Page 5 of 9: Office and Productivity

Office and Productivity

Microsoft Office is an office suite that will almost meet your word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and other office/school related needs. Unfortunately, it is also quite expensive, although the Office 2007 Home and Student edition is quite affordable, and allows you to install it on 3 computers too - but cheap is not good enough for this guide, it has to be free.

There is really only one major free alternative to Microsoft Office (offline anyway), and that is OpenOffice. It offers compatibility with Microsoft Office documents, and supports the latest Windows Vista (as well as other popular OSes such as Linux or Mac OS). The OpenOffice package includes:

  • Writer - word processor
  • Impress - presentation tool
  • Math - math equation editor
  • Draw - graphics/diagram creator
  • Calc - spreadsheet tool
  • Base - database tool

OpenOffice - Writer OpenOffice - Impress OpenOffice - Calc

If you don't mind editing your documents online, then you can use Google Docs to create your documents and spreadsheet. It's not as fancy as MS Office or OpenOffice, but most of your needs should be met. Plus, it supports both MS Word and OpenOffice document formats. And it's also a great way to share your documents online, allowing groups to edit a single document. Why not sign up for free and try out Google Docs for yourself.

Google Docs


If PDF document creation is what you need, look no further than PrimoPDF. PrimoPDF can convert your existing documents to PDF format through a printer interface (print the document as you would normally, but instead of printing to paper, it prints to a PDF file). Its main features include:

  • Print to PDF from virtually any application.
  • Create PDF output optimized for print, screen, ebook, or prepress.
  • Ability to merge and append PDF files upon conversion
  • Secure PDFs with 40-/128-bit encryption, allowing the highest level of security for your PDF files. Settings include password to open, password to change, disable printing, disable text/graphics copying, disable commenting, disable text editing, disable page addition.

Speaking of PDF, you should probably download and install Adobe Reader. I don't personally like it (a bit bloated, if you ask me), but you really do need it as PDF is used all over the place.

Want to make your own web pages? Starting with a WYSIWYG web page editor, Mozilla SeaMonkey includes Composer, a web page editor. Want something a bit more advanced? Try Nvu, the open source web site editor and manager that aims to rival bigshots like Microsoft FrontPage or Dreamweaver. For a simple blog, you can use the WordPress online service, or download the WordPress package and host it yourself.

You can even host your own website on your computer (ISP permitting), and for that, you need the Apache HTTP server, the most popular web server in the world (and it's free - Windows binary available). For your database needs, try MySQL, also free.



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