OpenOffice is a free, open source alternative to Microsoft's Office suite. It contains replacements for Word (Writer), Powerpoint (Impress), Access (Base), and Excel (Calc). It also boasts an impressive drawing program named Draw. It's goal is to be a free alternative to MS Office, and it succeeds wonderfully.


The OpenOffice suite has been under development for more than 20 years. What is now OpenOffice was originally developed as StarOffice by Sun Microystems in order to compete with Microsoft Office's larger market share. In 2000, it was released under an open source license. This means it is free to download, use, modify, and redistribute. In this way, OpenOffice is a lot like Linux. It's made by people for people and often excels beyond commercial options. Anyone can look at the program code and suggest improvements, fix bugs, or customize it to fit his needs.

OpenOffice was conceived from the start as a single piece of software – unlike MS Office which is just a collection of programs. In OpenOffice, one can access any of the other programs from the File – New menu instead of launching another bloated piece of software. Thus, it is completely consistent from application to application. What you learn to do in one application, you can immediately do in another. On top of that, the contextual help system works across all the applications on all platforms. Help for the entire suite is always at your disposal whether you're working on a winning presentation or your resumé.

OpenOffice is written mostly in C++ and has numerous extensions and plugins written with the power of Python and Java. Because of this, OpenOffice supports every major operating system – including Mac OS, Windows, GNU/Linux, and Sun Solaris. Even Microsoft Office is limited to Windows and Mac OS.


OpenOffice has a very active community, and the official developers are extremely open to input. This is what impresses me about the project. Because of this, OpenOffice has grown in maturity and power over the years. Today, it supports a plethora of languages including complex languages like Thai, Arabic, Hindi, Hebrew, and vertical writing languages. OpenOffice truly is a fully-featured office suite, and more features are added all the time by users.

OpenOffice is used by governments, educational institutions, business, non-profits, information technology consultants, and individuals just like you. It truly is a viable replacement for commercial software.


On the surface, OpenOffice looks great. The question, however, is compatibility. Can it support the latest DocX formats introduced in Office 2007? How easy is it to transfer my documents to and from other computers if I use OpenOffice? Don't worry. Amazingly, it flawlessly supports these and many many more, allowing for legendary cross-platform support, and there is no problem whatsoever with using other applications on other computers. You can use your OpenOffice documents in Microsoft Office and vice versa. Office documents can be used in OpenOffice.

OpenOffice has its own document format, but you also have the option to save as a Microsoft Office document, HTML, AportisDoc, StarWriter, rich text format, and more. It's really quite impressive. The only caveat is this: When transporting your files to a computer that only has MS Office, make sure you are saving in the Office format. MS Office will not recognize the default .ODT format of OpenOffice.

In addition, OpenOffice can read and write PDF files beautifully. Adobe's software for creating PDFs costs many hundreds of dollars. This feature alone could be worth the download for business that need collaboration on a document. Users can mark up the file, "pencil in" suggestions and the like – saving it for the rest of the team to see. Adobe's software also does this, but consider the costs: hundreds of dollars for Adobe Acrobat or a whopping $0.00 for OpenOffice. The choice is obvious.


To recap, OpenOffice is a free, open source office suite that rivals Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat for exactly $0.00. It is available as a free download from and can be used, modified, and added to as the user desires. Available on all major computing platforms, OpenOffice is extremely easy to use and has an excellent user community for support.

To download this free office suite, visit The download is over 120 MB so it isn't suitable for dial-up connections. If you have a dial-up connection, you can also order a CD of the software from a distributor in your area.

Even if you don't keep OpenOffice, isn't it worth a try? If you do keep it, you could replace Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat – saving hundreds of dollars. And who doesn't like saving money?