The old proverb says "Seek, and ye shall find," and that's certainly true of free software. You might ask: why is it free? In many cases, the free download is a limited version of a company's premium product. A firm gives away a free version hoping that happy customers will upgrade to the paid version. Or, a company distributes a free program to draw traffic to its site. Sometimes freeware carries ads, so it's actually a source of income for whoever gives it away.
Offering a freebie is a popular sales tool, and so the following list is just the tip of the iceberg. But you'll find a little something for every online business need in this list.
Oh, and if you're looking for the best source for free information about your small business, check out SmallBusinessComputing (See what I mean? Free stuff often comes with an ad attached!)
Free Software Downloads
The company's free on-site search tool has limitations it indexes no more than 250 pages, and only auto-indexes once a month but the price is right.
Google On-Site Search
Plenty of small sites use Google's free on-site search tool. But it doesn't offer much control for site owners, and it doesn't allow you to see which words users are searching for.
If you're willing to include ads along with your on-site search results, the PicoSearch tool is free.
A free open source e-commerce platform robust enough to build your entire online storefront. The catch: you'll need some programming skills to get it up and running.
PayPal Shopping Cart/Merchant Account
The payment processing company offers a free shopping cart bundled with a free credit cart account. (Of course, if a shopper makes a purchase on your site, you'll be charged a percentage of the total and a transaction fee.)
Mal's free shopping cart is popular and easy to use, and has likely prompted many people to upgrade to Mal's eight-dollar-a-month premium service. You'll need to supply your own credit cart merchant account with the cart.
Vstore (for "virtual store") provides everything for a budding merchant: the products, the merchant account, the Web site. It's all free, but it's all completely controlled by Vstore. Merchants earn a modest commission on sales.
A statistics package to help the people who use Google's popular pay-per-click service manage their campaigns. Monitor your campaign without needing to login to Google.
A shopping cart and content management system (CMS), along with an integrated help desk. This free version has database restrictions.
Sequoia Open Source ERP 0.8
This is a Java application, compatible with major operating systems. It's designed to manage an integrated e-commerce, inventory and supply chain infrastructure.
AFCommerce Shopping Cart 2
An open-source store-building program. Along with the free storefront software, the company offers its development services, which is presumably how they make money.
The search giant's popular toolbar offers at least one piece of business intelligence to people who use it: it allows site owners to find out the relative page rank of competitive sites. Which sites in your category are the top dogs?
Similar to the Google Toolbar but arguably better for business use. It offers more specific ranking of sites, and it shows some of the sites that link to a given site.
Helps you submit your goods to eBay as well as to Yahoo or Amazon.
This utility provides the most common misspellings of items on eBay. The theory is that these misspelled listings won't be found by many buyers, and so can be bought for a cheaper price. So, for example, it allows buyers to find laptops listed as "labtops."
OneStat Hit Counter
More than a simple hit counter, the free OneStat counter provides information about visitors and will track unlimited Web pages.
A free counter that allows you to analyze how visitors use your site.
Designed to help online shoppers, this desktop tool compares prices from numerous e-tailers.
A tool bar plug in for Internet Explorer that compares prices from many e-commerce sites to help users find better prices.
This security software prevents fraudulent sites from obtaining your personal data as you enter it in financial and retail sites.
Secure your business documents on your hard drive using LockNote. To access them, double click and enter your password. No password, no access.
This firewall monitors data flow over your Internet connection to guard against hackers. Personal use is free. For businesses the software costs $19.95.
This free HTML editor claims to be feature rich and lets users at all levels of expertise build their site.
Pronounced "N-view," for "new view," this Web-authoring tool allows you to build your site without having to know any HTML.
Tomorrow, we'll look at free software for remote access, photo editors, video conferencing and other tools to build you e-biz on the cheap.
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