Trash MS Word and find freedom with OpenOffice.org

September 9, 2009 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Writing Tools 

OpenOffice screenshotIf you’ve never heard of OpenOffice.org, it’s time you did. It’s the choice of thousands of smart writers.

“Choice” isn’t a term you associate with Microsoft Word. You use it because it came pre-installed on your computer. Right?

Word is the standard word processing program for the business world, so it’s convenient to have documents in that format. But let’s face it, like so many of Microsoft’s products, Word has grown into a clunky behemoth. You probably don’t use more than 5 or 10 percent of its features.

Worse, with the release of the Vista operating system, Microsoft stopped pre-installing Word and replaced it with Works, a program that went out of vogue years ago. Why? I guess Bill Gates needs a new pair of shoes. He wants you to pay for Word.

But with OpenOffice.org you have a better choice. It’s small, it’s fast, it includes all the features you need as a professional writer, and it’s free.

What is OpenOffice.org? To quote from the website …

OpenOffice.org is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.

What this means is that OpenOffice.org gives you all the best features of the MS Office Suite, including MS Word. “Open-source” means it’s software created by a community of programmers and offered free of charge for anyone to use for any purpose. Just in case you think that sounds suspicious, it’s not. Open-source is common. If you use WordPress for your blog, for example, you’re using open-source software.

I got fed up with Word long ago. And when a friend told me about OpenOffice.org, I gave it try. Soon, I began using OpenOffice.org for all my copywriting chores and never looked back. I also use the spreadsheet program (which works almost exactly like Excel) for simple accounting chores.

Not only is OpenOffice.org faster and easier than Word, its default file format is “open standard,” meaning it will open on nearly any word processor. And it opens files from most other processors as well. If you still want your files in a Word format, you can do that too. No one will be able to tell the difference.

If you’re looking for something faster and easier than Word, or if you just don’t want to pay for Word, try OpenOffice.org.

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Smart Comments

6 Comments on Trash MS Word and find freedom with OpenOffice.org

  1. Paul Troke on Sep 10th, 2009 3:51 am
  2. I agree with your views on OpenOffice. I use the Linux operating system and OpenOffice comes bundled with most distributions. I have also used it with Windows. I find it simple to use, and it exchanges documents with Microsoft Office and other suites very well. And, of course, it’s free!

  3. Dean Rieck on Sep 10th, 2009 11:08 am
  4. Paul:
    Seems I use a lot of open source software now. OpenOffice, WordPress, FileZilla, etc. In most cases, these programs work better than commercial products.

  5. MJ Ces on Sep 11th, 2009 12:17 pm
  6. I got introduced to OpenOffice.org about 3 years ago when the company I was working for decided to cut costs and opted on open-sourced software.

    At first I wanted to rebel. I had been using MS Office (Word in particular) since I was in college and I thought the change to OpenOffice.org was a big mistake. Good thing I was wrong.

    Just like what you said, I also didn’t look back. Up to now all of my writing activities are done on OpenOffice.org Writer.

  7. Dean Rieck on Sep 11th, 2009 12:29 pm
  8. One little gripe I have is that OO documents saved in a Word format sometimes can’t hold tabs. I have templates for various things, and now and then something I’ve lined up shifts. Minor complaint though. Word is so complex now, I’d never even think of using it again.

  9. Pat on Sep 24th, 2009 8:08 pm
  10. I used to use OpenOffice a few years back, and it wasn’t impressive. But, like all big open source projects, it has come a long way since then.

    After reading this article, I may give it a go again.

    But in my case, I use a bit more than 10% of the features of MS Word. I don’t just type words and make some bold. I use styles, tabs, headers, references, drawings, track changes… last week I even did a mail merge.

    The barriers to adopting OpenOffice in business and government are:
    (a) training, and
    (b) document exchange.

    Training is more about macros and special features. The OpenOffice user interface is easy to learn, because it is a clone of MS Word pre-2007. And everybody who knows how to use a computer knows how to use MS Word 2003.

    Document exchange is less of a problem nowadays when people use PDFs. Document exchange is still a problem when people are collaborating on a document and using MS Word track changes. If OpenOffice and MS Word 2003 can play nice together on track changes, then problem solved.

    Document exchange is very different across industries. For copywriters, maybe you just need to hand in text with a couple of headings. In litigation, lawyers exchange paper documents, and sometimes PDFs. Inside Australian government agencies, MS Word 2003 .doc is the standard for document storage and exchange.

    A good trend in governments, such as the US Government, is publishing in PDF – everything from stats to rulings to regulations to handbooks. Even though most documents are prepared using MS Word, they are published in PDF form. So we don’t need Windows just to see their pretty formatting.

  11. Dean Rieck on Sep 24th, 2009 9:03 pm
  12. Pat,

    You’re right. If you need all the horsepower of Word, OpenOffice isn’t going to work for you. But I think the average person, even most copywriters, would find OpenOffice to be sufficient.

    What I like is that it’s simple and fast. Word has become too feature-heavy and complex … for me at least. And the beauty is, it’s free, so you can try it with no risk. If you don’t like it, you’re out nothing.