As many of us know, purchasing computer software can be an expensive undertaking. A license to use the most commonly-used office suite software can often cost several hundred dollars. Maintaining up-to-date commercial antivirus protection requires the purchase of annual "subscriptions" to software updates to ensure that your computer is not at risk. When you've already invested hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in purchasing your computer, this can be a bitter pill to swallow.
If you are disinclined to spend a lot of money on computer software, but still require the functionality that this software offers, fear not! There are many free software alternatives available online that can help you accomplish your computing tasks without spending a dime!
Office software generally includes – among other things – word processing, spreadsheet, and slideshow presentation software. Most of us are probably familiar with the pricy Microsoft Office suite, which includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but there are free alternatives available.
OpenOffice offers a full suite of office programs that you can download and install on your computer for free. It offers word processing (Writer), spreadsheet (Calc), and slideshow presentation (Impress) applications that offer similar functionality to the more familiar Microsoft offerings.
Open Office does have its own native file formats for opening and saving documents, but can open and save to the more common Microsoft-compatible files (.doc, .xls, .ppt) when needed. Open Office also allows users to export directly to PDF format, without the need to purchase or install any conversion software, which will ensure that your document retains its intended formatting.
You can read more and obtain OpenOffice from www.openoffice.org. You can download directly from the website, or request a CD from a local distributor for a minimal fee to cover the cost of postage. Make sure you have a fast Internet connection before downloading, as this is a very LARGE download (over 100 MB!).
If you don't have a fast Internet connection or sufficient space on your hard drive to accommodate OpenOffice, you can always try Google's online Google Docs application. Google Docs is an online office suite that allows users to create and edit word documents, spreadsheets, and slideshow presentations through a web browser. It is available anywhere that you have Internet access.
Like OpenOffice, Google Docs allows users to open and save files to your computer in different file formats, including Microsoft Office-compatible formats, OpenOffice-compatible formats, and PDF. Users can also save documents online, which can be useful when travelling or when you are using a computer that is not your own.
To get started with Google Docs, simply visit http://docs.google.com/ and log in (requires a Google user name and password). Registration for Google Docs is free of charge.
If you are in need of virus protection, but the free trial that came with your computer has expired, you don't necessarily have to break out your credit card! Instead, home users can choose to uninstall the commercial antivirus software that came on your PC and download one of these free alternatives:
AVG Free Antivirus – http://free.grisoft.com/
Avast! Antivirus – http://www.avast.com/
Have an e-Buddies tech question? Send questions or comments to Bill Maurer at BillMaurer@bestbuddies.org.
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