I’ve seen a few software companies where it’s important that the tools they use are free, or at least as cheap as possible. By tools I mean IDE, File Manager, Document management, Issue Tracker and so on.
These are tools that you, as a developer, use every day, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
When it comes to this kind of tools, I want to have the best there is. Most of the times, getting the best will cost money (not always though, sometimes free tools are better than commercial ones). However, even tiny improvements in efficiency will pay off the cost of the tool very quickly, given that you use it so often. Or oppositely, small annoyances from bad tools add up very quickly, and you become frustrated and unproductive. Instead of solving the problem at hand, you’re fighting the tools you must use. That’s a lose-lose situation.
Your company may say – hey, the tool you want costs $1000 per year, that’s a lot of money. For 100 developers, thats $100k per year! But let’s look at it another way. What does a day’s work of a developer cost? Let’s take $1000 a day. That means even a 5% improvement in efficiency will pay itself off in a month! A 1% improvement will make up for the investment in 5 months, so it’s still very much worth it. As a bonus you get happy developers, which means productive developers.
So, do the math, and get the best tools out there for your developers, no matter if they are free or not!