If you currently pay for Microsoft’s Office suite (or any other office suite for that matter), are on the look-out for an alternative and aren’t a ‘power user’, then the completely free and gratis OpenOffice has always been a contender.
The new version 3.0 is an augmented and improved version and it really is worth your consideration. In fact so many people are already keen on it that when version 3.0 launched, the OpenOffice.org servers crashed under the weight of people wanting to download it. How much this had to do with it finally running natively on the Mac is unclear, but it is a testament to the software’s popularity.
The full suite offers six elements all accessed from a main chooser screen. There is Writer for word processing, Calc for spreadsheeting, Impress for making presentations, Draw for graphics projects, Base for database management and Math for editing equations.
If you are worried about compatibility with Microsoft Word, which is what most people spend most of their time using in Microsoft’s Office suite, then up to a point you don’t need to be.
The look and feel will be familiar except for anyone who has been using Office 2007′s ribbon interface. OpenOffice.org 3.0 will save to and open from various old Word document formats and will open DOCX documents created with Word 2007, though not with 100 percent accuracy and it won’t save to that format.
One of my favourite things it does really easily is export documents to PDF. That alone will make it worth its salt to many people.
There were some things I missed. There aren’t many views for documents, for example. But I was really pleased to see both horizontal and vertical pane freezing in the spreadsheet. It was also good to see that the spreadsheet includes charting functions and there is plenty of variety on offer.
Rather like the Web browser Firefox, you can augment OpenOffice with extensions. These cover things like language dictionaries, spell checkers in different languages, macros for various functions, and, well, visit the library online to learn more.
There are some things OpenOffice.org simply can’t do, and if one of them is a feature you use then obviously the software will lose its allure. But if you are one of those people who fits the adage that ten percent of Microsoft Office application features are used 80 percent of the time, then you may well find that OpenOffice.org 3.0 can meet your needs. And it won’t cost you a penny to experiment and find out.