Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Free Alternatives to MS Office

Hi Neighbors! I wrote this for one of my other blogs and thought the residents might be interested.

Remember when you had to plunk down $250.00 for Microsoft Office (if you are lucky and got the student discount) and wondered how to get around it without stealing a copy from a friend? I know... you just stole the software, most people do because paying several hundred dollars for a word processing program doesn't seem right. Sure there have been alternatives like Word Perfect, but it is hard to use and and an overall piece of junk. A few years ago Sun's developers came out with a free office suite that was compatible with Office called "OpenOffice". The general public didn't seem to notice, while open-source nerds everywhere celebrated. Over the years it has gotten better, and Microsoft started to panic, so they created the docx file formats so OpenOffice can't read those files, until recently.

OpenOffice 3.1 came out two months ago and I didn't notice that they added support for DocX. This is great news for people who don't want to buy Office or steal it from a friend. It looks like the same interface of Office 2000/2003/XP (it did not emulate the radical redesign of Office 2007). In 90% of the cases, OpenOffice will translate word documents with no problems. If you are doing advanced charts and tables embedded in the document, you might run into some issues (nothing is perfect). I have been using Open Office for two years and I have never looked back. PS: I am not putting down MS Office; It is a great tool, but some people don't need Outlook and Access and don't want to pay up to $600.00 for Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.

You can download OpenOffice here: OpenOffice.org

While I use OpenOffice when I am disconnected from the internet. Most of the time I use Google Documents to do everything (I am using it right now). Google Docs recently added support for Docx files as well. Imagine being able to type a document in a web browser and save that document so you can access it on any computer or phone with an internet connection. That's Google docs. If you have a Gmail account, you already have Google Docs and I suggest using it, if you don't, sign up today