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Psyber Psychiatry, Commentary

Beating the high cost of software

Open-source and general public license programs cost little or nothing. Are they right for your practice?

Vol. 3, No. 3 / March 2004

Name-brand practice-management software can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars-no small expense, especially for a new practice. Still, you and your staff need the word processing, spreadsheet, documentation, patient tracking, and appointment-scheduling capabilities these programs provide.

Open-source and general public licensing (GPL) software titles-available free or at minimal cost-may offer a budget-friendly alternative.

Open-source versus GPL

There are two types of “free” software:

  • “free” as in no charge for its use. For example, Steve Gibson of Speeding up your Web search,” Psyber Psychiatry, May 2003). Use key words such as “freeware,” “free,” or “open source” in conjunction with the type of program (eg, “document” or “database”).
    Many open-source or GPL projects are centrally stored at two sites, SourceForge and Freshmeat. Browse the categories for the type of program you need, such as databases, utilities, firewalls, etc. These sites offer source code and version information for programmers as well as precompiled software for the public.
    Table Relevant open-source and GPL software titles <th>Type</th><th>Software</th><th>URL</th>
    Office documentOpenOffice *
    Instant messagingGAIM *
    Web browserFirefox *
    DatabaseFirebird *
    Application serverZope *
    Clinical databaseSQL
    Electronic Medical RecordOpen
    * available in binary format and ready to use
    Related Resources (accessed Feb. 20, 2004) GNU Project. GNU General Public License (example of free-distribution license).
    GNU Project. Various licenses and comments about them.
    GNU Project. Terms and conditions for copying, distribution, and modification
    Open Source Initiative. The open source definition.
    If you have questions about these products or comments about Psyber Psychiatry, click here to contact Dr. Luo or send an e-mail to
    Disclosure Dr. Luo reports no financial relationship with any company whose products are mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed by Dr. Luo in this column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Current Psychiatry.

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