As a small company, we have to maintain a tight IT budget. In 2005, we were still running Windows 98 and Microsoft Office 97. When Microsoft announced it wouldn't be supporting these products anymore, I knew we had to upgrade but didn't have enough money in my budget to upgrade both products. I played around with Linux on a spare machine but thought it was too risky to move all my users over to a totally new OS. To avoid major disruptions, I knew I had to move my users from Win98 to Windows XP. What made the decision easier was that upgrading Windows cost less than upgrading Office. Less costly and less disruptive— what's not to like about that? The problem was that I had no money left to upgrade the Office suite.

I then discovered an open-source software product called OpenOffice.org. Back in the day when Sun Microsystems was competing directly with Microsoft, Sun acquired an Office look-alike named StarOffice. Sun eventually turned over the code to the open-source community. That community enhanced StarOffice and renamed it OpenOffice.org. The product is now mature and stable. The latest release (2.2) is a viable substitute for Office 2007 and runs on most versions of Windows, including Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, and XP.

Because Office 97 and OpenOffice.org can be installed on XP at the same time, I loaded both OpenOffice.org and Office 97 after I migrated the users' PCs to XP. Users can now go back and forth between Office 97 and OpenOffice.org at their own pace as they get comfortable. Thus, it wasn't risky at all to migrate from Office 97 to OpenOffice.org to stay within my budget.

OpenOffice.org consists of six integrated components:

  • Base, which creates and maintains databases
  • Calc, which creates spreadsheets
  • Draw, which is drawing software
  • Impress, which is presentation software
  • Math, which creates formulas
  • Writer, which creates text documents

We don't use Draw and Math because we have no need for these tools. Writer, Calc, Base, and Impress can read and write to most versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint documents, respectively.

If you have budget constraints yet desire to keep your users up to date with the latest office software, give OpenOffice.org a try. You can read more about this software and download your free copy at http://www.openoffice.org
—Jack Miller, director of IT

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