Thursday, April 30, 2009

Box Set

It's bound to happen. Sooner or later, everyone needs a word processor, spreadsheet or presentation program. Take a quick look through your local computer store and you're liable to find maybe two or three options. Without doubt, Microsoft Office will be one of those options. But there is an option available for free online, and it's called OpenOffice.

If I Had $1,000,000
Sure, you can buy all kinds of variations of Microsoft Office. They even offer a downloadable version (or you can just buy a licence for the version preinstalled on your new PC). But you'll still have to pay again when everyone else upgrades to the next version. What you really get access to with Microsoft Office is a great deal of templates and clipart. If you put a little time in on Google, you can usually find free alternatives. For instance, even from within OpenOffice, you can use the Extension Manager to load additional features, like editing PDFs, or complete template and clipart packs. All free.

Get In Line
Everyone runs Microsoft Office, so you need to be compatible. Lucky you, OpenOffice is very compatible. The latest version (3.0) can read the newest Office Document standard, and save in older formats so everyone can just get along. The user interface isn't that greatly different from any other word processor, spreadsheet or presentation program, so it's all very easy to feel at home with OpenOffice. And with add-ons, you can customize how it all works. This is a suite meant for you, the user. With similar drawing features, the ability to handle all the same kinds of fonts, FontWork (to replace WordArt) and loads of other great features, anyone can afford to put together professional quality documents.

Pinch Me
The best feature of OpenOffice and its add-ons is this: it's free. Free now, free later, free. OpenOffice is used as a basis for StarOffice, a commercially-oriented derivative with proprietary additions. Often, the current version of OpenOffice is better than the current StarOffice. So, you have the option of buying a fully-supported commercial version of a slightly older OpenOffice (with extras) or you can keep up with the latest and greatest release with OpenOffice. It's win-win, really!

The Ninjas
And just in case you're worried about bogging down your computer with all kinds of software, OpenOffice (and many other fine software) is available in a portable version. Load it onto your USB thumb drive and you can take it all along with you in "stealth mode". Any questions?