So who actually uses free and open source software?

Whilst millions of people use free and open source packages such as Firefox, Chrome, OpenOffice and LibreOffice, the perception of free and open source operating systems, namely Linux is very different. In the UK there is a strongly held view that you have to be some sort of geek to use a Linux operating system.

So who is using Linux instead of Windows or Apple?

The simple answer is millions of people! There an estimated 22million Ubuntu users.

Ubuntu is the official operating system of China, a few users there then!

Indian companies make huge use of Linux and free and open source software.

So countries that are keen to keep their overheads down and undercut the rest of the market, and they are saving a fortune on software.

Ok but who closer to home? Well to start with Ubuntu is made by Canonical who are a London based company.

Last year the French Gendarmerie moved from Microsoft to Ubuntu and OpenOffice, a move that saves them 2million euros a year.

Earlier this year the German City of Munich was distributing free copies of Ubuntu to local residents, so that they had an alternative for when Windows XP support ends.

Yesterday Germany’s upcoming coalition Government stated that it is committed to using open source software, rather than the existing “closed digital ecosystems”.

The Andalusian Regional Government, Spain, wanted to improve access to IT in schools throughout the region and now has 220,000 Ubuntu-based workstations in more than 2,000 schools throughout the region.

The UK Cabinet Office has published Open Source Options as part of its Open Source Procurement Toolkit, providing guidance for the public sector on Open Source Software. This covers areas such as operating systems, databases, content management, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM).

So despite all these users, savings and success stories, very few UK companies are aware of the software or the savings. Why is this? I think mainly it is because we do not have the option of walking into a high street computer shop and buying a PC with Ubuntu on. Most of us like to try before we buy, and we don’t have the opportunity to experience Linux. Whereas in the US and China you can buy PCs with preloaded Ubuntu operating systems, and not have to pay for a Windows one.


Still paying for Microsoft Office?

Let’s be honest, what do most of us use a computer for these days, I’m guessing like me its mainly, browsing the internet, sending emails (for those of us that still like a email client), and writing letters and spreadsheets. Certainly most business machines I look at mainly have installed, Internet Explorer, Outlook and Office Suite.

Let’s be honest Office Suite isn’t cheap, it certainly isn’t free! If I pop down to PC World today Microsoft Office Home and Business 2013 would cost me £190.00, or you could try Office 365 Small Business for £10.10 per month (exc. VAT).

So what can the world of free and open source software offer me instead? Well there are two main open source options, OpenOffice and LibreOffice. So what’s the difference? Well honestly not a lot, its almost a case of personal preference. However, I personally, prefer LibreOffice, this package has made significant improvements recently and the latest version is full of features.

What does LibreOffice give you?

Writer is the word processor inside LibreOffice. Use it for everything, from dashing off a quick letter to producing an entire book with tables of contents, embedded illustrations, bibliographies and diagrams. The while-you-type auto-completion, auto-formatting and automatic spelling checking make difficult tasks easy (but are easy to disable if you prefer). Writer is powerful enough to tackle desktop publishing tasks such as creating multi-column newsletters and brochures. The only limit is your imagination.

Calc tames your numbers and helps with difficult decisions when you’re weighing the alternatives. Analyze your data with Calc and then use it to present your final output. Charts and analysis tools help bring transparency to your conclusions. A fully-integrated help system makes easier work of entering complex formulas. Add data from external databases such as SQL or Oracle, then sort and filter them to produce statistical analyses. Use the graphing functions to display large number of 2D and 3D graphics from 13 categories, including line, area, bar, pie, X-Y, and net – with the dozens of variations available, you’re sure to find one that suits your project.

Impress is the fastest and easiest way to create effective multimedia presentations. Stunning animation and sensational special effects help you convince your audience. Create presentations that look even more professional than the standard presentations you commonly see at work. Get your collegues’ and bosses’ attention by creating something a little bit different.

Draw lets you build diagrams and sketches from scratch. A picture is worth a thousand words, so why not try something simple with box and line diagrams? Or else go further and easily build dynamic 3D illustrations and special effects. It’s as simple or as powerful as you want it to be.

Base is the database front-end of the LibreOffice suite. With Base, you can seamlessly integrate your existing database structures into the other components of LibreOffice, or create an interface to use and administer your data as a stand-alone application. You can use imported and linked tables and queries from MySQL, PostgreSQL or Microsoft Access and many other data sources, or design your own with Base, to build powerful front-ends with sophisticated forms, reports and views. Support is built-in or easily addable for a very wide range of database products, notably the standardly-provided HSQL, MySQL, Adabas D, Microsoft Access and PostgreSQL.

Math is a simple equation editor that lets you lay-out and display your mathematical, chemical, electrical or scientific equations quickly in standard written notation. Even the most-complex calculations can be understandable when displayed correctly. E=mc2.

LibreOffice also comes configured with a PDF file creator, meaning you can distribute documents that you’re sure can be opened and read by users of almost any computing device or operating system.

As you can see it offers the lot! It offers a lot more than MS Office, and best of all it is free and open source. You can download it from

You may also have come across another office suite called Kingsoft. Kingsoft are Chinese software company who have around since the late 80s. Their office suite is very similar in appearance to Microsoft’s Office Suite. It isn’t free or open source, however at £49 for the professional suite, it is a lot cheaper than Microsoft.

Who is Pangolin Solutions?

Two years ago I came home in temper tantrum after a frustrating day of using Windows, I got so irritated I wanted to know if there was another way, you know something that wasn’t as frustrating as Windows or as expensive as Apple, something I could run on my old XP machines.

Well after much looking, well a weekend of playing with 14 Linux distros, I settled on Ubuntu Linux.

Yes, I had looked at Linux back in the day, and hadn’t even got as far as installing as it was all far too complicated and tedious.

Well I loved Ubuntu it was so easy to use, and best of all it was free, perfect, from there I spent the next 6months trying different software until I had the machine I wanted, it did everything, played DVDs, ran LoveFilm, had an office suite, did the lot.

A business was my geeky IT friends idea, so we set up Pangolin Solutions with the simple of aim of helping other people benefit from all this free and open source software, this stuff is used loads in Europe and India, in fact Ubuntu is the official operating system of China (and Ubuntu is made by London based Canonical software), so why shouldn’t British business gain from this as well!