Like 99% of PC users, you probably have Microsoft Word, Excel or Powerpoint installed on your PC. To get a copy of Microsoft Office you either:
- Paid about 400 Euro to get a legitimate copy.
- Got a copy from a ‘friend of a friend’.
While I’m no advocate of Microsoft, I think the 2nd option is wrong. It’s illegal and it’s theft by another name – either you want Microsoft Office enough to pay the money, however outrageous,
or you don’t and you have free choice to walk away. It’s also stupid, as there are good, low cost (or free) alternatives out there.
Some alternatives to Microsoft Office are listed below (and this ZDNet article lists some more). Given that most users only scratch the surface of available features, each of these is a ‘good enough’ replacement for Word, Excel , Powerpoint and in some cases , Access.
- StarOffice – from Sun Microsystems , available for about 50 Euro.
- OpenOffice – an open version of StarOffice , slightly more ‘techie’ but available for free.
- ThinkFree – an alternative to office that runs within your web browser (like Internet Explorer)
Why are these so much cheaper? It just shows how much profit Microsoft is making from it’s Office suite when products of a similar quality are available for a 10th of the price.
So should you switch? Realistically , you have 3 options:
- If budget is important and you as a decision maker can push through the implementation, then go for either Star Office or Open Office. While these have every feature users need, they look just slightly different. If you can encourage users to give them a try for the first few days, then they’ll never want to go back.
An example (heard 3rd hand) was a well known hospital in Dublin that tried , and failed to switch. The problem was that senior officers did not want to make the effort to change.
- If budgets are not a problem or if you use the extremely advanced features like macros, then stick to Microsoft office. If you don’t know what a Macro is, then chances are that you are not using them.
- Keep on using your illegal copy. You might have got away with it until now, but expect Microsoft to come after you as their (previously spectacular) revenue growth comes under pressure.
Go for either Option 1 or 2. For Option 3, expect Microsoft to offer increased incentives for employees to let the cat out of the bag, as well as new technical initiatives (building on the ‘Genuine Windows’ program to sniff you out. You have been warned.