September 23, 2008

Open-Source Programs Can Be Useful

By Heather Hamilton

For some reason about a week ago a new icon appeared on my desktop. I clicked on it and it took me to a Web site called Open It is offering me an Office package described as "a complete Microsoft Office compatible office suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more." It is free, but I can make a donation.

I tracked the site down and it belongs to a company called Sun Microsystems.

This sounds too good to be true, especially since Microsoft no longer offers their MS Office with new computers. What makes it more suspicious is that it appeared on my desktop for no reason that I can think of.

I appreciate your advice on the matter. - George C.

A: OpenOffice is a Microsoft Office compatible suite of applications. OpenOffice is part of the open-source movement, and they do offer their substitute programs free of charge. (I wrote about it in June of last year:

The obvious upside is that it's free.

I'm sure all those hard-working coders could use a donation. Considering the deal you're getting, for Microsoft Office runs around $300, I'd say a small donation is reasonable.

The downside is that the program can be unpredictable or might be missing functions you're used to having with the full Office suite. This is the reason most businesses don't make this switch, but I think it's a fine program for the home user.

For Macintosh users, there's also NeoOffice which is the same idea for the other platform.

Regarding the icon on your desktop, I do have an idea on how that may have happened.

It's really easy if you're viewing a Web page to drag a link onto your desktop and create an icon. I've done it plenty of times and it can be so quick that you don't even notice it.

My guess is you were on a perfectly legitimate Web site that had an advertisement about OpenOffice in the sidebar. While surfing, you may have accidentally clicked and dragged the link to the Web page onto your desktop.

Basically, you made a shortcut to the OpenOffice Web site on your desktop.

The movement behind OpenOffice and similar open-source programs would never use shady business practices to promote their product. They are the revolution and the revolution doesn't use deceptive marketing practices.

Go ahead and give OpenOffice a try, you might like it and save a few dollars to put toward your next computer.

Reach Heather Hamilton at [email protected]

Originally published by Heather Hamilton Morris News Service.

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