The world of software is constantly changing towards freedom after many companies monopolized the industry worldwide. For this reason, many start-ups decided to head off this phenomenon and create what is known as “Open Source” software. These sources received an enhancement over the time that they are becoming competitive to many top-notch paid software. The customer, naturally, is the best gainer in this equation. Being a die-hard defendant of customer rights, I started to survey these free initiatives to brief all of you Magnificent readers on them.
This time I will talk about web-based and desk-top office suites which are becoming more and more competitive.
Web-based Free Office Suites (24/7 Internet Connection Needed)
Now we have some hot on-line office suites ready to go, some of which even support Arabic for us Arabian users.
1- Google Documents (http://docs.google.com/).
You have got to have a Gmail account to have access to these wonderful applications, which is something I believe lots of you have. For those who don’t, hurry up guys; its capacity is huge, and it’s totally free. Here you could only have Word, Spreadsheets, and Presentations, no more, no less. However, the file manipulation options are huge. You could save your files in many different formats and you also can print or e-mail them to anyone. This service supports Arabic.
2- Zoho (My Favourite) (www.zoho.com). This is a really huge project that is way beyond what Google accomplished. There you could find all types of documents you could ever need (Writer, Sheets, Shows, Notepad, Planner, Chat, Creator, and Wiki). The editor is too good to be true! It encompasses even options that Microsoft Office doesn’t support, most notably the digital signature (AKA DigiSign). This service supports Arabic.
3- ThinkFree (www.thinkfree.com) (Requires Java Runtime Environment to be installed on your machine). Very classy indeed. It’s so rich with options and enjoys a graphical interface that speaks volumes. However, just as Google, it only supports applications corresponding to Word, Spreadsheets, and Presentations. The main problem for me is that they don’t support Arabic. I e-mailed their support team who expressed their “sorrow” claiming that they will not take the trouble of supporting Arabic unless they receive enough requests! Still, they created portable versions of their docs, and anyone could even “plug them in” in any site.
Desktop Office Suites
Now, let’s move on to check the standalone office applications.
1- OpenOffice (www.openoffice.org). Fully customizable, and rich in options, this huge suite is a very dangerous competitive to Microsoft Office. Needless to say, it gained ground recently in many quarters of the world. Many users who moved on to Linux made the leap to OpenOffice and are pretty much satisfied with its performance. The only problem is for sophisticated users who work on other programs which Microsoft Office supports. It’s a matter of compatibility. I myself am still reluctant to adopt this suite because one program on which I rely heavily in my work is compatible with Microsoft Word. Nevertheless, regular users should not find any trouble with this suite.
2- StarOffice (http://www.sun.com/software/star/staroffice/index.jsp). You may find it also as a part of Google Pack which is totally free. This is another player in the market attempting to overthrow Microsoft Office. It’s not as huge and rich as OpenOffice, but it has the feel and look of the regular Microsoft Office, so users should not feel strange using it.
3- The 5th Element (http://ssuite5element.webs.com/thefifthelement.htm). This is a real knock-out. Few are the office suites that could possibly stand a chance against this one; it is fully compatible with all other suites, including Microsoft’s, OpenOffice’s, and StarOffice’s; it requires small space on your PC, and it encompasses more than 30 applications reaching up to hi-tech and telecommunications. In a nutshell, it’s the black horse of this race. And don’t forget; it’s TOTALLY FREE.
That’s all for office suites. Next time, I will handle a very serious issue; SECURITY. But that’s another story.