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Microsoft Office 2003 launched

Posted on October 23, 2003 at 10:00 AM in Software | Permalink

Microsoft has launched the latest incarnation of its Office suite, which will have full XML support for integration into web services. But some IT analysts are saying that Office 2003 will need to be very compelling for companies to upgrade in the current market.

For companies that did not sign up for multi-year licensing programs with Microsoft, the new Office package may not be compelling enough to justify an upgrade, said Joe Wilcox, with Jupiter Research.

In addition, companies may not like that they need to buy new server software to get the full benefits of many new features, he said.

As the above article also mentions, Microsoft has some competition from StarOffice and Open Office. Open Office especially because it's free, and has a suite of programs that do the functions of Microsoft Office (except for Outlook). Also Open Office's word processor, spreadsheet and presentation applications can all open and save the documents that come from the respective Microsoft Office applications.

I never use Microsoft Office anymore. Open Office does everything that I need an office suite to do. I'm sure there are functions that Open Office doesn't have, but I suspect that the vast majority of Microsoft Office users don't need those features anyway. Open Office's word processor even does that nifty red-underline of misspelled words as you type.

The only things that Open Office really lack are the features of Outlook. The calendar and scheduling tools, and the ability to synchronise people's calendars across a company or department (or both) using something like Exchange Server is something that the Open Source community is missing at the moment (as far as I am aware, there is Openexchange Server, but it's not free but does have some very cool features), so if your company still needs that, then I guess you're stuck with Outlook. But if you just need email, dump the bloat of Outlook and use Mozilla Thunderbird. It has all the features you need for email: multiple accounts, message filtering & sorting, etc. and it has the bonus being free. And unlike Microsoft's free email software Outlook Express, Thunderbird has a spam filter built in that actually works. I get 30-40 spam messages per day (and that's on just one of my accounts), but only about 5 of those would actually get to my inbox, the rest are automatically dumped into the spam folder. And the spam filter learns as it goes along, so the longer you use it, the less spam you'll see.

The main problems with open source programs like Open Office and Mozilla Thunderbird is that people either don't know about them because they don't have the funds to advertise, or people think that they're too difficult to use; that they're only for nerds who understand all the techno-jargon. This is just not the case, especially with Open Office. My advice: give them a shot. What have you got to lose? They're free and if you don't like them, you can just un-install them.

As for the difficulty objection, well, yes there is a learning curve, but it's shallow and it's worth it. There is also a huge amount of supprt for both Open Office and Mozilla Thunderbird. Open Office has all it's documentation online, including a Frequently Asked Questions section and How To section with step-by-step instructions on how to do things in Open Office. Mozilla also has a huge online support section including Documentation, Frequenly Asked Questions & a Suport Forum with hundreds of people who are more than willing to answer your questions, no matter how basic, so don't be shy! Oh, and you can post to that forum without logging in or registering, so you can be anonymous if you want to (but registering will help you build community)

So go on, give the free software a go. It's not just a toy for nerds, this is serious software that is far more stable and less resource-hungry (i.e. It runs faster) than the comparable Microsoft products.

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