How suite it is

Want to rebel against Microsoft’s hold on the office software market? Here are some ways to get Linux on the company desktop, and a few of them are even free.

Organizations wanting to use Linux on the desktop need to provide office software for their users. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t offer a version of its Office suite for Linux. All is not lost, though; you can find Linux alternatives. These alternatives are good enough that you can run Linux as the only operating system in your organization if you desire. Most of the alternatives are free, too.

The most common choice for a Linux office suite is OpenOffice.org. Billed as a drop-in replacement for Microsoft Office, OpenOffice.org is packed with features. The OpenOffice.org suite is also large in terms of memory and processor usage. On the good side, OpenOffice.org runs on Linux, Windows, MacOS X, and other operating systems. You can use the OpenOffice.org suite to replace the expensive Microsoft Office even without converting your organization to Linux.

Support for Microsoft file formats is pretty good, but not perfect. Elements in Word documents such as section headings sometimes appear differently, but most documents convert without problems. This allows corporations to avoid the expensive fees for Microsoft Office, since OpenOffice.org is free, and it allows Linux users to participate in the Windows-dominated world of business computing.

You can also purchase a commercial version of OpenOffice.org, called StarOffice, from Sun Microsystems. This is useful for corporations that only want to buy software and who also want professional support. Anywhere Office and Anywhere Desktop, from VistaSource, provides another commercial office suite. VistaSource, though, is clearly promoting realtime data analysis products instead of Anywhere Office.

Other choices for Linux office suites include Siag–billed under the self-deprecating slogan “It Sucks Less”–and KOffice, part of the KDE desktop environment. Siag has the best truth in advertising for their applications, such as the PatheticWriter word processor.

Using a special package to run Windows software under Linux, you can even run Microsoft Office. Both WINE and the commercial product CrossOver Office from CodeWeavers can run Microsoft applications on Intel-architecture Linux systems. CodeWeavers offers support, something important

If you prefer a best-of-breed approach instead of an all-in-one suite, I recommend AbiWord for a word processor and Gnumeric (pronounced numeric) for a spreadsheet. AbiWord looks and feels very much like Microsoft Word. The program is relatively small for a word processor, with a snappy user interface. AbiWord runs on Windows, and MacOS X too, along with a host of other operating systems. Gnumeric supports many of the functions provided by Microsoft Excel.

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