Consider the alternatives to Microsoft Office 2007

BY STANLEY ZAROWIN

  

I need to upgrade my office computers, but I dread the thought of having to switch to Vista and Microsoft Office 2007. I tried out the software, and I’m convinced it’s not for me. Aside from the expense, it’s too complicated; I’m uncomfortable with the applications. I’m told they’re more powerful than the XP version I’m using, but frankly I don’t need more power; I need convenience—tools that perform my critical tasks easily. I understand Microsoft plans to stop supporting XP next year, and that would leave me a software orphan. So I need to make a decision. Any suggestions?

Yes, Vista and Office 2007 are a bit hard to get used to, but once you do, you’ll appreciate the power and convenience of the upgrade. But I understand your concern and you do have options. Let’s explore a few.

My March 2008 column contained an item on page 79, “Make Vista’s interface look like XP’s—with no loss of functionality,” that suggested two ways to overcome some of the problems in making the switch. In addition, Microsoft offers some pretty good help tools at http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word/HA100744321033.aspx .

But if you still don’t want to switch to Vista and Office 2007, there is a way to stay with XP and not be hampered by Microsoft’s move away from the older software. Although all the PC manufacturers are only loading Vista on their new machines, many also are making available what can best be described as “downgrade” discs—recovery discs that contain an upgraded version of XP designed specifically for their computers. Once you load those discs, Vista will be wiped out and replaced by the new XP. So even though Microsoft will no longer support the product, the update would keep you reasonably current for some time—or at least until it’s time to upgrade again.

Since you’ll be paying for Vista, the new PC will also come with Vista recovery discs (if it doesn’t, ask for them), so you can always switch back if you change your mind.

Another somewhat more radical option is to stick with the Vista operating system but say farewell to Microsoft Office and switch to OpenOffice, a suite of applications that do essentially everything Microsoft’s Office does—but without the frills and complexity. And the price is right: It’s free. But worry not: Unlike loads of other free software, it does not come preloaded with pop-up ads or expose you to junk mail.

OpenOffice can run on all major operating systems. Further, it can open files created in practically all versions of Microsoft’s Office—even some earlier ones that Office 2007 finds incompatible. OpenOffice also can handle the addition of the XML code in Office 2007. So the bottom line is this: OpenOffice can work for anyone using any Microsoft Office applications. Some of the options for OpenOffice documents are shown in the screenshot below.

For the last several years the migration to OpenOffice has been generally limited to tech-savvy users or organizations with strong IT support because there was a perception that the software was only for high-tech mavens and that it was difficult to install. But the opposite is true; it was designed for the average user yet has the muscle available for a technologically advanced user. Installation, even on a network, is generally straightforward and easy. And, if you do run into a problem, technical support via the Internet is free, friendly and comprehensive, including easy-to-follow tutorials ( http://plan-b-foropenoffice.org/glossary/index ).

As you can see by clicking here , the OpenOffice toolbar resembles Office 2003’s design. And all its functions are easily customizable to meet special needs.

 

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