Why Are You Still Wasting Money on MS Office?
Microsoft Office has become the standard office application suite for most businesses, government offices, public schools and universities, and even nonprofits. With eight versions of MS Office available to consumers, ranging from $150 to $680 for full versions (not upgrades), and seven bulk licensing options available for organizations, it's a costly and confusing standard to maintain. Free, open source alternatives such as OpenOffice.org, NeoOffice and KOffice can open and edit MS Office files, and offer similar or additional software features without the hefty price tag and confusion. So I ask, why are you still wasting your money on MS Office?
Microsoft uses several questionable methods to encourage users to purchase MS Office. Computer manufacturers such as Dell, HP and Lenovo offer pre-installed versions of MS Office suite on new computers for a discount price. (Dell, for example, offers MS Office for $90 on new systems, compared to the retail $150.) Additionally, some manufacturers include MS Works in the price of low end systems and offer no discount if the software is removed from the system. Works is a stripped down productivity suite, lacking support for many features in Office. As a result, Works does not read every element of Word or Excel files. This may be enough to frustrate users into purchasing MS Office, a trial version of which, manufacturers conveniently offer pre-installed.
At the organization level, Microsoft relies on locking IT departments into their proprietary technologies. Organizations that have invested thousands of dollars into MS SharePoint based services, for example, will be reluctant to switch to another incompatible office suite, even ifcomparable CMS services are significantly cheaper and the office suite is free.
OpenOffice.org is, perhaps, the best known open source office suite. It runs natively on Windows and various flavors of Linux and Solaris. On Mac OS X (Power PC and Intel), OOo currently uses theX11 windowing system, which is rather clunky and might confuse some users who are accustomed to the Mac's unified user interface. Fortunately, the forthcoming OpenOffice.org 3 will utilize OS X's Aqua user interface elements, eliminating the need for X11 (adventurous readers can download the OOo 3 release candidate to try it out). By default, OOo uses OpenDocument format, but also reads and writes MS Office file formats, including the OpenXML format adopted by MS Office 2007. This means you and your friends who are still stuck with MS Office can share files without a problem. The OpenOffice.org community is vibrant and offers tons of extensions and support, including video tutorials and books.
NeoOffice is based on the OpenOffice.org suite, and is available only for OS X. The development community focuses its efforts on OS X's unique resources; NeoOffice doesn't require X11 and integrates several system services. I can't help but wonder if there will be a space for NeoOffice once OpenOffice.org 3 is released? Initially, it may seem that an Aqua version of OOo will preclude the need for a derivative office suite, but the NeoOffice team has added compelling Mac-only features that may continue to attract users. Just like OOo, NeoOffice reads and writes both ODF andOOXML formats.
Finally, KOffice is a UNIX office suite designed for K Desktop Environment, and currently also available for Kubuntu, Fedora and OpenSUSE Linux flavors. KOffice 2.0 plans to add support for Windows and OS X. KOffice goes beyond OOo's office suite, offering flowchart, vector and pixel art, and project management applications that OOo does not. KOffice uses "filters" to convert documents from one file format to another. Unfortunately, there is no support for either the older MS Word or new OOXML formats, which severely cramps the suite's interoperability. Those who obstinately refuse to acknowledge the rest of the world uses MS Office might be fine with this, but most users will want the option to read and write in Microsoft's proprietary formats.
I highly suggest you check out these free office suites, especially if you've recently purchased a computer without an office suite, or are considering upgrading MS Office. You'll likely find their user interfaces familiar, their features plentiful and powerful, and with OpenOffice.org's support for multiple document formats, there's no reason to worry about compatibility problems. With these free alternatives available, why would you waste your money on MS Office?