Review roundup: Dumping Microsoft Office for an alternative suite

There are alternatives for both Mac and Windows -- even if you need Office compatibility

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I consider myself something of a power user, but I appreciated these light versions because I typically don't need all the features of the full app. These junior versions load faster and, because they have fewer options, are simpler to use. I also liked the package's Omni Mail program, which is almost a dead ringer for Outlook. In fact, this whole suite looks so much like Office 2003 that, well, I found myself still craving something different.

Also impressive is Celframe Office Pro from Celframe Information Technologies for $129. Some will find this package attractive because, uniquely, it includes an Adobe-compatible Photoshop-like image-editing program and an image organizer. While I don't need those programs, I was impressed at how similar the interface and feature set of the core programs are compared to Office 2003, right down to the grammar checker in the word processor and a Microsoft Access-like database program. Office Pro doesn't, however, come with an Outlook workalike, which I missed.

The Celframe suite even includes an image editing program. ()

ThinkFree Office ($49) includes only word processing, spreadsheet and presentation modules, but it is notable because it supports Windows, Mac and Linux. Another version of the program works with ThinkFree's online office suite, a capability I didn't feel I needed. In the end, ThinkFree Office as a stand-alone product offered too little -- it didn't, for instance, have the grammar checker I desired or an Outlook-like program.

GoBeProductive 3.0.4 ($50) is pleasant but lightweight. It reminded me of "light" office suites like Microsoft Works -- pared down, easy to use but not particularly full-featured. However, I need the full array of features. I don't use many obscure features often -- which is why I can appreciate the ONE suite's junior versions -- but since I spend so much time using my office suite applications, I do need even the most arcane features from time to time.

Moving on

Each of this first batch of suites I looked at had its attractions, whether it be low price, simplicity or lots of modules. But none had the right mix of features that fit my particular needs.

A confession: As part of this investigation, I did give Office 2007 a try. And you know what? It's good. Really good. Microsoft got some guff for dramatically changing the interface of the core programs in the suite, regrouping items that had been in menus into a ribbon at the top of the screen of each application. While some reviews complained about this change, I found it intuitive, and it sped up my access to features that once were buried in the menu system. But, then, there was the price. I needed Office Professional to get all the modules I wanted. The price: $499. That's too much. Way too much.

So I decided to keep looking. In particular, I wanted to revisit a couple of suites I already was familiar with.

Corel's WordPerfect Office X3 beckoned because in the past I'd found it impressive. And I wanted another look at OpenOffice because I don't take leaving a partner lightly.

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