Free alternative to MS Office

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but at some point in the last decade, Microsoft’s army of desktop applications conquered the PC world. Since then, the productivity suite that includes Word, PowerPoint, and Excel has been reigning over us with an iron fist. Does it have to be this way? No! Set me free!

Oh… wait… sorry about that. Where was I? Ah, yes, I was talking about desktop publishing application alternatives. Well, it just so happens, there IS a very functional, very free alternative to MS Office available right now!

It’s called OpenOffice, and it’s an open-source suite of applications that offers much of the same functionality as MS Office. The suite offers Writer, Impress, Calc, Draw, and Base- which are tools for creating documents, presentations, spreadsheets, graphics and databases. Simply visit their website, download the file, and install it like any other application.

Other than “fighting the man,” though, why should you care about OpenOffice.org? Well, here are a few important reasons:

  1. Save students $$Your students are probably required to create documents, presentations and spreadsheets for class assignments, but they may not have an extra $100  to drop on an educational version of MS Office. Sure, they can use the campus library… if they can find an open computer, and if the library hours fit into their schedule. But if the student has a computer at home, they can use OpenOffice.
  2. Cross-platform — OpenOffice is available on all platforms, including Windows, Mac, and even Linux.
  3. File versions and formats — As we know, Microsoft has a nasty habit of releasing new versions of their software that aren’t compatible with previous versions. If you’ve ever had a student email a file to you that you cannot open, you know exactly what I’m talking about! This problem is often solved with OpenOffice, because it is very good at reading and saving as multiple file and version types.

If you’ve used MS Office to any extent, you’ll have no trouble using OpeningOffice, since the principles and design interface are very similar. It may not appear quite as flashy and polished as MS Office, and you may notice some missing features, but the open source community has also done a lot of work to fix those little things about MS Office that didn’t work very well. And they’ve even added some cool new features along the way, like the added ability to create PDF documents directly from any of their applications!

Oh, and if you’re skeptical about its legitimacy, you can ask any of the previous 100,000,000 downloaders!

For more information, try these great OpenOffice resources:

2 responses to “Free alternative to MS Office

  1. While I love FREE, I am a bigger fan of QUALITY and that is what you get with OpenOffice.

    There is at least one consideration to be made in its use. Whether it be OpenOffice or Google Docs, there may be slight formatting issues when going back and forth with MS Office. I would recommend that instructors either: 1) accept PDFs if they would like to view the document exactly as intended; or 2) accept that the formatting of the document may not come across perfectly.

  2. Pingback: PDF power – part 2 « Instructional Technology at Macomb

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