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This is Leo Notenboom for askleo.info.
As you may or may not know, Microsoft is on the verge of releasing the new version of Microsoft Office, Office 2007. It represents the next step in the evolution of Office, and is already getting mixed reviews from people who both love, and hate, the new version.
With street prices for Microsoft Office running between $100 and $500 depending on the edition and upgrade options, it's not surprising that more people are starting to ask about Open Office, the open source alternative with a street price of $0.
Yes, it's a Microsoft Office competitor that's completely free.
I have Open Office installed on my machine. The most recent version, 2.1, includes equivalents for Microsoft Word, Excel, Access and Powerpoint in the forms of Open Office Write, Calc, Base, and Impress, as well as Open Office Draw, which appears somewhat similar to a simple version of Microsoft Visio, and Open Office Math, an equation editor.
But is it any good?
Well, so far, the times I've used it, I'd have to say that "it depends". It depends on what you're doing, and how tied to the Microsoft Office user interface you might be. Now, since that last point appears to be changing in Office 2007 anyway, it might be less of an issue should you be considering an upgrade.
One of the complaints about Microsoft Office is feature bloat - tons of features that most people don't use. My feeling it that if that's you, if you're not really an Office power user and just want the basic features of a powerful office application suite, Open Office may very well meet your needs.
I do have two areas of concern.
The first is possible compatibility issues exchanging documents with Microsoft Office users. In particular, documents that use Microsoft Office features not found in Open Office. It's unclear exactly how Open Office would preserve those features if you edit the documents containing them.
The second is more about how you use Office. If you're a little more than a casual user, you might well find that the one small very cool feature you really really liked in a Microsoft Office application isn't present, or works differently, in Open Office.
It's also worth noting that Open Office does not include an email client equivalent to Microsoft Outlook. You'll need to go grab Mozilla Thunderbird, also free, or some other email client to round out your Office replacement.
With those as caveats, though, I'd actually would recommend you download and give Open Office a test drive. If it turns out to meet your needs, you've just might just save yourself quite a few bucks.
I'd love to hear what you think. Visit askleo.info and enter 11114 in the go to article number box and leave me a comment. While you're there, search over 1,000 technical questions and answers on the site.
Till next time, I'm Leo Notenboom, for askleo.info.