OpenOffice offers the most commonly used features of Microsoft Office; it looks more like Office 2003 but will read Office 2007 files. As it is free, unlike Microsoft Office, you don’t need to pay for it however many copies your organisation needs. Voluntary organisations, local authorities, schools and governments are now using it.
You can download it from www.openoffice.org. When you first run it, it asks for a name to put in document properties; if more than one person is going to use it, you can leave that blank. Optionally, you can register with Sun, who maintain the software.
When you open your first document, go to Tools>Options which will let you add more information to the document properties; under View, you can change the icon style; under Load/Save>General choose whether to save backups and alter the time between automatic saves; under Load/Save>Microsoft make some things automatically saved in MS Office compatible formats; under Language>Writing Aids turn on automatic spell-checking; under OO Writer>General alter the measurement unit if you prefer inches to centimetres. As with most free software, choice is built in to the program.
When you save a new document you will be offered the new international format, ODF, but, if you click on the down arrow to the right of the ODF format, you will find a list of alternatives including the XP .doc format. When you save a document that is already in a Microsoft format, you will be offered the chance to save it in ODF but, if you are always going to use Microsoft formats, you can turn this off.
More on using OpenOffice Writer which is a direct replacement for Word next time.
**Author: **John Hudson **First Published: **February 2010