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Interested in something for nothing?

WE’VE all heard the saying that the best things in life are free. So it’s not surprising, therefore, that the recent release of OpenOffice.org has sparked a great deal of interest from the business community worldwide.

OpenOffice.org is a productivity software suite providing similar functionality to Microsoft Office. However, in stark contrast to the $A1000-plus asking price of MS Office, OpenOffice.org is very reasonably priced at $0. That’s right, nothing.

The essential applications expected of productivity suites are provided in OpenOffice.org. Writer, the equivalent of MS Word, is the word processing package.

Number crunching can be done in Calc, a spreadsheet application similar to MS Excel.

Presentations are also covered with the cleverly named Impress, which corresponds in functionality to MS PowerPoint.

The main attractions of OpenOffice.org (apart from the fact that it is free) are its support for Microsoft file formats such as .doc and its ability to run on Windows, Mac and Linux PCs. This will be of particular interest to Windows users wishing to use OpenOffice.org without having to switch operating systems or render their existing MS files unusable. Also, as OpenOffice.org is similar in look and feel to MS Office, users will find the transition a relatively simple one.

However, OpenOffice.org does not come with a Database application or technical phone support, both of which are often seen as essential by business users. Those requiring these features may wish to stay with the familiar and proven MS Office or try Sun’s StarOffice 6.0.

The latter has an asking price of around $A21.

OpenOffice.org can be downloaded from http://www.openoffice.org

At 51Mb for the Windows version and 71Mb for the Linux version, a broadband Internet connection would be desirable. Alternatively, the site provides details of locations around Australia from which CD-ROM versions can be obtained.

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