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For a number of years, the Microsoft Office suite was the market leader. However, the arrival of the open source platform has paved the way for new applications. One of Microsoft Office’s biggest competitors is OpenOffice and it’s been years since it has been available to use.

Basically, the OpenOffice and Office package offer the same products. If you want a word processor, there’s Word and Writer. If you want to create a spreadsheet, there’s Excel and Calc. If you want to make a slide presentation, there’s Powerpoint and Impress.

The biggest difference between the two is that OpenOffice was created to be a free version of Office. But how do you choose between the two office packages?

Free vs paid

One of the biggest advantages of OpenOffice over Microsoft Office is that it’s free. This can be a benefit for businesses that want to save on money, particularly money that can be used for strategies that will drive growth. After all, it makes more financial sense to install a free package on every computer than pay to have a package installed on each desktop.



Besides, both packages do perform the same functions. But although they may bear similarities, they do have differences in terms of how they are used.

Menus

Menu items aren’t exactly placed in the same place. So if you’re someone migrating from Office to OpenOffice, there might be a little learning curve involved. Then again, once you get the hang of it, everything else will just flow smoothly. Essentially, the basic functions are the same and if you can live with some features being different, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t want to use OpenOffice.

Tools

The great thing about open source software is it gets frequently updated and fast. However, Microsoft seems to have an advantage over OpenOffice when it come to creating tools for their office package. For instance, Powerpoint has a variety of effects for slideshows while Impress just has the basics. This means that more polished slideshow presentations can be created with Powerpoint.

OpenOffice’s database software can’t compete with Access either. Yes, it does offer data storage and retrieval but it’s not quite as sophisticated as Access. This might make a user accustomed to Access disheartened by Base.

In terms of word processing, Word has the edge over Writer. Yes, both are capable of producing documents but trying to open a document created using Writer in Word will most likely result in messed up margins and formatting.

Microsoft offers versatility and power but OpenOffice provides cost-effectiveness. What you need to weigh are how you are using the package. If it’s just for simple word processing or spreadsheets then OpenOffice does a pretty good job. However, if you want advanced features and don’t worry about paying for the cost of it all, then Microsoft Office is a good investment.

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