Free alternative to MS Office

Here’s an interesting story from INQ7.net, ‘Net cafe group to offer cheaper alternative to MS Office‘ The report says:

IN AN effort to help struggling Internet café chain operators, the Internet Café Association of the Philippines (ICAP) has teamed up with the local distributor of Ability Software to distribute a suite of applications similar to Microsoft Office but significantly cheaper.

Ability Office has alternatives to each application of the industry-standard Microsoft Office suite: Ability Write as an alternative to MS Word; Spreadsheet as an alternative to MS Excel; Presentation for MS PowerPoint; and Database for MS Access.

In addition, Ability Suite also comes with a basic alternative to the Adobe Photoshop image editor, which it calls Photopaint, as well as photo album software.

ICAP president Mario Munoz said in an interview that the partnership will give Internet café owners a way around having to obtain copies of MS Office, which many Internet cafe operators find expensive despite discounted rates available to them.

Munoz said Microsoft offers its Office Standard and Professional suites at 10,000 pesos and 15,000 respectively to cafe operators. But Ability Office costs 2,950 pesos for the Standard Edition and 4,960 pesos for the Professional Edition.

ExpensiveIndeed, with those high price tags attached to legal and licensed copies of Microsoft Office, cafe owners would definitely seek out alternatives and most the most common practice is to use illegal or ‘pirated’ copies of the proprietary office suite from Microsoft which has become the so-called industry standard. Since one could buy illegal or ‘pirated’ copis of MS Office for just under Php200.00 ($3.64 using the current exchange rate), it’s a no-brainer why most internet cafes have shied away from the legal and licensed copies of MS Office.

Of course, this illegal workaround the expensive licensing of MS Office is a big problem not just to the local software industry but also for the cafe owners themselves. If caught, they face severe punishments from the law. There are solutions to this propblem like alternatives to MS Office. Going back to the INQ7.net news story, ICAP has endorsed Ability Office as a legal and cheaper alternative to Microsoft Office. With the much lower price of under Php 5,000.00 for the Professional edition of the Ability Office suite it is really an attractive option.

OpenOffice.orgBut hold the phone, there’s a better and way way cheaper alternative to Microsoft Office. It’s called OpenOffice.org which is a free and open source office suite, including word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, vector drawing and database management. It is available for many different platforms, including Microsoft Windows, Unix-like systems with the X Window System including GNU/Linux, BSD, Solaris and Mac OS X.

Included in the suite are programs that are alternatives to every program in MS Office. Click on the thumbnail for a larger view of OpenOffice’s Writer word processor.

Writer – a word processor similar in look and feel to Microsoft Word and offering a widely overlapping range of functions and tools. It also includes the ability to export Portable Document Format (PDF) files with no additional software, and can also function as a WYSIWYG HTML editor for creating and editing web pages.

Calc — a spreadsheet similar to Microsoft Excel with a roughly equivalent range of features. Calc provides a number of features not present in Excel, including a system which automatically defines series for graphing, based on the layout of the user’s data. Calc is also capable of writing spreadsheets directly as a PDF file.

Impress — a presentation program similar to Microsoft PowerPoint. It can export presentations to Macromedia Flash (SWF) files allowing them to be played on any computer with the Flash player installed. It also includes the ability to create PDF files.

Base — a database program similar to Microsoft Access. Base allows the creation and manipulation of databases, and the building of forms and reports to provide easy access to data for end-users. As with Access, Base is able to work as a front-end to a number of different database systems, including Access databases (JET), ODBC data sources and MySQL/PostgreSQL.

Draw — a vector graphics editor comparable in features to CorelDRAW. It features versatile “connectors” between shapes, which are available in a range of line styles and facilitate building drawings such as flowcharts.

Math — a tool for creating and editing mathematical formulae, similar to Microsoft Equation Editor. Formulae can be embedded inside other OpenOffice.org documents, such as those created by Writer. It supports multiple fonts and can export to PDF.

I’ve been using OpenOffice since it first came out with version 1 in 2002. The feature I loved about it the most was the ability to export all of my documents, spreadsheets and presentations into PDF files without using any other third-party program or configuration.

The Writer is even more robust when running on Ubuntu Linux! The entire OpenOffice.org suite is even included by default in the Ubuntu Linux 6.06 LTS install CD. Back on Windows, MS Word would often freeze up or crash altogether whenever I directly paste text and graphics off off web pages from the internet whenever I’m doing my homework or research. In OpenOffice’s Writer, this has rarely happened. The best part of using OpenOffice as alternative to MS Office is that it is absolutely FREE! Yup, you just head on to their website, download the entire suite which installs very easily and viola! No more worries about the anti-software piracy firms and authorities banging on your door.

So why spend almost Php 10,000 to Php 15,000 on an office suite? Why even spend close to Php 5,000 when there’s an alternative office suite that is FREE and completely legal to use and even share like OpenOffice.org?

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3 thoughts on “Free alternative to MS Office

  1. Yun nga ang hinala ko, mag kasabwat sila kaya na-endorse ang Ability. hehehe Nakakapagtaka naman kasi, may libre namang alternative sa MS Office at yun ay OpenOffice.org

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