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A free alternative to Microsoft Office

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Posted 26th October 2008 at 08:35 AM by Chris Lockwood

I recently bought a new PC, and I didn’t feel like buying yet another copy of Microsoft Office, so I decided to try an alternative. Sun has released an office suite comparable to Microsoft Office, but it’s free.

It’s called OpenOffice, and it includes programs similar to Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Access, plus a graphics program.

You can download it here.

Versions are available for Windows, Mac, or Linux. You can order a CD for a small fee if you’d rather not download the software.

I haven’t gone through it feature-by-feature, but it seems pretty comparable to Microsoft’s version. It can even use the same file formats, so you can work with your old Word, Excel, or Powerpoint files easily.

One nice thing it has that Word lacks is the ability to save a document in PDF format, so if you go with OpenOffice, you won’t need to get Adobe Acrobat or another PDF creator.

For some reason, Sun left out an email program comparable to Outlook, so I went looking for that piece of the puzzle.

I found two free Outlook clones: Spicebird and Evolution. Both looked good and included features similar to Outlook for email, contacts, calendar, and so on.

Unlike OpenOffice, neither of the email programs works directly with Outlook data files (.pst), but both include an import feature. The catch is that Outlook has to be installed on your computer for the import to work.

I’m not sure what the point of this is, since if you have Outlook, why would you be looking for a clone of it?

One suggested way to get around this is to download a free trial of Outlook from Microsoft’s website and install it to do your import.

I tried that with both Spicebird and Evolution after moving my pst file over from my old computer, and even with Outlook on the new PC, neither program could correctly import my old email.

If you’re starting fresh, either of those would be a good alternative (I would go with Spicebird), but since I need to access my old Outlook data, I’m going to have to stick with Outlook (which I can buy separately once my trial ends in a few months).

If you know of another Outlook clone that can properly handle old Outlook data, please post a comment about it here.
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