Sunday, April 7, 2013

2 Free Software programs to use in place of MS Word

Photo: Jeremy Brooks
These days, computer software costs a lot. Why buy them if you can find free alternatives online?

Whether I'm traveling and need to shoot off a business letter or working abroad forced to work on an office PC that's based in another language , there's two free alternatives that has Microsoft Office pretty matched, if not, surpassed.

Free Downloadable software for your PC or Mac:

Open Office

Open Office is an open source application featuring six programs: Writer (Word processing), Calc
(Spreadsheet ), Impress (presentations), Draw (graphics and illustrations), Base (database), and Math (mathematic equations).

In many ways, Open Office surpasses Microsoft Office as it's got a more dynamic range of applications which can handle and manipulate a range of formats that Microsoft can't. For instance, it opens pdf files in its word processing app and can take in jpeg, gif, png, tif, bmp in it's graphics app, while also exporting Flash swf files. Microsoft documents will open in this software and vice versa.

This application will download and work on foreign PC's. Thus, when I worked in Korea and my office PC had Microsoft Office in Korean, I downloaded Open Office. I was able to write my Word documents and do Powerpoint presentations in English, then save them and open them for viewing in my Korean Microsoft Office.

You can download the software here.

Online application:

Google Docs

Google Docs is an online application, which you can access from any computer. It allows you to work on Word documents and Excel sheets both, online and offline. The Calendar app is helpful for me being able to access my schedule and there is also a presentation app (which I haven't used yet). Google Docs also allows you to share your document with others to edit real-time and it opens and saves in various formats (ODF, HTML, PDF, RTF, Text, Office Open XML)

If you download the Google Drive app onto your computer, you can drag the document onto your PC desktop and work offline, save it then  drag it back to your drive to be stored online.  This has been one of my best friends in travel, because I can work on documents while checking my email.

All you need to sign up for a free gmail account  (you might already have one now). The gmail account also gains you an account on Picasa (photo storage), on YouTube and on Blogger. One gmail key unlocks many and they're all interconnected.

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