) -- It's been a tough year for


, and a poll of 250 entrepreneurs showed that most of them are expecting tight times for the foreseeable future, too. For business owners looking to cut costs in 2010, nothing beats free. Here are five free tools that are surprisingly comparable with their pricier counterparts.

Free Tool: OpenOffice

Type of tool: office software suite

Compares with:


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Office ($449.95)

Operating system: Sun Solaris, Linux, Microsoft Windows

Where to get it:


What you get: The comprehensive suite includes a word processor (comparable to MS Word), a spreadsheet (Excel-ish), a presentation program (a lot like PowerPoint), a database-management program, a math program and a graphics tool -- all of which are more or less compatible with Microsoft Office, meaning you can share files with the suckers who forked over the money for a Microsoft suite.

What you don't get: OpenOffice doesn't include many of the keyboard shortcuts inherent in the Office suites from Microsoft

Free tool: Ghostscript

Type of tool: PDF (portable document format) creator and viewer

Compares with:


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Acrobat ($449)

Operating system: Microsoft Windows,


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Mac OS, Linux, Open VMS, Unix

Where to get it:


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What you get: While Adobe offers a popular free tool to read

PDF files

, Ghostscript offers the ability to create PDF files, too.

What you don't get: Ease of installation. You might need a friendly geek to help you follow the download directions, which are about as straightforward as those mysterious diagrams that come with



Free tool: GIMP (The GNU Image Manipulation Program)

Type of tool: image manipulation

Compares with: Adobe Photoshop CS4 ($699)

Operating system: Linux, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Solaris, FreeBSD

Where to get it:


What you get: GIMP offers sophisticated image retouching, composition and authoring tools for a variety of photo formats.

What you don't get: Simplicity. A learning curve is par for the course with any tool with such comprehensive capabilities, but the user interface and multiple windows might be a little frustrating for anyone who is already accustomed to Photoshop.

Free tool: Password Safe

Type of tool: storage tool for your myriad passwords

Compares with: 1Password ($39.95) for the Mac, Sticky Password ($22.50) for WindowsOperating system: Microsoft Windows

Where to get it:


What you get: Created by the cryptography guru Bruce Schneier, Password Safe lets users keep all their passwords stored on their PCs, encrypted. They can be unlocked with a single master password, which, ideally, the user keeps stored in his or her head. It's easier to remember one password than 20, after all.

What you don't get: Mac support

Free tool: Vistaprint

Type of tool: business card design and printing

Compares with: ($16.95 for 100)

Where to get them:


What you get: Vistaprint offers 45 designs for its free cards, which come in packs of 250. The main catch is that the cards feature a small advertisement for Vistaprint on the back, but you can get rid of that by paying a mere $1.99. Shipping is $8.95.

What you don't get: Your own logo. You have to pay extra for that.

-- Reported by Carmen Nobel in Boston.