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1Getting Out of the Microsoft Office

Google has spent the last several years playing on the periphery of one of Microsoft’s richest markets: Office applications. Now Google is launching a reseller program to accelerate the adoption of its Web-based Google apps. But Google isn’t the only one trying to challenge Microsoft’s dominance of everyday productivity apps-word processors, spreadsheets, presentations and databases. Several alternatives-many of them free-are attacking Microsoft. Here are a few alternatives worth considering.

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Google has made no secret of its aspirations around the office applications market with its Google Apps. The company offers word processing, spreadsheets, email, chat, calendar, and Web site design and wikis. Initially available "in the cloud,” Google has been working with its developers to make apps available to users offline too. Google’s new channel program is sure to accelerate adoption.

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Created by Sun Microsystems, OpenOffice works with Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems and offers word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and database alternatives. The community-supported open-source software is available as a free download.

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Developed for Mac OS and based on OpenOffice, NeoOffice offers word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and database programs. It’s drawback was once that it only works on the Mac platform, but that’s becoming less of an issue as the adoption rate of Macs increases. It’s compatible with PC productivity apps.

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Last fall IBM announced plans to launch a Microsoft-free PC, preloaded with Linux and IBM applications. IBM’s new collaboration software, Lotus Symphony is bundled in the new IBM hardware package as well, and includes word processing, spreadsheet and a presentation application.

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The Corel office suite includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentations, note-taking, e-mail and graphics applications. WordPerfect was sold to Novell in 1994 and then to Corel in 1996 and was once a big daddy in the word processing and office application space. While it’s lost most of its market share, WordPerfect remains a robust application set.

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ThinkFree Office is a Java-based word processing, spreadsheet and presentation package, available as both packaged software and "in the cloud." The desktop version works with Windows, Mac and Linux. The online version does not require purchase of the desktop version.

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Another cloud-based suite of office applications, Zoho includes word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation. Many favor Zoho’s more robust cloud productivity apps over Google Apps.

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Ironically, low-cost Microsoft Works is a worthy alternative to either Microsoft Office or any of the less-expensive or free productivity apps. More than just a glorified notepad of its birth, Works has evolved into a lightweight word processor, calendar, spreadsheet and database suite. It also includes hooks into Office apps, such as PowerPoint viewer.