Review of final OpenOffice 3: Why buy Microsoft Office?

The final version of OpenOffice 3 is out today, and if you're looking to save yourself plenty of money, download it instead of buying Microsoft Office --- you could save yourself hundreds of dollars, and not lose out on many features.

I put the Windows version through its paces, and am about to download the Linux version as well. The suite has six full-blown applications: the Writer word processor, Calc spreadsheet, Impress presentations program, Base database program, Math equation editor, and Draw graphics program.

Given that the full suite is free, this is one of the best deals you'll find in all of computing. It'll do just about anything you expect from an office suite, whether creating documents, spreadsheets, or presentations. You'll find solid formatting tools, as well as extras including mail merge, macros, charting capabilities, and more.

OpenOffice works with an extremely wide variety of formats, including the OpenDocument Format (ODF) 1.2 standard, as well as documents created in Microsoft Office 2007 and Office 2008 for the Mac. You can even export files to PDF.

It won't, however, work with the newest Office 2007 formats such as .docx. At the moment, that's not a significant drawback, because those formats are rarely used. However, in the future this could cause some problems, so I'm hoping Office 2007 formats will soon be handled as well.

One of the suite's most useful features are its wizards, which walk you through creating spreadsheets, presentations, and other documents, as you can see below. They pay a great deal of attention to the task at hand. For example, you're asked for the output medium of a presentation before you begin.

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Most people will most likely spend most of their time in Writer, creating word-processing documents. It has all the features you'd expect, but some very nice extras as well. With a single click, for example, you can bring up a gallery of backgrounds, bullets, and other graphical elements, and then embed them in your document, as you can see below. You can even embed sounds.

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Writer is also useful for creating HTML documents, and includes tools for creating hyperlinks, as you can see below, and even includes the ability to create targets.

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Is the suite perfect? Of course not. The overall interface is just plain dull, and is not nearly as useful as the Microsoft Office 2007 ribbon. It also doesn't have the high-end features of Office 2007, such as QuickParts. You also won't find many templates.

Still, if you're looking for a suite to use at home or a small business -- or if your enteprise hasn't standardized on Office -- you should give this suite a try. It'll save you hundreds of dollars. And in today's economic times, that's a very big deal.

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