103. OpenOffice.org free office
By Andrew D. Wright
Word or WordPerfect document. Excel spreadsheet. PowerPoint presentation.
These are familiar terms for anyone who has worked in an office in the
past fifteen years.
The software to produce these kinds of files can cost hundreds of dollars.
OpenOffice.org is a completely free Open Source office software suite that
not only can read and write to the various commercial office software file
formats, but also natively writes to the now-standard OpenDocument Format.
OpenOffice.org consists of six programs: Writer, for word processing;
Calc, for spreadsheets; Impress, for presentations; Draw, for editing or
creating graphics; Base, for using databases; and Math, for complex
calculations and formulas.
International support is strong with 93 different languages supported to
some degree. OpenOffice.org will run on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Solaris
and FreeBSD operating systems.
OpenOffice.org was originally a German commercial software package called
StarOffice developed in the mid 1990s. Purchased by Sun Microsystems in
1999 in order to reduce their own in-house office software costs, the
source code was made public a year later.
StarOffice still exists as a low-price commercial product from Sun but
it's now based on the OpenOffice.org source code rather than the other way
round, much like the way the Netscape web browser is now based on offshoot
Mozilla's Firefox web browser source code.
Using OpenOffice.org is very similar to using any other office software
package. The controls and options will be familiar to anyone with
experience using other office software suites and there are online support
forums and documentation.
Files created by other office software programs can be opened in
OpenOffice.org and will look almost identical to the way they looked in
the original program. Since the original commercial file formats are
proprietary, meaning the details of the format are not public, there can
be some minor differences in appearance and some files may need to be
modified slightly to look the way they did in the original program.
It can take up to a minute for OpenOffice.org Calc to open complex
spreadsheets created by other software. Macros, or scripts designed to
automate repetitive tasks, are currently not well supported though work on
improving this situation is ongoing.
OpenOffice.org prefers to save files using the OpenDocument Format or ODF,
an open international standard that is designed to make it easier to
access structured information such as document files and spreadsheets.
Governments and corporations around the world are switching over to the
ODF standard since it means that information is not locked away in
proprietary data formats only some programs can understand.
In particular the archiving of information so that future software might
easily access it is a driving force behind the growing movement towards
ODF. Even Microsoft is now joining the bandwagon by paying for the
development of an ODF plugin for Microsoft Word.
OpenOffice.org is a free download about 100 MB in size. The software is
updated every three months with the next due in March 2007. The present
version, 2.1, has no currently exploited software vulnerabilities.
ODF converter for Microsoft Word XP/2003/2007:
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Originally published 25 February 2007