Free Microsoft Office Alternatives

16 09 2008

by Clayton E. Dorris
09/16/2008

Savings – $65 – $400
Lifestyle Adjustment – Very Low

So you just bought a new computer and now you’re ready to load it up with some software.  If you’re a college student like me the first thing you need (once you get some music) is Microsoft Office.  You walk into your local Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or college bookstore to pick up a copy.  You pick up the pretty box for Office 2007 and flip it over only to see a price of $65 (for a student edition, $150 if you’re anyone else)!  Yikes!  Of course, you need to do your school work right?  Then you realized that you pick up the PC version and since you’ve good a new PowerBook you really need the Mac software.  You reach over and pick up Office 2008 for Mac and see a price tag of $150 dollars for the student version!!  That is pretty expensive, but luckily you’re not having to pay the non-student price of $400!  That’s $400 for an office suite!!!!

There are a few things you can do to put those hard earned dollars back in your pocket and still have a way to type up all your papers, work on your spreadsheets, and view and edit all those PowerPoint notes your professor posts online.  Maybe you could use that $150 to buy some Fabreeze for your stinky dorm mate.

The world of computing is changing.  Thanks to the increased penetration of broadband Internet access more and more applications that have been traditionally based on the personal computer (locally hosted) are being based online.  The growth of “cloud” computing means that these applications can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection and that files are uploaded and stored online.  One service that utilizes the “cloud computing” approach is Google Docs.

Google Docs is a free online alternative to Microsoft Office.  This service allows you to create, edit, download, print, and upload word documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.  Google Docs supports MS Office compatible formats and works with Windows, Mac, or Linux.  I’ve used Google Docs extensively over the past several years and have written many papers with it.  I’ve even convinced my company to start using it’s spreadsheet application to manage contact databases.  Where Google Docs shines is in it’s ability to allow real-time online collaboration.  While is lacks some of the higher functions of a MS Office it provides enough basic functions to for most casual to mid-level users.

If you are looking for a full powered locally hosted alternative to MS Office then you should turn your eyes toward the open source community.  OpenOffice is a full fledged Microsoft Office replacement.  It offers full features and is very similar to Office 2003 so the learning curve isn’t too bad.  It is compatible with almost any format you can throw at it and best of all it is free.  The only drawback to OpenOffice is that it tends to run a bit slow at times depending on your system.  It is compatible with most Windows opertaing systems in common use today including XP and Vista.  OpenOffice also has a Mac friendly brother named NeoOffice.  NeoOffice is simply a port of OpenOffice modified to run natively in Mac OS.

So before you go stuff some more of your hard earned cash in Bill Gates’ pockets try some of these free alternatives.

Worse case scenario – you don’t like Google Docs and you’ve wasted a few minutes creating a Google screenname and password or you have to run uninstall for OpenOffice/NeoOffice.

Best Case Scenario – you save $400…. I bet those papers are easier to type with that cash in your pocket.

Links:


http://docs.google.com

http://openoffice.org


http://neooffice.org