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Moving from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org

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Making the transition to OpenOffice.org can save money, but it takes some getting used to. Eric Geier shares tips on moving to this free and open source office suite.
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Moving from Microsoft Office (MS Office) to the free and open source OpenOffice.org (OOo) can help the budget. Because OOo loosely resembles MS Office—at least prior to the new Ribbon interface starting in 2007—long-time Microsoft users shouldn't have a big issue getting acquainted with OOo.

However, there are differences between these two office suites. This article looks at some of these differences, which might make the transition to OOo even easier.

Just about all the core features of MS Office—or the general features of any office suite—are present in OOo. But you won't find an email client (like MS Outlook) or a publishing program (like MS Publisher). As you'll see, however, there are alternatives.

For some reason OOo also doesn't provide any good preinstalled document templates or clip art. You'll see how to add some. We'll also discuss a few other miscellaneous issues.

Alternatives for Missing Applications

OOo comes with the basic office applications:

  • Writer for word processing
  • Calc for spreadsheets
  • Impress for presentations
  • Base for databases
  • Draw for drawings
  • Math for calculations

However, you might miss a few things found in MS Office. You'll see what the open source community can offer.

If you don't check your email through a website and need an email client, you can use a free and open one. Thunderbird is one example, provided by Mozilla, also the developer of the Firefox web browser. It can even import the emails, address books, and settings from Outlook and email clients. Plus you can add more functionality with a slew of add-ons.

If you're in need of a publishing application, try Scribus, also free and open source. It supports professional publishing features, such as CMYK color, separations, Spot Colors, ICC color management and versatile PDF creation.

If you're used to MS Frontpage or Web Expression, look into KompoZer. It's another WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML editor, meaning it's a visual editor, not just one that works with only HTML code.

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