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Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Office Applications

Let's take a quick look back at the top picks from our roundup.

As far as Office Suites go, provides the best collection of applications. Writer, Impress, and Base are the closest thing to their MS Office counterparts available. Calc is a fine application as well, though GNUmeric is slicker and slightly better suited to open Excel files. Dia, from GNOME Office, is a powerful and fluid diagram creator. Scribus is essentially the only name in FOSS desktop publishing. KOffice has the Calendar, Address Book, and Project Management categories pretty well locked down with KOrganizer, KAddressBook, and KPlato (respectively). KDE also has the top-notch personal finance applications, KMyMoney and Skrooge, to replace Quicken. Note that GNOME Office's GNUCash is the only viable QuickBooks-class option for small business finances.

I can't argue with those who say that Microsoft Word has features that open source word processors do not. However, the last time I used MS Office was back when the 2003 release was out. That version had a million different features, and I only ever really used about 50 of them. I have to imagine that most folks are in the same situation, and it just so happens that OO.o Writer, AbiWord, and KWord also have the features I most commonly need.

If you're hesitant to switch to Linux because of an open source program not living up to the proprietary standard, check out the Windows version first. I wrote part of this article using AbiWord, instead of my usual Writer. Do I like it better than Writer? For some things I do (readability), and some I don't (default file type), but I don't really care that much; they both do the job.

You have to be honest with yourself and think about the specific capabilities you actually demand from a productivity-oriented title. I'm betting that, for most people, those features are all relatively basic and available in most competing office products. Let's face it. Office apps aren't sexy. Nothing new or ground-breakingly innovative has happened to office applications since the spell checker. MS Office has this strangehold on productivity applications because that's what we all used on our last computer, and the one before that, too. But what value has MS Office really added in the past decade?

The fact is, FOSS software can be a game changer. I have personally saved thousands of dollars using free alternatives to proprietary software. The only way to find out if you too can save some cash is to try these apps out for yourself. Click through some of the links and get downloading. The next time you are going to write a letter, use OO.o Writer instead of MS Word. Try GNUmeric instead of Excel for a small budget, or use Scribus to create your own business cards.

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