Monday, October 03, 2005 - Free your Files

I'd like to tell you guys about another awesome cross-platform, free, open source application that everyone should have. This program allows you to create word processing documents, create killer presentations, maintain huge databases of information, create spreadsheets, charts, and graphs to make all that data understandable, and even draw vector graphics for your charts. The program in question is

Now I know, that looks like a website I just gave, but it's actually the URL of the website, the name of the program, and the title of the project. is a powerhouse of an office productivity program that can replace MS Office for most home users. Add in the popular Mozilla Suite and even MS Office Pro can be replaced. But, what is

OOo (as it is called for short) is a program that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, vector graphics editor, database, html editor, math equation component, and presentation mode. Notice the wording of that sentence. It's not a suite that offers 6 programs; it's a program that offers 6 modes. It is a format called a works program, (which is where Microsoft Works got its name, but OOo is *much* better than MS Works!).

The four main modes of OOo are Writer (the word processor), Calc (the spreadsheet), Draw (vector graphics), and Impress (presentation). But with the one-program-different-modes format, a user can open any document that OOo supports from any window of OOo. It is a much more convenient way towork with multiple documents.

OOo is compatible with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, along with other industry standards, like WordPerfect, AportisDoc, PocketWord, and HTML. It can even export files to PDF with the click of a button! (A PDF export feature for Microsoft Office can be as much as $300.) And it can export graphics or presentations to Flash. However, the native format for OOo is a great way to save important data. It usually takes up less room that MS Office documents, and if anything happens where you can no longer open the file, the format is based on XML, which means the file will always be human readable (once unzipped) in any text editor. This means your data is safe.

Along with exporting to PDF, can also export presentations and drawings to the Macromedia Flash format (.swf). That means with this free program, users can create complete presentations using OOo Impress and then save them to Flash so anyone with a web-browser and the Flash plug-in can view them. No need to buy PowerPoint or download a special viewer just to watch a slide show. OOo does it right on your browser. This also means no need to buy the very expensive Macromedia MX Studio just to make simple Flash presentations.

Another assurance that your data is secure is the fact that the specs for the OOo native format are open. This means any programmer can write a filter or a program that will open OOo's files. So even if OOo were to disappear, you'd still be able to fully read your documents, format and all. Try that with some other office programs.

And, since is open source itself, there is no reason it should ever disappear. No company owns OOo, although it is currently hosted by Sun Microsystems. But the code is freely available for anyone to use, so OOo will always be available. And it will always be free. is truly cross-platform. That means you can use it on Windows (95 - 2003), Mac OS X, Linux, Solaris, and other operating systems. This is good news to anyone who has ever worked in a multi-platform environment. Some programs, like Microsoft Office, have editions of their software made for Macintosh, but it's not the same program, it is completely rewritten for Mac. This means that there is a learning curve when moving from, say, MS Office 97 on Windows to MS Office 98 on Mac. This allow means there are potential compatibility programs. This is not true for OOo. It is written in such a way to allow different "ports" to be made of the same program (the same source code) for each OS it supports. The features on the Windows port of OOo will be in the same place on the Mac port of OOo or the Linux port.... This can significantly lower the TOC for companies with multi-platform networks . It also means if you have a friend with OOo on Linux, and you need to do some work on a file you made with your OOo on Windows, you don't have to ask him were the spell-check is on his program.

For Mac OS X Users, I *strongly* suggest the NeoOffice port of It is more Apple-native in form and function than the "official" X11 port. NeoOffice does not require any strange dependancies that make you dig out your OS X install disc. NeoOffice is a great office suite and no Mac should be without it. Just like on other operating systems, NeoOffice is free, open source, and fully functional. is not some MS Office knock-off. It is a program with similar features to MS Office, but it also has features Office doesn't, like a vector graphics program, built in PDF/Flash export, and support of the OOo file format. It is compatible with MS Office, like WordPerfect, Lotus SmartSuite, and AppleWorks are. OOo is a great program that has a ton of features. And, of course, it is absolutely free. To get your copy of, or to learn more about it, visit the website: has a number of sister projects that have spring up around it to find of fill in the blanks that OOo hasn't gotten to yet. Many of these projects work closely with OOo proper and are run by people actively involved in OOo. One of the parts of an office suite that makes it usable is the "extras" that come with it: the templates, the clip art, the macros. in its basic download form is a little light in these areas. So here are some links that you may find useful after you grab your copy of

You can pick up your copy of from their website, where you can also learn more about this great application that is totally free!

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