When I say “word processor”, what do you think of? A boring junior college class, probably. For me, the trusty friend of my studies, Microsoft Office. My dear go-to, idea catcher, and my ramble recorder. It also costs hundreds of dollars, depending on the package. So out with the old and in with the free. Don’t worry Microsoft; you’ll always have a place in my heart.
Jump on our search engine, we deploy a search using the phrase “free word processor software.” The first contender that pops up is Apache OpenOffice (to download it and not read my fun story, click on the blue link before this short ramble). At the time of this blog, it was in the blue corner, weighing in at 137MBs, and wearing the number 4.1.1. OpenOffice’s main site talks about 20+ years of software development and easy to use functions. Further spelunking shows the product is an offshoot of Oracle’s product of same name, except the programmers wanted to keep everything free. Ain’t they just the sweetest?
Reviews for word processors came out of the next link, Cnet. That website, and others, state over 761k+ weekly downloads, close to 200 reviews, and a solid 4.5 out of 5 rating. With over 6.5M total downloads (OpenOffice’s own website claims that all versions total over 100M downloads), even Wayne and Garth are worthy of it.
In the time it takes for a movie trailer to reveal the most important parts of the movie, the software installs. After an easy Wizard page, it gives us the options to make a
Drawing (a lot like a photo editor without any frills)
Formula (more algebraic formulas than witch-like formulas. Sorry, Jessica Lange)
A growing database of over 1,500 searchable online Templates, the OpenOffice community provides a variety of business centric tools, including resumes, calendars, invoices, budget spreadsheets, sample books, and more. My search for MindMap (a way I organize my thoughts) came up with squat, yet a search for “mind” came up with a Home To-Do list (my wife’s influence knows no bounds).
There is even a guide for those shortcut macros you use all the time (you tell people you use them but you don’t really, do you? Neither do I).
My top concern at this time is “can it open my old files and not make them look like gibberish?” Sure, I create things, but I’ve done a lot in my years using business tech. Taking a page out of Tony Stark’s playbook, I’m try and crash the software with the most fiendish document known to man: my dissertation, aka the Necronomicon. Hundreds of pages, screenshots, graphs, and knowledge laced stats empower this beast of file, all forged in the depths of hell known as dissertation isolation (I’m only kidding here…I had some amazing help making this awesome research, and it was a blast a times, but that doesn’t sound as fun as calling it the Necronomicon).
Results: it opened fast. The font, spacing, pictures, etc. all stayed the same. Scrolling through it and making edits were a breeze.
In ten seconds flat, PDF format exists. However, in haste of using free, software, Adobe Acrobat needs installation. An easily correctable download and 72 mbs later, we are PDF-friendly. The Necronomicon looks great.
How about my defense for the Ph.D.? Does it open and save PowerPoint the same way? Not quite. While still good, the colors and font mismatch to the original. On the plus side, it converted a 5MB file in a matter of seconds. Also, it supports handout formats, with space for notes and doodles.
Same with their spreadsheet. As for the drawing and math applications, knock yourself out. They “look” good, but we will focus on a free photoshop software later.
As for technical support, a great survival guide in the forum exists (a search for “pretty pictures” provide a walk-through on how to fix grainy images in your work), as well as tutorials, beginner guides, and discussions of specific functions. Never fear; there are people you can pay for help but their prices are not listed.
My current complaint is that it does not work as fluently with screen captures as MS Office. If I see something on the web and I don’t want to write it all down, I take a screen shot and paste it into a document. Then MS Office allows me to crop out the area I want. OpenOffice does allow cropping; it just takes a lot more work and I have yet to find a quick edit.