July 2006

Cyber News and Reviews is a monthly column published for parents, teachers & business owners featuring kids educational software reviews, business software reviews (small business & home business), games and entertainment articles, a free resource since 1995.


OpenOffice: the Free Alternative to Commercial Office Suites

By Howard Berenbon

Last month I listed some of the most popular freeware and shareware programs available from SnapFiles.com. This month I cover OpenOffice, a freeware Office Suite, that rivals Microsoft Office.

If you’re looking for a free, no strings attached office suite for business or personal use, then check out OpenOffice at openoffice.org, for your word processing, database, spreadsheet, presentation and graphing needs. It’s a multi-language, multi-platform business software package with lots of improvements in this recent release, version 2.0.3 (first released in 2000). The good news is that it’s totally compatible with Microsoft Office and it’s free to anyone, including commercial users (donations are accepted) for Windows, Mac and Linux users.  In fact, OpenOffice is part of the open source, open standards community supporting the Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) OASIS Standards.  The newest version includes some improvements, plus a fix of the known bugs lurking in the code.


Database module (Base)

A word processor (Writer)

Spreadsheet Manager (Calc)

Presentation Manager (Impress)

Drawing tool (Draw).

Supports OpenDocument file format,

Compatible with Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, Sun Solaris and other platforms

Enhanced PDF Export


The software is downloadable from one of dozens of sites around the world accessed from download.openoffice.org/2.0.0/index.html. This will take about 5 minutes (or so) for DSL or Cable Internet subscribers (Windows version is 93 MB). The user guide, a 477 page pdf document file, is also downloadable from documentation.openoffice.org/manuals along with other helpful information. However, dial-up Internet users who can’t wait the 6 hours or more to download the software, can purchase OpenOffice on CD for $49.95 through Amazon.com, and at number of dealers around the world.

If you already have the latest version of Microsoft Office because it was bundled with your Dell, Gateway, or other high-end business personal computer, you may not want to change.  OpenOffice could have more bugs than its rival, Microsoft Office, and if your business depends on your office suite, you may not want to use software designed by a group of volunteers.  But, if you’re on a limited budget, then OpenOffice can save you hundreds of dollars over the commercial software suites, and more because upgrades are free.

A note about Open Document

In reviewing the Open Document goals, I found much of their support from Sun Microsystems, a direct competitor of Microsoft.  It's hard for me to believe that this support is totally unbiased, because they have been at odds with Microsoft for years.  And to quote the press release for OpenOffice.org 2:

"The OpenDocument format can be used by any office application without fear of vendor specific lock-in or onerous licensing terms and fees, with the confidence that documents can be viewed, edited and printed for generations to come.

The OpenOffice.org Project is an international community of volunteers and sponsors including founding sponsor and primary contributor, Sun Microsystems. OpenOffice.org develops, supports, and promotes the open-source office productivity suite, OpenOffice.org. "

And Sun Microsystems is financially benefiting with their support of OpenOffice.org software by selling various service plans.