By Josh Horowitz
Senior Staff Writer

Computer software has become an integral part of being a college student.
At the bare minimum, every student needs software that is capable of word processing, creating and reading slides and creating spreadsheets.
The most common package that contains all of this necessary software is Microsoft Office Suite.

A copy of Microsoft’s package can cost anywhere from $100 to $200, depending on which version you get your hands on. You already spend enough money each semester onbooks and supplies. Shelling out more money for computer software is less than ideal.

Fortunately, there is great news for anyone who doesn’t want to pay for Microsoft Office Suite.

There is an alternative that has been made available to everyone free of charge, thanks to thousands of dedicated programmers across the globe.

This software package is comparable to Microsoft Office Suite in every aspect; the only difference is that it is completely free.

The Open Office package contains software with the exact same functionality as available with Microsoft Office Suite.

The word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software look nearly identical to Microsoft’s, and if you have ever used Microsoft Office Suite, switching over would not be much of an issue.

Installing a copy of the software is simple: open up your favorite Web browser and go to http://www.openoffice.org. Once the page loads, hit the download button, which should automatically detect your operating system and download the correct installer.

Open Office Suite is available on all platforms, which means it doesn’t matter if you have a Mac or a PC you will be able to install a copy of Open Office on your machine.

The program is also available in multiple languages if you would like to install it in a language other than English, attracting a diverse array of consumers.

To those who are hesitant about installing software that is labeled as open-source, have no fear. The world-famous Web browser Mozilla Firefox is developed under the same premise and is licensed in the same way.

Open-source only means that the actual code that makes up the software is freely available to anyone who wants it. Open-source software is developed by computer programmers all over the world who believe in the common ideal that quality software should be freely available to everyone.

Overall, there is no noticeable compromise in quality between Open Office Suite and Microsoft Office Suite.

Also, any document, presentation or spreadsheet that you create using Open Office can be saved in a format that is compatible with Microsoft’s programs.
For example, if you are working on a paper in your room using Open Office, you can save it as a document file so that you can open it on the library computers and print it. If you are looking for a high-quality, free alternative to Microsoft Office Suite, then give Open Office a try.

There are also many open-source alternatives available to all different types of software. From note-taking software to engineering software, there are many different options to explore.

So just remember: next time you are looking for a specific type of software, there is a good chance that there is a free and open-source alternative that can accomplish the exact same task.

Horowitz is a member of the class of 2009.



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