Anyone who ever priced the Microsoft Office Suite knows it represents a significant investment. A quick check of the Compusa.com website shows Microsoft Office Standard costs $399 and Microsoft Office Professional will set you back $449. Now, this doesn’t discount the value of the software. In fact, the functionality in MS Office represents the true workhorse of home and small business computing, namely: word processing (Word), spreadsheets (Excel), presentations (PowerPoint) and desktop database applications (Access). However, with the cost for such functionality at a premium, it comes as no surprise that a viable alternative emerged to challenge Microsoft’s position atop the office application market.
Free alternative to Microsoft Office?
OpenOffice.org offers a suite of office software applications free to download for anyone with a computer, including PC’s operating with Windows or Linux. Open Office also offers a free version for Macintosh computers. Open Office offers its software freely to anyone who wants to download it. Their all-volunteer organization, sponsored in large part by Sun Microsystems, operates with the noble goal of making productivity software available worldwide in 36 languages, particularly to economies that simply can’t afford the cost of other office solutions.
The Open Office software publishes in the Open Document Format to make data universally available (instead of using proprietary file formats that, for instance, make it hard to share between Microsoft Word and Word Perfect). Open Office contains several main components, each of which help the user with specific tasks. They are:
Writer – This software offers a full-featured word- processing program enabling the user to type letters, brochures, faxes, even entire books. No matter what you need to type, this program lets you do it. It also offers such features as spell check, auto-correction, and thesaurus.
Calc – Calc offers a spreadsheet program enabling the user to create cells containing text or digits, execute simple and complex calculations, database functions, and more. Calc is perfect for accounting spreadsheets, inventory and more.
Impress – Impress enables the user to create “slideshow” presentations containing text and images for use in sales or group presentations. Impress also allows the user to create impressive slide transition effects and eye-catching animation.
Draw – Draw gives the user the ability to create simple to complex drawings using vector graphics. Users can create drawings by hand, or incorporate an array of existing shapes, arrows, lines and other graphics.
A few drawbacks
Though it does represent an excellent alternative to expensive office software suites, Open Office is not without a few drawbacks. Since they make the software available free of charge, tech support for the free version only lasts 30 days. Also, by its nature, the software is a “work in progress.” As such, you will find bugs periodically that should get reported to the Open Office website so they can fix them.
However, despite these drawbacks, Open Office software rates a “must look” if you need word processing, spreadsheets and other capabilities we’ve naturally come to associate with home and small business computing.