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Office Software, the Freeware Alternative

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If you want to create a document, spreadsheet, database or an audio-visual presentation then most people turn to the Microsoft Office suite of programs, and why not? It does the job, very well for the most part, and it is generally easy to use (for routine tasks at least) and beginners usually pick it up quite quickly. It is highly integrated; files and data are easily exchanged between the various programs. Most important of all, like it or loath it, Office is a multi-language, multi-platform standard and if you want to exchange documents, spreadsheets, databases or presentations with anyone else it’s Office or nothing. Or is it?

In fact over the years numerous rival office suites have come and (mostly) gone but none have rivalled MS Office for versatility and flexibility and enduring popularity, thanks to Microsoft’s powerful position and aggressive marketing.

However MS Office isn’t the only game in town and there is an alternative. It’s called OpenOffice.org and it’s one of the computer industry’s best-kept secrets. OpenOffice.Org is a part of the Open Source project (see this week’s Top Tip). It began life as the Star Office Suite more than 20 years ago and was later acquired by Sun Microsystems, who made the code publicly available. Nowadays a large community of users and programmers continue to contribute to its development.

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