How would you like to save money on software, especially the most expensive software most people buy? It’s easy if you know the number one thing Microsoft wants kept secret.
Windows is Microsoft’s flagship product. Combined together, Apple Mac OS X, Linux, and every other operating system control less than 10% of the desktop and laptop market—leaving the rest to Microsoft Windows. But Microsoft doesn’t make much money from Windows.
A full license for Microsoft Office can cost you $250 or more, plus upgrade costs every few years. Yet, without Microsoft Office, your computer is practically useless in a corporate or professional setting—or is it?
Save Money On Software Using This Secret
Microsoft doesn’t want you to know that there is a full-featured competitor to Microsoft Office. No, I’m not talking about Google’s online office tools—those can hardly be called full featured. This competitor offers almost everything Microsoft Office offers and it doesn’t cost a cent to use.
Its name: Libre Office. Some of you might be familiar with it’s old name: OpenOffice.org—I’ll tell you why the name changed later in this article.
Libre Office provides similar tools for everything in Microsoft Office:
- Instead of Word, you use Writer
- Instead of Excel, you use Calc
- Instead of PowerPoint, you use Impress
- Instead of Access(the database application), you use Base
- A new drawing tool is included in Libre Office called Draw
But Will This Really Save Money On Software?
I know you’ve probably used freeware in the past that didn’t stand up to its claims. But Libre Office isn’t just freeware, it’s also open source software that’s been community developed for over a decade. It’s the primary office productivity software for millions of people—including me—and it offers some features not even Microsoft has, like the ability to extend functions in the easy-to-learn Python programming language.
Libre Office also does the number one most important thing for anyone living in a Microsoft Office-dominated world: it seamlessly opens and saves Microsoft Office documents.
None of my clients need to know that I use Libre Office. When they send me a Microsoft Word document or a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, I can just open it right up. Then I can make any changes and send it back to them—Libre Office won’t even make me press any extra buttons to save in Microsoft’s formats.
How Libre Office Got Its Name
I mentioned earlier that Libre Office used to be known as OpenOffice.org. This might confuse you when you discover that OpenOffice.org still exists.
OpenOffice.org was owned by Sun Microsystems, one of Microsoft’s fiercest competitors. But database company Oracle bought Sun and then closed down several of Sun’s open source projects. The OpenOffice.org programmers, fearing they were next, formed Libre Office to continue their work. They offered to take control of the OpenOffice.org domain name and trademark if Oracle no longer wanted them, but Oracle has so far refused to hand it over.
But, freed from the bureaucracy of both Sun Microsystems and Oracle, the Libre Office project has hastened development and also added add-on code which neither Sun nor Oracle would add to OpenOffice.org because they couldn’t control it.
That means Libre Office has taken a major step forward over OpenOffice.org and may soon compete with Microsoft Office not just because it helps people save money on software, but because it offers more features than Microsoft Office.
The Bad News About Libre Office
I don’t want to lie to you: Libre Office isn’t a perfect Microsoft Office replacement. I still think the cost savings more than justify the switch, but here are some things you may not like about Libre Office:
- It isn’t Microsoft Office. Anyone used to working in Microsoft Office at school or work will need to adjust to Libre Office. The toolbar buttons look different, the menu items are in different places, the configuration settings don’t use the same phrases, etc. This isn’t really a problem, but you will need to adjust. You get used to Libre Office really quick.
- It’s complicated to configure. One of the main advantages of open source software is that it’s usually very configurable—much more configurable than proprietary programs. But with additional features comes additional complexity.Libre Office has a slew of configuration options, making it hard to find some of the typical configuration options. Worse, many of these options are all bundled together in the same screen, so you feel like you have to look through endless configuration options just to change the default style.
Later versions of Libre Office might make configuration easier. For now, just think of all the money you’re saving—and that someday you might actually want to adjust these advanced settings.
- Advanced formatting fail. This has never happened to me, but it could happen to you. If you receive a document in a Microsoft Office format that uses very advanced formatting options, it might not display correctly in Libre Office. Worse, if you use advanced formatting in Libre Office, you might not be able to save correctly in Microsoft Office format.
That said, 99% or more of documents should be fine, and it’s always possible to get the text from a document even if the formatting doesn’t render perfectly.
Conclusion: Are You Ready To Save Money On Software?
If you’re convinced—or you just want to give Libre Office a try, remember that it’s free. As an extra bonus, it works on all platforms, so once you start using it, you can always move to Mac or Linux and continue to save money on software.