Vol. 43, No. 3 March 2006 .pdf version
Tony Barnhart: Year with gavel went too quickly
Joe Mitch: Oscar Robertson Trophy finds a home in Indy
Tom Shatel: Meet the NCAA's David Worlock
Ted Gangi: Open Office: Can't beat the price
Tennessee Tech's Sutton named Most Courageous
Katha Quinn Award goes to Wayne Duke
Marvin West to be inducted in Hall of Fame
2004-05 Best writing contest results

Technical advice: Open Office: You can't beat the price

By TED GANGI / Webmaster

We all want the latest, greatest, state-of-the-art tools that make our jobs easier, right?

Sometimes, though, we have to settle for what the company gives us or, frankly, for what we can afford.

While each of us has a varying level of computer/technology aptitude from "Give me back my typewriter" to "Man,
this new BlackBerry rocks" I think everyone can agree that it's nice to be able to work with the best equipment.

Surely, everyone is accustomed to using Microsoft Office software, whether it's Word, Excel or Outlook. And, in most cases, your company will foot the bill.

However, for freelancers and others who may have to be budget-conscious, there is a choice in the matter.

And, it's very inexpensive and even free if you don't feel the need for technical support beyond user forums.

Open Office is what is called open-source software from Sun Microsystems. Just go to www.openoffice.org and download it. It has programs that virtually replicate Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. For a writer's purposes, the most valuable program is probably Open Office Writer, the equivalent of Microsoft Word. And, all of these powerful Open Office programs are free.

If you want to step up in class a bit, purchase Star Office 8 from Sun, which you can buy for $69.99, and then download
and install it from www.sun.com/software/star/staroffice/index.jsp. You can also buy it from Amazon.com (and get a $20 rebate). Star Office 8 includes tech support. But, unless you are a very advanced user, you don't need it.

Admittedly, I was skeptical. How could this free software do anywhere near what the $300-plus brand name does?

Well, I have used the free Open Office for several weeks now, and I have yet to find a case where it is not compatible.

You can save the files as actual Word (or Excel or Powerpoint) documents. You can open other MS Office documents that may have been sent to you and, of course, you can convert any document to a .pdf.

It's great.

Nothing against Microsoft. I use FrontPage to maintain the USBWA website, and it has been flawless and affordable, and it's regularly updated.

But, unless you want to spend a lot more than you have to, Open Office or Star Office 8 provides an affordable and highly usable alternative to Microsoft Office.

Ted Gangi serves as the webmaster of the USBWA's official site, www.usbwa.com and is the assistant sports editor for DallasNews.com, the website of The Dallas Morning News. His tech tips column will appear regularly in The Tipoff.

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