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March 17, 2006

Free Version of Microsoft Office?

This isn't exactly a cut and dry answer as some might expect. While Microsoft Office, which is comprised of several different programs, is a retail product that you must purchase for several hundred dollars or more, there are alternatives.

First off, Microsoft Office is a collection of several stand-alone programs by Microsoft which are programmed to look and work the same. Which programs you get depends on the version or Edition, as Microsoft calls it, of Microsoft Office that you purchase. What I am is guessing is the most common Edition in the home market is called Microsoft Office Basic Edition 2003, which includes Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Outlook. This Edition is only available when pre-installed on a new PC, which is when I'm betting most home users purchase Microsoft Office.

Because Microsoft Office does have such a large user-installed base and Microsoft does recognize that not everyone has a copy of it, they have developed a viewer program for Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Powerpoint. These free viewers allow you to look at any document created by one of these programs without having the full version installed. You can download the viewer you need from the Microsoft Office web site.

With that said, there is a way you can create and manipulate Microsoft Office documents for free, although it may not be 100%.

The freeware suite OpenOffice has converters that allow you to open, edit, and save documents that are compatible with Microsoft Office programs. The caveat is that it is not 100%, but works out for the majority of people. The determining factor is how complex the document is.

If you don't already have Microsoft Office, OpenOffice is at least worth the time to download and install to see if it will work for you.

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