It's difficult to function productively in a professional or educational environment without access to Microsoft Office. Many offices supply the software to its employees at work and some universities even give copies of it to incoming students. But if you don't fall into either camp and you require a legal copy of the software, you could spend anywhere between $149.95 and $679.95
, depending on which version you need. And you might want to start saving your pennies now, because the next version of Microsoft Office (codenamed "Office 14") is rumored to be due out sometime next year (the Alpha program for Office 14 should begin in the next two months).
Microsoft Office is not the only game in town, but as the de-facto industry standard, most alternatives don't have the level of functionality or features that Office does in order to compete commercially. But who needs commercial competition when you can have comparable software for free?
| Credit: OpenOffice.org|
As an alternative to Microsoft Office, the free, open-source solution, OpenOffice
, has been around for many years. In fact, its origins
go as far back as the mid-1980s, and more recently as Sun Microsystems' StarOffice. (StarOffice is still an active Sun Microsystems' product, which uses OpenOffice as its foundation, with a few more bells and whistles as well as technical support.) Sun is the main sponsor of the OpenOffice project, and other "contributors include Novell, RedHat, RedFlag CH2000, IBM, and Google
," as well as "over 450,000 people from nearly every curve of the globe
." The OpenOffice mission statement is:
"To create, as a community, the leading international office suite that will run on all major platforms and provide access to all functionality and data through open-component based APIs and an XML-based file format."
OpenOffice will not be new to many readers, but since Microsoft Office 2007 for Windows (and Microsoft Office 2007 2008 for Mac) came out, the current version of OpenOffice, 2.0, lacked many of Office's new features, such as support of Office's new native file formats. That is about to change on Monday, October 13, when the new version of OpenOffice, 3.0, makes it official debut. A long list of the new features of OpenOffice 3.0 can be found here
, but some key new functions are support for the OpenDocument Format (ODF) version 1.2, Microsoft Office 2007/2008 import filters, a spreadsheet solver, and support up to 1,024 columns in spreadsheets (previously, the software only supported 256 columns). While OpenOffice 3.0 can read Microsoft Office 2007/2008 files, it will not be able to write Office 2007/2008 native file formats, such as .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx.
Open Office 3.0 will be available for the following platforms:
- Mac OS (Intel)
- Solaris Sparc
- Solaris x86
- Windows (32-bit)
For those users who just can't wait until Monday, the distribution files have already started seed on the official mirror sites
. gHacks.net reports that "the path of the final release is usually openoffice/stable/3.0.0/ on the ftp mirrors
." gHacks.net also advises:"The release notes have not been updated yet but there cannot be many changes between Release Candidate 4 and the final release of Open Office due to the lack of time between the releases... Cautious users should wait until Monday to download and install the release after the official announcement of the Open Office team."
Don't expect OpenOffice to be quite as slick and polished as Microsoft Office, nor will it have all the bells and whistles. But it should meet the needs of most users, and you can't beat the price: Free.