Sunday, July 24, 2005

Reading, Writing and Arithmetic

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Some of the more common uses for the computer seem to be the area of office work in one form or another. Word processing or writing is the more common function a personal computer user will need. Game playing, though diverting and fun, isn’t productive in the sense that it doesn’t produce anything useful. But we’ll get into game playing in a later posting. To begin at the upper end of this subject first, the office suite combines all the necessary tools, bells, and whistles needed to be fully productive in an office situation.

So, what is in an office suite? Let’s take a look at Microsoft Office, a truly good example of a fully functional suite. First is Word (word processor), next is Excel (spreadsheet), then PowerPoint (presentation), and Access (database). There is a version of Office that doesn’t include Access since not every one needs a Database system. You will pay a premium price for Office but considering what you can get from to extend the suite for free such as templates and macros and such, it isn’t all that bad.But, if you don’t have a few hundred dollars in your pocket to spend, it’s still a lot o’ bucks. But, if you’re lucky enough to have MS Office and if you have a need for some special tool or macro you can’t find on, take a look at Downloads or Tucows and you’ll find dozens of things to add to the mix. All for free.What can you do if you need something like MS Office and you don’t have the money? I have a couple suggestions for you. or its brother StarOffice! For one thing, it’s free and for another, it’s downloadable. It’s huge, but once you have it downloaded and installed, it’s equivalent to Office. The product is a multiplatform office productivity suite which means that there are versions that work on lots of different systems including many different types of UNIX systems and Windows releases starting with Windows 95 on up to XP. It includes desktop applications such as a word processor, a spreadsheet program, a presentation manager, and a drawing program, with a user interface and feature set similar to those of other office suites. also works transparently with a variety of file formats, including those of Microsoft Office. Localizations of are available in 27 languages, with more being constantly added by the community. If you decide to get it, I recommend you install Java, too; since OpenOffice uses Java for things (when it’s available), having Java on your system is a seriously major benefit anyway. Other things use Java as well. Things like Browsers. Anyway, OpenOffice has so many features that I don’t have room for them here, but you can see its praises being sung in a multitude of places. Check it out on or it's a capable office suite on its own, EasyOffice boasts support for the ubiquitous Microsoft Office, resulting in a solution that's both impressive and complicated. EasyOffice features virtually every component an office suite needs, including a word processor, an image browser, a spreadsheet application, a database, a contact manager, an e-mail client, scheduler and calendar, and antiviral protection. Just about the only thing you won't find is a dedicated Web browser. However, since the word easy prefaces every application name, searching for a specific program can be a frustrating affair. Also, although the interface is highly intuitive, many of its pull-down menus are long and cumbersome. On the bright side, EasyOffice supports several languages and gives you options for compact and custom installations. EasyOffice also adds a rigorous backup system to capture and autosave data at different session points.

These are but two of the many free and downloadable office suites that are available. To see what is available, enter Office Suite as a search parameter on both and then find the one that fits your needs best. Don’t need all the software tools in an office suite? I’ll tell you about Word Processors in the next posting. Have FUN!