to achieve a fit that closely matches the realities in your plant. On its Web site, [no hyphens], a Malaysian company, CWorks Systems Sdn. Bhd., offers free downloads of it entry-level package, CWorks Free.

Then there is, which offers free hosting to open source software development projects. The company is owned by OSTG Inc., Fremont, Calif., a wholly owned subsidiary of VA Software Corp. It gets so confusing. No wonder the dot-com house of cards collapsed, but I digress., too, allows you to download a free copy of something called “Free CMMS,” which you will find at [hyphens after free]. If you scroll down that page and click on “Project Home Page,” you can try the software online before you download it.

Finally, Business Industrial Network, St. Louis, has an online CMMS ROI calculator at [hyphens either side of roi].

Scarcest resource
Budgeting is one of the more significant tasks that managers face in a highly competitive economy. Even under once-a-year best of circumstances, establishing and tracking the forecast can be a real headache. But, as someone once said, help is on the way.

With the popularity of palm computers, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that free budgeting software is available for those devices. In this case, you go to [no hyphens], the site owned by Toronto-based Tucows (Deleware) Inc., and click on “Mobile/PDA.” Then, click on the name of your brand of palm unit. From there, find the links to the budgeting packages and focus on the freeware.

If charity begins at home, you might be interested in a budgeting package called “IngenMoney Pro.” It’s free, but can be used only for personal use. The software license has a term of only year and must be renewed online annually. You see, the developer, Daniel Lavigne of Woodlawn, Ontario, wants to keep in touch with users, get feedback and offer upgrades and new releases. So, point your mouse at [no hyphens] and get the goods.

A matter of timing
Plan your work. Work your plan. That’s the traditional advice for completing any project. If a project involves more than 30 or so activities, being serious about making it successful may require a computerized schedule. Fortunately, there are several free scheduling packages that you might want to investigate.

The first, “GanttPV,” is available from Brian C. Christensen at [no hyphens]. It’s open source software and, according to the site, customization is best done using the Python scripting language. Follow the links to the tutorials that get you past this hurdle. Go to the site and click on “guided tour” to learn how the software functions.

“OpenSched: Automated Project Scheduling” is another scheduling package by M-Tech Information Technology Inc. in Calgary, Alberta. The program runs on the Linux operating system and its use depends on being able to produce a proper description file, a sample of which is provided. You can find the details at [no hyphens].

Another full-featured management package is called “jxProject” and is available from jxProject Co. in Silicon Valley, Calif. Its features are too numerous to mention here. This is professional-grade software, but the downside is that you’ll need to install the latest Java Runtime Environment from Sun Microsystems on every computer that will be running it. Cruise over to [no hyphens], where you’ll see the details of this magnum opus.

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