An Alternative To Microsoft Office – Say Hello To OpenOffice

[tags]free, openoffice, alternative, microsoft, windows, office, microsoft office, word, powerpoint, excel, access, lockergnome, chris pirillo, internetnut[/tags]

Let’s face it. Microsoft Office, regardless of which version you may be purchasing, is incredibly expensive. The reason that Microsoft can market the software at such a high price is because they know that there is such a high-demand for it around the globe. Count how many different places you see Office being used – in companies, in schools; in just about any IT situation, Microsoft Office is the software used to calculate spreadsheets, write letters or create presentations.

Although Microsoft Office does have all of these great tools, there are a few open-source alternatives out there, which won’t leave that nasty dent in your wallet. In this post, I’m going to discuss arguably the most popular alternative to Office, which is seeing its market share growing as people around the globe realize the benefits of this free software. Although OpenOffice lacks some of the more detailed functionality of its major competitor, it does offer the ability to create documents and attempt to replicate the results of Microsoft Office as closely as possible.

The OpenOffice package comes with five different pieces of software bundled in a similar way to Microsoft Office. These are: Base, which is recognized as being similar to Microsoft Access; Calc, noted for its similar features to Microsoft Excel; Draw, a close match to Microsoft Publisher; Impress, OpenOffice’s version of Microsoft PowerPoint; and Writer; a sturdy word processing package that can be linked with Microsoft Word. Although these programs offer near enough the same functionality as Microsoft Office, they are totally free to download from the official website.

My thoughts on OpenOffice are generally positive, but sometimes rather mixed depending on the version I use. On the up-side, you have to commend the developers for creating a piece of software as a free alternative to something that every office worker needs for their day-to-day lives. When you’re running OpenOffice, it does tend to work well, even if some times the layout and design can look a bit block-like and loading times can be rather slow. However, because the program is so similar to Microsoft Office, previous users of Office will instantly pick up on how to use OpenOffice.

Sometimes when I’m using OpenOffice, I get the impression that things are lagging slightly and the usage isn’t too smooth. I do have to say I do like the Writer program, which is almost identical to Microsoft Office and is the perfect companion for typing letters to doing mail merges. The menus are almost the same, so again, it doesn’t take a great deal of time to get used to. Impress, OpenOffice’s answer to PowerPoint, isn’t quite as powerful as PowerPoint and no-where as near as powerful as Keynote, but it does provide the ability to make simple presentations which can be easily viewed and presented.

OpenOffice says that everybody from governments and education establishments, from businesses to not-for-profit charities see the software as their “ideal software solution”. OpenOffice say they are “flexible”, and attribute this to their popularity on the internet. IT businesses and Free, Open-Source Software companies are also fond of OpenOffice, which is available in many different languages for ease of use. The software and its code is released under the LGPL license, which means you’re pretty much free to do what you like with it, like giving it away to friends and family for free, or installing it on as many computers as you please.

Where can you go wrong, it’s at least worth a try. The license is free, and you can download OpenOffice by visiting their official website, where there is also support and documentation to help you with a transition from Office to OpenOffice. Do you use OpenOffice? Are you considering a change? Do you rely on Office software? Do you have an opinion about OpenOffice or Office in general? Are you having a problem? What is your opinion? Please let us know, in a comment.