"Open source multi-platform office suite."
Going up against Microsoft Office is never easy - but that's exactly what OpenOffice.org is doing. It is a free and open source productivity suite that contains software to rival Microsoft Office and includes word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, graphics, formula-editor as well as database management applications.
When installing OpenOffice.org you can either opt for the typical or custom route. Naturally the latter option allows you to control exactly which components are installed, though inexperienced or casual users may find the former to be more convenient.
After you've made your choice, the installation should proceed smoothly. As of this latest version, OpenOffice.org supports Windows 8 alongside 7, Vista, XP, and 2000.
If you launch the main OpenOffice.org shortcut you'll be directed to a quick-start screen that allows you to choose whether you'd like to create a new text document, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing, database, or formula. While you're there you can also opt to open a file or template.
Depending on your choice you'll be directed to the appropriate OpenOffice.org application. Although they are by no means clones of Microsoft Office applications, you'll find the layout relatively familiar even if it is a little bit barer in terms of icons and options.
On the whole most of the applications within OpenOffice.org live up to expectations and perform well. Despite using their own file formats, they are also compatible with most of the Microsoft Office formats too.
The one area in which OpenOffice.org actually surpasses its rival is its Math application. With it, you can create and edit mathematical equations and then incorporate them into Writer and the other OpenOffice.org applications as objects.
Needless to say, the other advantage of OpenOffice.org is that it is completely free, and is even a little bit more resource friendly due to its slightly more bare-boned nature.
While most areas of OpenOffice.org perform remarkably well, if you're dealing with lots of Microsoft Office file formats then you'll find that some features present in documents, spreadsheets and so on created on Microsoft Office may not translate well.
Additionally, OpenOffice.org does not have an integrated email client (in the style of Microsoft Outlook), but is compatible with a wide range of email clients instead. The one that is generally recommended is Mozilla Thunderbird.
Some users have also reported that the latest version does freeze up on them from time to time, though it did not do so when tested.
The only paid alternative worth mentioning in the realm of productivity suites is the one that has already been mentioned: Microsoft Office.
The fact that OpenOffice.org is free, a bit more resource friendly and can do practically everything that Microsoft Office can should speak for itself.
Another good choice that we reviewed, also freeware, is Kingsoft Office Suite Free. Give it a go and see if it works better for you.
Whether you choose to use OpenOffice.org, there is no harm in trying it out for yourself. Casual users will probably notice very little difference between it and Microsoft Office although professional users may.
The bottom line is that OpenOffice.org actually does a very good job at providing a suite of office productivity applications.
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