Computing Columnist: OpenOffice
Latest update on my new computer: I opted to go with a SONY Vaio laptop. Why? Mainly because the most important software I intend to use on it is SONY software, so I felt an integrated approach would be best. I also got a really good deal on the bundled package via Newegg.com. If you haven't visited this online technology sales site, it's worth a try. They do a good job of presenting their wares (descriptions are well written and clear), and customer ratings and opinions are evidently not censored a great deal, so you get an honest opinion. (Newegg, not being a manufacturer, has little skin in that game.)
The main thing I want to share with you today, however, is OpenOffice.
I had, as I mentioned, bundled some audio and video software into my purchase. Another option was, of course, the ubiquitous Norton Security (which I will not be opting into, I prefer AVG free, even with its limitations - that plus my hardware firewall seem to keep my computers nice and safe). Finally, there was the decision about whether to add Microsoft Office.
Admittedly, it's difficult to use a computer without having the means to read and write Word Docs; Excel is another format that is necessary to have if you're going to be doing much in the way of business. And these days, PowerPoint, for all that it is the butt of many jokes, is still another must-have for business users.
So what to do? Office is not cheap. It would have added significantly to my final price. But, there is always the option of OpenOffice.
OpenOffice, available at OpenOffice.org, is a suite of products that emulates Microsoft Office, and it's completely free. If you want to make a contribution, you can, but there is no limit to your use, no "free and very limited version," and best of all, no nagware popping up every ten minutes asking you if you want to make a donation. The project was undertaken and continues to be developed by some very smart programmers who wanted to open the world of documents, drawings, databases, presentation, and spreadsheets to everybody, not just those who could afford the $350 for the fully-loaded version of MS Office.
OpenOffice will read MS Office docs, and will save the docs you create into MS Office format, so they can be opened, read, and used by others.
I could have relied on Google Docs, too, which is another useful - and free - solution. However, I have had less success with saving Google Docs as Word or Excel docs, for example, and when writing to particularly the Excel (spreadsheet) format, keystroke options are much more severely limited in Google Docs. However, I still find it a great way to share documents with a number of people who all need to be involved in a project, and who will want to get quick and easy updates.