Cate Eales - Real Life Internet Solutions
Cate Eales - Real Life Internet Solutions

Real Life Internet Solutions

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Free Alternatives to Microsoft Word By Cate Eales

No question about it, Microsoft Word has become the standard-issue word processing software for Windows systems here in North America. Whether you want to use it or not, so many other people use it (even Macintosh people) that sooner or later you are going to receive a document in Word format. What then?

If you just want to be able to read Word documents (not create or edit them) you can download a free Word reader from Microsoft. (Granted the words “free” and “Microsoft” hardly ever appear in the same sentence, but in this case they belong together.) If it is not there by the time you read this, you can use a search engine like Google or Yahoo to search for “free Word viewer” and you’ll find the right place.

There are free alternatives to Microsoft Word if you want to be able to compose and edit documents that users of Word can also read and edit. AbiWord is one such program, available. It will allow you to open, read, edit and save documents in a format that Word users can use. The installation instructions say you just download and install the program, and you are good to go.

OpenOffice is another alternative. It includes a Word-like word processor as well as spreadsheet and presentation programs compatible with Excel and the dreaded PowerPoint. I have to tell you the installation process is not for the faint of heart. It’s better than it used to be, but you still have to make your way patiently through steps like this: “You should then type the location of the folder followed by "installsetup /net". For example, if you unzipped the files to "C:OpenOffice Setup" you would type C:OpenOffice SetupOOo_1.1x_Win32Intel_installsetup /net followed by Return.” Wow. Got that?

If you have Word and are thinking about trying something else, you can download one of the free programs and give it a try before you decide. And that brings us, finally, to a “word” about support. These are free programs. There are help files, there are online forums where you can ask questions and get answers, but a free program isn’t going to have a toll-free phone number staffed by knowledgeable people. By using a free alternative to a Microsoft program, you get away from having to spend a lot of money, but you may find that you are spending a lot of time figuring things out on your own. It could turn out that paid support is worth the price of the program.

Cate Eales has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible and fun for over 20 years. She lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric, and her dog, Sandy. Cate is a partner in Real Life Internet Solutions, helping individuals and small businesses with virus, spyware and malware eradication personal computer training and management digital image management music transfer and website design, hosting and management. Email Cate with your comments, suggestions, or questions. To browse the column archives, visit the Real Life Internet Solutions

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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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