Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An MS Office Alternative: OpenOffice.org 3.x

Introduction
I still find it surprising that I can get into conversations with people in the IT field that have never heard of OpenOffice.org's suite of applications. I have used the various pieces at home and at work over the past 8 years and am always excited when a new release comes out. The suite represents one of the finest answers to those I hear say, "Microsoft's Office suite costs too much for me to get it for home." Why? Well, OpenOffice.org is free: as in "free beer". That's right - you can install this awesome set of applications on any machine (work, home, etc) and use it for any purpose (except those that violate local, state, and federal laws I presume) and pay nothing for it. Yes, seriously.

What's In it?
You need a word processing application that is like MS Word? They have that. Spreadsheet capabilities that rival MS Excel? They have that, too. Surely you need to bore some coworkers to death with MS PowerPoint-style slide shows from time to time? I hate helping this, but you will find presentation software in the OpenOffice.org suite as well. It is pretty safe to say that anything you would expect from the core MS Office suite you will find in OpenOffice.org's amazing package.

But, everyone hates converting files from one format to another. Good news: OpenOffice.org supports the whole range of MS Office file formats and many that you never would imagine. Short version: you can exchange files back and forth with work or other people without conversion.

But...
If you already have MS Office installed on your home machine, for instance, you might be tempted to think, "That's nice for you geeks, but I am all set," but you are probably wrong. Here's why:
  1. You have MS Office already? Did you buy it or did you borrow the disc from someone who had it (maybe from work)? Keep in mind that the situation described is called software piracy and isn't legal. I'm just sayin...
  2. You have MS Office 200x and are wondering if you should upgrade (after all, your work computers are now on 2007)? Well, unless you plan on stealing (see #1 above), you are looking at shelling out at least $70 for the Home and Student version (which doesn't come with MS Access, MS Publisher, or MS Outlook). Oh, and another upgrade will be coming soon enough.
  3. You just might be on an evaluation or trial copy. Most people I talk to say, "I have MS Office for sure because I just bought a new computer." When I tell them to pay closer attention to their installation, they finally notice that they are on a 30/60/90-day trial and will have to pony up the cash if they want to keep using it after it expires. Think I am wrong? When it locks you out, come back and see me.
Final Verdict
People seem to do better with bullets, so let's let them fly:
  • Free to own, use, copy
  • No subscription services or anything to buy into
  • Easy to use
  • Compatible with MS Office and other file formats - no converting needed
  • Could leave to going straight (no more pirated software)
Sold? Head over to http://www.openoffice.org/
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