The number one reason people stick to what they know is because they don’t know any better. In my last article, I wrote that most people have no clue what alternatives are available in the software world. It’s hard to go out and look for an alternative that works. While there are tons of great resources to start with such as Lifehacker, many find it too tedious to constantly keep up with emerging technology.
Here is a list of what I think are essential open source applications that everyone should have, with the exception of web browsers. The following three recommendations are available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.
OpenOffice.org – One of the most troubling things about purchasing a new computer is that it doesn’t come with the tools that most people need to get real work done. By real work, I mean an office suite that includes a word processor, spreadsheets, and a presentation program. By default, we know these commonly as Microsoft Office, a.k.a. Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. These are brand names, yet we associate them almost entirely with what we expect from an office suite because of how ubiquitous they have become, much in the same way we substitute “Google” for “search”.
How much does Microsoft Office costs these days? Last time I checked, it was roughly $400 for the standard edition, give or take some savings here and there at Amazon or wherever you purchase your software. The student edition isn’t as hard on your wallet as the Standard version, costing only around the suggested retail price of $150.
We are so aware of MS Office because that is what the business and education sectors use for the most part. However, alternatives do exist. Sometimes they match MS Office in features or extend beyond what Office provides. You can buy Apple’s iWorks ’09 for $80, a savings of $70 over the student version of Office, but how does free sound instead? It sounds a lot cheaper, right? I thought as much. However, the $0 price tag shouldn’t come at the cost of functionality. Read the rest of this entry »