OpenOffice – the most popular free office software suites

Over the years, I’ve had a number of people come to me asking for help picking a word processor, spreadsheet, Office component or full suite. While MS Office is the defacto standard for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations, it IS rather expensive. Not everyone can afford its heavy down stroke, even though it can be heavily discounted. That’s why I’m thankful for things like Oracle’s OpenOffice.org. It’s an MS Office compatible office suite and its available for multiple platforms.

OpenOffice.org 3 is the leading open-source office suite, and includes applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, and databases. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in a standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages, including Microsoft Office.

OpenOffice.org 3 is easy to learn. If you’ve used Microsoft Office, or a similar set of tools, OpenOffice.org will be familiar and comfortable to you. Best of all, OpenOffice.org 3 can be downloaded and used for free.

Having a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office, especially for budget conscious families and students is important. Though Microsoft has a student version of Office, it’s still somewhat expensive. OpenOffice offers Microsoft Office (as well as other) suite compatibility in a familiar environment. The tools are intuitive and easy to use, especially if you’ve used Office Suite products before, and at this price point, it’s really hard to beat.

Caution should be exercised however, when reading and writing MS Office (and other suite) compatible file formats. While OpenOffice.org is MS Office compatible, it is NOT MS Office. Basic formatting in all your documents (bold, italics, bullets, etc.) will likely transfer in and out of OpenOffice without issues or concerns. Some of your heavily formatted documents may be read and worked with under the OpenOffice component in question, but upon reediting in MS Office, the formatting of the information in the file may be corrupted, requiring a great deal of rework.

Read the entire Review | Download OpenOffice

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ABBY FineReader 11 is the next generation of optical character recognition software

ABBYY FineReader is an optical character recognition software that is able to scan documents and readily converting images of documents such as scans, photographs, and PDF files into editable and searchable electronic formats. It’s the best alternative to manual retyping, because its text recognition system delivers precision accuracy in converting almost any type of printed document including books, magazine articles with complex layouts, tables and spreadsheets, and even faxes.

FineReader 11 brings the OCR technology to a new level due to a new black-and-white mode that increases document processing speed up to 45 percent. To streamline document conversion processes, FineReader further improves its unique capability to reconstruct native formatting of multi-page documents and also supports easy creation of electronic books in the most popular formats.

In addition to Microsoft Word documents, ABBYY FineReader 11 now adds support for OpenOffice.org Writer (ODT) files. When saving to PDF, the application intelligently identifies and reproduces the document’s content outline bookmarks with live links for better navigation and reading.

The new version delivers significant improvements in the detection of vertical headers, as well as margin notes, diagrams, tables, and styles, minimizing the effort typically required for manual correction. A new feature allows users to convert paper documents and images of text to a variety of formats supported by e-book readers, tablet PCs and smartphones, including the newly added Electronic Publication (.ePub) and FictionBook (.fb2) formats. Additionally, texts converted with ABBYY FineReader 11 can be sent directly to the users of Amazon Kindle account.

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AbiWord a new contender for Microsoft Word

While many of you have already used OpenOffice, as a free replacement for Microsoft Office suite, in 2002 a new project began to rise up from the open source community. AbiWord is part of a larger project known as AbiSource, which was started by the SourceGear Corporation. The goal of the project was the development of a cross-platform, Open Source office suite beginning with AbiWord, the project’s word processor.

AbiWord released a new version (2.9.1) of its text processing software, a version that brings a lot of improvements and new features making it a true contender for Microsoft Word. I have to mention that this version is a development release, and is not considered ready for production use. For a stable version you are encouraged to download AbiWord 2.8.6.

Anyway, version 2.9.1 is worth mentioning because it represents a milestone for the next 3.0.0 stable version in terms of new features and improvements. For the first time AbiWord comes with paragraph borders and shading support. This can be controlled through a new Borders and Shading dialog. The Resource Description Framework  information can now be saved and loaded in both OpenDocument (.odt) and AbiWord (.abw) files.

With AbiWord you can now share online documents through the Telepathy service. By using any Jabber/XMPP account, you can collaborate in real-time with other users on a shared document. In addition you can also export any document into an e-book format thanks to the experimental EPUB plugin.

AbiWord 2.9.1 is a cross-platform application available at the moment for PCs running Windows 2000 or later, or Linux. The development team also mentioned that the next stable version will be also available for Mac OS X.

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