OpenOffice.org is a free software office suite, available from the website of the same name. Most people just shorten the name to "OpenOffice," but the ".org" is really part of the software’s name. Why is that part of the name? Good question. Why should I use it? Because you can!
OpenOffice gives you compatibility with Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents. You can easily open Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents, edit them, and save them again in their resepective formats. This means you can use a free program, instead of paying $300+ for a retail copy of Office. (There is a special, cheaper version of Office for Students and Educators, but the license drastically limits what you can do with the program.)
Where did OpenOffice.org come from?
Originally, there was an office suite marketed in Germany by a group of German developers. Sun Microsystems Sun’s website) purchased this suite and marketed it as Star Office, version 4.
Sun released the source code for the suite but retained the copyright and ownership. The license granted by Sun allowed free distribution of free copies, and changes to the programs. Sun retained all rights to commercially distribute the office suite and any future versions developed by the Open Source community.
Sun continues to market Star Office, which includes the latest version of OpenOffice.org plus more fonts, more "themes," a database, and other add-ons.
It’s a Free Office Suite?
That’s right. It’s free to use, free to download, free to share!
How transparent is it?
Can I default to MS Office file formats?
YES! OpenOffice.org allows you to set your default file formats for each program. It will also warn you, when you save in something other than OO.o’s file formats, that you might be losing special OpenOffice.org functions. The safest thing to do is to save in OO.o’s native format and then save in the corresponding MS Office format, to have your original available "just in case."
Does it look just like Microsoft Office?
Almost. Of course, OO.o makes files that look just like MS Office files, so the various functions have to be similar.
What about neat, new functions?
Of course, OpenOffice.org has a number of capabilities that are not in Microsoft Office programs. One that jumps right out and grabs you is the ability to save in Adobe Reader (.pdf) format. This is as simple as (1) being in the word processing program and (2) pressing the "Make PDF" button on the tool bar. If you’ve defined a print area, then that is what is converted to a .pdf file.
Downloading and Afterwards – Version 1.x
Downloading OpenOfice.org is an easy step at the OpenOffice.org website. With Windows, you download a .zip file. For Windows XP users, there is an unzip program built into Windows — just double-click on the OpenOffice file, wherever you saved it. For Win98/WinMe, you’ll need an unzip program like WinZip. There are also free versions available.
When you unzip OpenOffice version 1.x, you get a directory full of a bunch of files that don’t appear to make any sense. That’s because, as a Windows user, you’re looking for Setup or Setup.exe. Scroll down and you’ll find it.
If you know you don’t have Java installed, you ought to download and install it before installing OpenOffice, as some of the features use Java. Or, you can start the OpenOffice installation — you’ll get to a point where it will look for Java. At that point, you can pick which version you have installed (if you have more than one), decide to install OpenOffice without Java and have some reduced functionality, or exit the Setup program and go get Java.
It’s easier to go to Java.com and download the current version first. In the top right-hand section, they have a button which will test to see if (a) you have Java and (b) if you have the up-to-date version.
If you need to download it for Windows, you have two choices:
- download it and run the install from your hard drive (labelled "Offline Installation"). This is, convenient if you have several machines you want to install it on), or
- "download and install" (labelled "Windows (XPI)"
Downloading and Afterwards version 2+
OpenOffice.org, as of version 2.0 for Windows, now arrives as the usual installation file that does it all. Download the 77MB file and double-click on it. The only unusual thing is that OpenOffice.org will let you choose where to temporarily store its unpacked installation files. The default is the Desktop — that’s a great place, so you can find them to delete them later. Installation is smooth and easy.