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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Microsoft Office Alternatives(Return of the Pick)

     In my constant attitude of upsetting social norms, I'm posting once again on an alternative to the usual Microsoft product.  Not that Office isn't useful in the workplace, but frankly, I'm sick of paying two hundred dollars for a full version of Office that does essentially the same thing for me as the version I bought two to five years ago.  Its annoying.
     In step the alternatives.  At a slightly lower price point, Word Perfect is the only other commercial alternative to make it here on the list, and as far as my experience reaches, the only thing that could make me want this program over Microsoft Office is the security.  And the only part about the security that seems better is password encoding.  A person who knows what to do with a Microsoft office file can break a password that keeps people from viewing information you saved in only a couple of seconds, unless some serious updates have taken place in 2010 I don't know about.  With Word Perfect there is Unix based encryption used to secure each file, which either takes special software to break, or a whole heck of a lot of time and energy.  So your average wannabe will have a heck of a hard time cracking that. But in the end, this is just pitting one feature against another.
     Which doesn't win any battles in my book.
     So, what other choices do we have?  Either shell out hundreds of dollars, or be left behind and unable to keep with the technological age.
     With the modern hype on cloud computing, Google Docs has been making some serious headway on the front of collaborated documents and access anywhere convenience.  But I don't find it very useful for any of my serious writing.  There is just something that seems more comforting in keeping things saved on my own computer.  And I'm not always impressed with the interface with this one.
     And then there are Linux solutions.  The two worth mentioning are OpenOffice.org and Lotus Symphony.  Out of these two, the most widely used is probably Open Office.  This long running open source rival of Microsoft Office has done a lot to further open standards in office products, but sadly, has been suffering for a long time from the decline of Sun Microsystems, the corporate entity that started the project and maintains it.  With the recent purchase of Sun by Oracle, no one seems to know what the fate of Open Office may be.  It may get better, it may get worse.  All I'm going to say on this one is that its nice for its compatibility with just about everything.  I have certainly gotten my use out of this program with this feature alone.
     The final product on this illustrious listing is Lotus Symphony.  Now, I've only been using this one for about three months, but the more I learn about it, the more I like it.  And since this article is simply a list of my personal favorites, and not really very scientific in its evaluation, I'm putting my vote in on Symphony.  Its as fluid and visually appealing as Microsoft Office, based on open standards like OpenOffice.org, and doesn't cost me a dime.  I'm currently enjoying the tabbed documents feature will trying to piece together a novel I'm working on.
     In the end though, the office product you get to use probably isn't your decision.  But if you happen to have the unique option of making your own choice, my advice is try out each of these products for yourself, and find which one works best for your needs.  Each has its redeeming factors(I will admit I didn't exactly give fair comparison here, I'm hoping to post about that latter, but I need to do more thorough tests), and each will have its frustrations as well.