The Really Truly Free Software On The Web Series Post #1: OpenOffice
Flashback: Fall semester, senior at Texas A&M, taking as few classes per semester as I could get away with, dealt with the arduous problem of having way too much free time on my hands, had about 20 pounds more muscle than I currently do, and a smokin’ hot brunette girlfriend (yes, the one who would become my wife and remain smokin’ hot). Life was good.
So I’m hanging out in my dreaded business programming class (I was not a fan of school – ESPECIALLY programming) at Mays Business School only to notice about three corporatey types standing up in front of the class setting up for some type of presentation they were to enlighten us with. I was not excited, as I never was about school, ever. But hey, perhaps it would be a nice break from the usual.
They turned out to be representatives from Sun Microsystems, among whose most notable achievements would be the subject of that manila dialogue box that appears on the bottom right of your monitor about once every two months telling you that a Java update is available. They spoke about various things that probably went way over my head, as their Java programming language certainly did when I took it a year and a half later, but amongst the topics discussed was a completely free office suite called StarOffice. It was apparently everything Microsoft Office was, but completely free.
Huh? Why in the world would a for-profit software company spend their time developing free Office Software? Don’t these guys have mortgages to pay? Not that I thought much about mortgages back then… Anyway, later I saw one of the reps who spoke in my class at a Sun Microsystems table at one of the business fairs at the school and he handed me a CD labeled “StarOffice.” He told me very directly, “Throw away your copy of Microsoft Office and use this instead. You don’t need it with this.”
Well, I’m glad I didn’t.
I didn’t really like it that much. I don’t remember why, but the old adage that you get what you pay for proved true.
Well fortunately since then Sun Microsystems continued to develop their free software application and eventually released a new, completely FREE office suite called OpenOffice. This one I like. I think a lot of other people do too since it has literally been downloaded more than 300,000,000 times !
When I purchased my ASUS laptop (I’m a big fan of it, I would check it out if you are in the market) I did not install my Microsoft Office XP Software that I’ve had forever but instead installed OpenOffice to see how it does, and I must say that I have no complaints. It is a complete office suite and more, including Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Presentation, Database, not to mention other programs not included with Microsoft Office including an image editing program called “Draw”, and a program entitled “Math” that actually gives you the ability to write out all of the funky math equations you see in the textbooks (you math profs, get excited!).
Here is a list of a few of the features I like:
:: Compatible with all major office suites including Microsoft Office, WordPerfect Office and Mac Office (or whatever it’s called)
:: Extremely Fast Start-Up Time
:: PDF converter built into the software for instant conversion. Just click the PDF button on the toolbar and POOF you’ve got a PDF! (Not just in the writer but in the spreadsheet version as well)
:: Lots of additional extensions covering everything from Dictionaries in various languages to Creating a Bar Code (not sure quite why you would want to do that but hey, maybe it’s just fun to say you made a real bar code) to Importing/Exporting to Google Docs to even building a maze.
:: There is even a website dedicated to free online OpenOffice tutorials
Now, I recognize that there are also some great “Cloud” office alternatives such as Google Docs and Zoho that offer free web based office solutions as well. But for me personally, and for lots of others, I don’t want to have to be connected to the internet in order to edit documents, and there are some things I do not necessarily want on some random server out in Kalamazoo (no offense to any Kalamazooians out there). Plus, the “feel” of an office suite on your desktop is much nicer in my opinion than the feel of an online office suite.
That being said, I do use Google Docs and even used it to back up this article as I was writing it with just the click of a button on the toolbar (that was with the really cool extension called “OpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs” that you can download HERE). But OpenOffice is definitely preferred for my every day office needs.
If you are interested in giving it a try you can do so directly from their download page HERE. Oh, and if you do decide to undertake the switch from MS Office to OpenOffice don’t throw away your old office software. At least sell it on eBay or something.