Freeware picks 3/10/2011

By | March 10, 2011
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Alternatives to Microsoft Office
Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7

This past week we’ve seen dozens of emails from folks touting Open Office as an alternative to Microsoft’s ubiquitous Office suite. Microsoft’s Office is, by far, the most installed office suite in the world. But it has its drawbacks, the biggest of which is its price. Now hovering around $400 for its most economical version (unless you’re a student or eligible for some other discount) Microsoft Office is expensive.

But lately, Office has some serious competition and some of these competitors are much cheaper – like $400 cheaper – as in free cheaper. So, what is Microsoft’s response to competition? No, they don’t lower their price, they simply change the formats so older versions of Office can’t read docs created by newer versions of Office without downloading a converter from Microsoft. Was this an attempt to thwart competition from these new competitors? We’ll never know, but it isn’t working anyway. The competitors are all keeping up with Microsoft’s odd way of dealing with competition – and most of these lower-cost or free office suites can read old and new Office files, so Microsoft’s ploy isn’t working well.

Anyway, you’re right, I’m ranting again and heaven knows I don’t like to ramble, you know!

OK here we go folks. Some of these are downloadable desktop applications and some are “Cloud-based” (applications that run on the Web). Whether you choose to download and install the downloadable ones or use the online office applications, one thing is for sure: If you have a dial-up connection, you’re at a disadvantage. Web-based (in the cloud) your connection may be too slow to use applications in The Cloud (on the web) and the file  sizes for office suites run between 140 and 200 MB – formidable downloads for dialup users, like days and days of downloading.

The following MS Office alternatives are not in any particular order. The downloadable ones are listed first.

Free downloadable desktop office suites

Open Office
The most often recommended alternative to MS Office by you – our readers. We’ve tried it and think it’s a great replacement for MS Office. It can read and create almost any Office document format and you can’t beat the price. If you’re looking for Office compatibility and a really all-around good replacement for MS Office you can’t beat Open Office. Get more information about Open Office – and/or download it here. Dialup users? It’s a 148 MB download. Keep that in mind.

IBM Lotus Symphony
Not much MS Office compatibility here – except with MS Word. It contains all of the programs you’d get with MS Word but many are in proprietary formats which only those using Lotus will be able to read. Not a good choice unless you don’t care who can read your files. It’s a great office suite but if your files aren’t readable (except MS Word Doc format) by MS Office users then it’s not a real alternative to MS Office. We’re listing it here becuase it is free and it is an office suite. It is also a download over 200 MB. Dialup users please note that. If you’re interested in learning more about Lotus Symphony (Free) visit this page.

Online (in the cloud) office suites

Google Docs
Complete MS Office compatibility – and lots of space to store  your files. Reads all the standard MS Office formats and creates them too. Google Docs has become the most popular of all online office suites – well it’s by Google for one thing – and its compatibility with MS Office doesn’t hurt. You can upload and download the documents you create or have created to and from your desktop computer. Want to learn more about Google Docs? Visit this page. If you have a Gmail account you can login with your Gmail login info.

Zoho is another online office productivity suite. It features MS Office-compatible word processor, spreadsheet and presentation apps. Zoho also includes online project management, web conferencing, online database with reports, online planner, group chat, wiki, and more. Requires registration and a high-speed Internet connection. If Zoho sounds interesting to you, you can learn more about it here. You can sign-in with your Yahoo or Google information, but we don’t advise you to do that. Zoho probably has the nicest online word processor we’ve ever seen. Zoho is free for personal/home users.

ThinkFree is a unique online office suite that is free – you can also buy it for your computer. If you could only buy it wouldn’t be listed under our freeware picks section, but since you can use all its applications online for free – it is. Features include all the standard office apps plus compatibility with MS Office apps. You can use ThinkFree in one other way. If you don’t have MS Office installed, you can open any kind of Office doc using ThinkFree without signing up for an account. Another pretty nifty online office suite you can use free. To learn more about ThinkFree visit their web site.

There you go. You got five for the price of one today – five free office applications you can use instead of making Microsoft richer. We hope you enjoyed today’s departure from the normal “Freeware pick of the week” format!

One thought on “Freeware picks 3/10/2011

  1. Muriel Schlecht

    Thanks so much, TC, for sending me the link to this information, and so promptly. You are a godsend. I’ve submitted two pleas for help in the recent weeks and since I figured I wasn’t the only one with the problem, have been watching closely in your newsletter and FreeWare picks for answers. This article, by chance, solved BOTH my problems.

    One of the problems I wrote to you about was asking for a recommentation for a downloadable program for converting .docx files to .doc. A google search had provided so many conversion options that I didn’t know which was a safe way to go. I was avoiding Microsoft solutions because they had caused the problem in the first place and it didn’t have to be a problem at all. To think about it was getting my dander up again…..foolish, huh?

    Then, a week ago, your freeware pick of the week was OpenWith.Org which I downloaded and decided it was a great “keeper”…thank you. Unfortunately, for my particular situation suggested OpenOffice and Microsoft, which I already knew about. Since I was pressed for time, I downloaded the suggested Microsoft one which wouldn’t work for me because a Microsoft prompt said I needed to download yet another Microsoft component, blah, blah, blah. At which time I said a few cuss words and went to OTH for a game or two.

    I just now read, the info on ThinkFree and gave it a try. It worked very well because ThinkFree’s option of converting the .docx file to pdf allowed me to not only read it, but save it to my own computer where I can work with it, and send the final copy by email….which is exactly what I needed. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    OK I’ll shut up now.



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