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Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations (Oh, My!)

Now that we have dispensed with the presumed requirement of Internet access, we'll start covering generic business applications—meaning applications that virtually all businesses and business functions use. Let's begin with that stodgy old workhorse: the "Office Suite."

Although there are a number of Free Software word processors, and although the KDE desktop project has a nascent office suite, there is really only one Free Software office package that might remotely be considered a "drop-in" replacement for Microsoft Office: OpenOffice (http://www.openoffice.org/). "But wait!" I hear you say, "What about StarOffice?" Well, technically, StarOffice is neither Free Software nor Open Source software. It is a freely downloadable binary offered by Sun Microsystems, but it contains some non-redistributable binary code. OpenOffice began with that part of StarOffice that was Free Software, and it has added on from there. If you want the assurance that Open Source offers, OpenOffice is the right product. At this point, OpenOffice has replaced the proprietary StarOffice spell-check and other closed features, anyway.

There is no doubt at all, even to this old Free Software partisan, that Microsoft Office remains a noticeably superior product to OpenOffice, but only a tiny minority of MS Office users will notice missing features in OpenOffice.

OpenOffice includes a word processor, a spreadsheet, a presentation package (Powerpoint), and a drawing tool. To greatly oversimplify, OpenOffice is roughly comparable to Microsoft's Office 95. It's a good, solid, useful, and (like MS Office) bloated piece of software, weighing in at about 71 megs for the binary download only. Small for Windows, but quite huge for Linux.

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