Open Office is viable alternative to Microsoft Office
Whether you love it or you hate it, Microsoft Office has been the defacto standard for business documents for more than a decade now.
Because it is bundled with many new PC's, few folks actually see the true cost of MS Office. Many would be surprised to know that the standard version of MS Office costs about $350, while the professional version (which includes Microsoft Access and Publisher) is about $500. Larger organizations qualify for volume discounts, but, of course, the costs continue to add up.
For years, folks have taken this cost for granted. Competitive packages cost about the same, and were far less accepted. For all the grief we like to give Microsoft, we have to admit, the Office suite is a pretty good package.
Is there an alternative? How about OpenOffice?
OpenOffice is an open source office productivity software suite that runs on multiple platforms, including Windows, Linux, and Mac's, among others. The key distinction to open source software is that it is free. It can be downloaded from download.openoffice.org/2.3.1/index.html.
OpenOffice has actually been around for some time, with version 1.0 being released in 2002. Currently on version 2.3.1, OpenOffice is becoming increasingly popular and is a very robust, dependable product.
The OpenOffice suite includes Writer for word processing; Calc for spreadsheets; Draw, a graphics package; Impress for presentation preparation; and Base, a database tool. All of these claim compatibility with their Microsoft counterparts, such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access.
In fact, it is this compatibility that makes OpenOffice so attractive. Writer and Word are virtually interchangeable. Same with Calc and Excel, and, let's face it, word-processing documents and spreadsheets easily make up more than 90 percent of all the files produced by businesses today
The compatibility extends beyond technical file formats. Users of the Microsoft products can almost immediately jump into their OpenOffice equivalent. Sure, some shortcuts are different, but the menus, buttons and icons are very similar.
OpenOffice has features that aren't present in Microsoft Office. We especially like the ability to export directly to a PDF file -- a function that is present in every product in the OpenOffice suite.
Like many open source projects, support is primarily provided via the Web, by a users and developers. Check out support.openoffice.org/index.html for a directory of support providers.
Commercial support is available from Sun. Go here for more information: www.sun.com/service/serviceplans/software/openoffice/index.xml
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