Free ERP 4 all

Bring enterprise resource planning to your business with this full-featured freeware.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems span every part of the business process, including personnel, manufacturing, accounting, planning, sales, and service. Once ridiculously expensive, ERP has dropped in price to the point where any business can afford it, since we're assuming "free" is compatible with most budgets. That's the cost of 2BizBox ERP, a freeware ERP suite based around modules and submodules. It can manage engineering, manufacturing, purchasing, sales, inventory, personnel, finance, and much more.

For freeware, 2BizBox is no lightweight, but it's hardly stuffy or bloated. It's Java-based but includes some 60 modules, which makes for a big download. The installer lets you choose between Client, Server, or Client/Server versions and set up the program's database locally or on a network. The colorful, feature-packed interface builds on a typical Explorer-style layout and offers several ways to access the various features of each module, or "Box": directly via toolbar menus or from a tabbed navigation sidebar offering tree-view access as well as individual Box icons in the main view, which we could toggle between a Module Diagram View and a Quick Access View. In the Module view, process arrows link icons representing each function by logical steps in each Box; for example, the Purchasing Box shows icons for Reports, Requests for Quotes, MRP, RTV, Worksheets, and more, with one- and two-way arrows indicating the efficient stages for each process. Individual process icons opened a variety of work pages, wizards, entry fields, and other tools in new tabs, much like a Web browser; we could close any tab, return to previously opened tabs, and open new tabs with new functions. These functions are too numerous to summarize but include Personnel, Security, Contacts, Assets, Warehouse, and Quality; even engineering drawings for parts. A handy Dashboard feature opened a multiwindow summary view, while the Control Panel tab gave us quick access to all settings as well as other tools like the Audit Center.

To say we were impressed not only with the extent of 2BizBox ERP's offerings but also the considerable level of integration and functionality is an understatement. Bottom line: 1) It does everything; 2) quite well; and 3) it's free.

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