Free Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office has long been the de-facto program for word processing, spreadsheets and presentation creation. That standard comes with a price. Even with educational discounts, MS Office can be a costly program to license, upgrade and maintain. Over the past few years, independent open-source software developers have created several free alternatives to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The best of these alternatives, OpenOffice for Windows/Mac and NeoOffice for Mac are excellent, no-cost replacements for Microsoft Office and are worth a try for individuals, schools and businesses craving an escape from Microsoft’s pricey version-upgrade treadmill.

OpenOffice and NeoOffice are free downloads and provide outstanding compatibility with standard .doc, .xls and .ppt file formats. Both packages include word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and equation editing tools. Best of all, one may open, modify and save MS OpenOfficeOffice documents with no data loss and virtually no formatting changes. Additionally, the toolbars and screens in both NeoOffice and OpenOffice emulate MS Office in such a way that the learning curve should be an easy climb for anyone familiar with standard word processing software.

I have been testing NeoOffice for Mac for over a year. During testing I became increasing motivated to switch to the program full-time: especially after MS Office 2008 for Mac was released. I’ll save my comments regarding Office 2008 for Mac for another blog entry but it should suffice to note that the negative experience with MS Office 2008 helped precipitate a full transition to NeoOffice for Mac.

Since the switch, exchanging .doc and .xls files with regular MS Office users had been simple. So far, I have lost no data when working between the two programs and have only experienced a touch of formatting oddness on a couple of elaborate documents that originated outside the district. NeoOffice has proven to be mature and ready to for deployment into the district as a replacement for Microsoft Office on student and teacher Macs.  Given some brief training time for teachers and staff, both open NeoOffice and OpenOffice will make an exceptional alternative to our costly MS Office application suite.

In terms of home use, I strongly encourage our students, teachers and community to consider switching to either NeoOffice or OpenOffice. Both programs are outstanding no-cost tools and may be installed on as many home computers as one would like. For more info and links to the download sites look here:

NeoOffice – Mac Office software based on OpenOfficeNeoOffice
http://www.neooffice.org/

OpenOffice – Official Website and Download for Windows/Linux/Mac
http://www.openoffice.org/

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