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By eweek  |  Posted 2003-02-10 Print this article Print

: Office Suites, CRM and SFA, Web App Development and Testing, Development Tools"> Office Suites provides companies with a very good alternative to Microsofts Office thats free of licensing costs and runs on Windows, Linux and Solaris. A beta of for Mac OS X and X11 is available, with a native Macintosh version expected next year.

In the Labs extended tests using OpenOffice.orgs word processor and spreadsheet applications in a largely Microsoft Office setting, weve had great success with OpenOffice.orgs import and export filters for Microsofts .doc and .xls file formats.

In addition, while getting used to the interface takes a bit of adjustment, the time investment pays dividends when shifting among platforms. Whats more, when confronted with a system without office applications, the suites ready availability and lack of activation or licensing restrictions make deployment a snap.

—Jason Brooks


Lets face the facts: After years of overbuying products that were overhyped in the first place, most companies dont have a lot of money left for big-ticket items. In troubled economic times, every company is going to try to extract as much sweat from its employees as possible. The worst companies will simply try to cut head count; the best companies will look at something like a CRM (customer relationship management) or sales force automation system, albeit one that wont bankrupt them.

Thats why my best buy is While the dot-com boom went bust, Inc. bucked the trend, showing growth. While CRM companies in general fell apart, added customers. While application service providers bit the dust, showed how the model can work. is not for everyone, but at $125 per month per user or less, its full-fledged CRM on a budget. Better yet, its usable from the moment its turned on, providing a quick benefit and an increased chance for a positive ROI. —John Taschek

Web App Development and Testing

When it comes to developing and editing Web applications and Web pages, flexibility is key to reining in costs. Although there are tools that are better at building applications in specific languages, there is nothing that provides as good a development environment for building Web applications in a variety of languages as Macromedia Inc.s Dreamweaver MX. Dreamweaver MX can handle anything from ASP, or Active Server Pages, to JSP (JavaServer Pages) to XML to Cold Fusion applications. And with extensions, Dreamweaver MX works with even more languages, including PHP. When weighed against buying individual tools for every potential application platform, the $399 Dreamweaver MX is a good buy indeed.

Two other compelling values are Sun Microsystems Inc.s NetBeans and IBMs Eclipse. Both are multilanguage and free, have vibrant development communities, and are very competitive with for-cost integrated development environments. In fact, Sun and IBM both base their commercial development tool lines on NetBeans and Eclipse, respectively.

Once a Web application is built, it will need to be tested, but its hard for even eWEEK to find a few thousand users to load-test a Web application. Weve used RadView Software Ltd.s WebLoad to quickly create unique scripts to test even the most complex sites. WebLoad can test pretty much any Web application, and it allows developers to easily find breaking points in applications.

Like most high-end testing tools, WebLoad is not cheap: It ranges in price from about $10,000 to six figures. However, given the immaturity of open-source options, the limited functionality of lower-cost options and the price an organization will pay for applications that break under pressure, WebLoad is a very worthwhile investment.

—Jim Rapoza and Timothy Dyck

Development Tools

Writing code before defining the problem can cost a company significant time, frustration and money, which is why something such as Popkin Software and Systems Inc.s System Architect ought to be used at the outset. No one has to win a religious war over diagramming methods before this modeling and analysis tool can be brought to bear: The $5,250 system offers integrated support for every major method, with a well-integrated repository that captures and shares relationships (such as "includes" or "is an instance of") as well as entities, and with code generation tools for C++, Java and Visual Basic.

Turning concept into code may well involve writing in multiple languages and on multiple platforms. Nothing meets that need better than SlickEdit Inc.s Visual SlickEdit, a power tool for building and managing code on Windows, Unix/Linux and IBM mainframe platforms that supports coders in more than 30 programming languages. SlickEdit is priced from $299 to $399.

The next step up the food chain is a tool set that makes low-level coders productive, whether writing a device driver in C or a server-side application in Java. The standard is set by the $599 Metrowerks Inc. CodeWarrior, available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Palm OS, Symbian, and every embedded processor or platform thats ever crossed our radar at eWEEK Labs.

But CodeWarriors loyalty is to the developer and the code, not to any particular set of platform APIs. If getting the most out of Microsofts platforms is the agenda, Microsofts Visual Studio .Net (priced from $1,079 to $2,499) is the way to go.

At the top of todays food chain, though, are applications that can draw on many assets and can run wherever its most useful to put them. While giving Microsoft full credit for the efficiency and the superb integration of current Windows and .Net offerings, we give top rank to Borland Software Corp.s JBuilder for its ease of productive standards-based development on Windows, Mac and Unix/Linux machines. Prices for JBuilder range from $399 to $3,999.

—Peter Coffee


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