Useful Open Source Software #1: OpenOffice.org

I originally wrote this post on the now defunct Tech Hacking blog. I am posting it here on this blog for safe keeping.

If you are student, own a business, or work anywhere near computers you know that the office suite is one of the most fundamental pieces of software that you use to complete everyday tasks. Whether it is making a spreadsheet for a home budget, a presentation for class, or writing a resume, having a solid, easy to use, and efficient office suite to allow you to accomplish these tasks is vital.

Microsoft has created a benchmark in the Office Suite field with Microsoft Office. The only downfall is that it can be very expensive. Similarly, Apple has iWork which is also a very promising office suite. Some lesser known office suites are offered by IBM (Lotus Notes) and Corel’s Wordprefect. Although the latter are a little less pricey than Microsofts product they still have a substantial price tag.

OpenOffice.org is an easy to use, compatible, and productive piece of software which essentially does all of the same things that you would normally do in Word or iWork except – it is free. OpenOffice.org is open source software, which basically means that you are free to download, copy, use, distribute, and thrive in the software without ever having to pay for a license fee.

OpenOffice.org is completely compatible with Microsoft Office, so you are able to share all of your work with anyone who does not use Openoffice, and you will be able to see any word documents that are sent to you. In addition to the standard word, spreadsheet, and powerpoint, Openoffice is also packed with other goodies such as a database application which allows you to create rich databases, a drawing application which allows you to make great posters and flyers, and even a equation editor which allows you to effectively communicate math on your computer. The best part is that all of these features are free.

Writer – The word processing application in the OpenOffice.org Productivity Suite

Calc – Spreadsheet application

Impress – Presentation Software

Draw – Drawing Application

Base – Database Software

As you can see from the pictures, Open Office looks pretty familiar. It has easy menu navigation, intuitive formatting options, and tons of free templates available on the openoffice.org website.

OpenOffice.org 3 is developed using an open-software, “no secrets” approach. Anyone can look at the programs and suggest improvements, or fix bugs.

OpenOffice.org not only sets the example for other open source projects, it is giving Microsoft, Apple, IBM, and Corel a run for their money. It is a shining example of how great pieces of software can be created when you work in an open environment, where the individuals and companies who are working on a project are more worried about quality, and less worried about how much to charge for their licenses.

OpenOffice.Org is a great piece of software, it is easy to use, it is free, and it runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux. Why not give it a try?

This is the first of a new series that I will be blogging about called “Useful Open Source Software” over the next few months I will attempt to introduce you all to the cream of the crop of  open source software. I hope you will give it a try and tell me what you think.  – Lev