If you’re somewhat turned-off by both the cost and features of Microsoft Office then how about giving an open-source office suite a try? OpenOffice is a project by Sun Microsystems which offers an attractive and intuitive alternative to the big boys.
It operates on multiple platforms in its native format and offers 6 components – Writer, Impress, Math, Draw, Calc and Base. The equivalents with MS Office are pretty obvious except “Impress”, which is a powerful presentation program like MS Powerpoint, and “Base” which is an added extra and enables you to compile and manage complex databases.
Many users report that, apart from the obvious advantage that its free, OpenOffice makes the creation and maintenance of highly formatted or long documents easier than Microsoft products, especially Word. There are complaints, however, that interfaces for the respective components are not as well laid out as in MS Office. This is something that Sun have promised to remedy in later editions.
None of OpenOffice’s components are as fully developed as MS Office – the grammar checker, for example, is nowhere near as good – although it is on the whole richer in features and generally more stable. OpenOffice, particularly Writer, is a worthy challenger to MS Word although the dominance of MS Office in the home and business market mean that it won’t be taking its place quite yet. However, we mentioned a while back that some European governments are already implementing open source software and Internet News reports that as far back as 2004, the Israeli government shunned Microsoft in favour of OpenOffice. Watch this space.