Before the proliferation of open-source software, there was not a lot you could achieve on a computer without spending money on software. Quite often the software that you could acquire for free was of poor quality, extremely limited, loaded with viruses and malware and was generally rubbish.

While professional users will want to stick with paid, premium, industry-standard software; Microsoft Office for business users, photographers with Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom, engineers with AutoDesk or SolidWorks as an example, which is fine. Many home or casual users cannot justify spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars to achieve what they want. For this reason, I am going to begin a series of articles on excellent and, more importantly, free alternatives to popular software.

OpenOffice as an alternative to Microsoft Office.

A single device license for Microsoft Office Home & Business costs upwards of $340 (at the time of writing) and while Office365 subscriptions are quite a lot cheaper initially, you will be paying a monthly fee for the software indefinitely for as long as you wish to use it.

Anyone who has ever used a computer is probably familiar with Microsoft Office and it is a staple in any business setup. However, it is not always absolutely necessary for small-business and home users to spend big dollars, you can fulfill most of your word processing, spreadsheet, and graphing needs by using OpenOffice.

OpenOffice was released back in 2001 and is still regularly updated and supported to this day. It contains a suite of programs which includes word processing, spreadsheet, and slideshow presentation software among others.

Documents and spreadsheets created in OpenOffice can be opened and edited inside Microsoft Word and Excel. Inversely, any documents or spreadsheets created in Microsoft's suite of software, in most cases, can be opened in OpenOffice.

Admittedly, some of the more advanced capabilities of Microsoft Office do not feature in OpenOffice but 90% of users won't even notice nor require them anyway.

OpenOffice does not include an e-mail alternative to Microsoft Outlook either, but that will be covered in another article.

You can find out more and download OpenOffice from www.openoffice.org.

There is also a similar open-source project called LibreOffice which aims to achieve the same thing. You can find out more about LibreOffice here at www.libreoffice.org.

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