What would you pay for a word processor, a spreadsheet program, an HTML editor, a presentation program, and a drawing program? I’m talking about a complete office suite that rivals the power of Microsoft Office. You got it–how does free sound?
I’m talking about the free office suite called OpenOffice. I installed the free, OpenOffice recently and was truly pleased with what I found. Understand that I’m a big user of Microsoft Office. As a pastor, it’s important for me to have a powerful office suite. All of my sermon preparation is done in Microsoft Word. I have used Word to do the church bulletin (I use PageMaker for that now but that’s another issue). I use the powerful spreadsheet functions of Excel for tracking giving, attendance, and preparation and tracking of the church budget. Overall my copy of Microsoft Office gets a real workout.
I only wish that a powerful office suite like OpenOffice had been available for free when I went deal shopping for my present copy of Microsoft Office. I did get a great deal but nowhere near as good as FREE! I chose Office, though, because I knew it was the best tool for the job at hand. But that distinction is becoming less obvious for Microsoft Office with the present availability of OpenOffice.
Some of you may have compatibility concerns. You may ask, “Can I open that spreadsheet the church treasurer created on his lunch break at the office in Microsoft Word?” The answer, when using OpenOffice is yes. You might wonder if you can open a Word document or maybe you want to save a document in Word format to be shared with a colleague. That can be done too–although I suggest using the RTF (Rich Text Format) file format for smooth exchanges of text based documents. The RTF file format retains special formatting and is recognized by all good word processors. On the issue of compatibility, the OpenOffice community is working on a Macintosh version as well so you’ll be able to exchange the OpenOffice format with those using a Mac in the future. The OpenOffice application suite is available right now though, for Windows and various Unix variants.
I don’t suggest you dump Microsoft Office if you already own it, but I do suggest everyone at least give it a try. This could be a great alternative for your church office computers also. Instead of going out and spending several hundred dollars on multiple copies of an expensive office suite you can download a free copy of OpenOffice and use it on as many computers as you like. And if the 49 megabyte download of the windows version is too much for your dial-up modem then you can order a CD with the OpenOffice applications and source code for about $12 shipped.
So give OpenOffice a spin. You just may find it a much cheaper and a very capable replacement for it’s pricier companions especially when you like the sound of FREE!
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