Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tech Tip Tuesday- "Free" Alternatives to MS Office

If you are anything like me, you probably enjoy a good sale or a freebie now and then. The following programs are "open source", meaning they are free to the user (or they offer a free and a pay for use version). For those of you who are looking for productivity software that is compatible with Microsoft's Office suite but doesn't carry a price tag, you might want to consider using one of these.

NOTE: If you are taking CIS 100 - you will need to have the actual Microsoft Office 2007.

My current favorite is the Zoho Suite. This suite offers very easy to use word processor, spreadsheet, and database programs. In addition, you have access to a project management program, desktop sharing program for conferences and so much more. You can save your work in an office compatible format and these documents are compatible with MyVolStateOnline. If you are interested in starting your own wiki, you can also use the Zoho Wiki tool. Take a spin and see what you think. Setting up an account is simple and FREE.

Before I was introduced to Zoho, I used ThinkFree for most of my word processing and spreadsheet needs. ThinkFree has more of a "Mac" look and feel but is easy to use by all. The interface looks and feels like Microsoft and if you use multiple computers from different locations (for example: work, school, and home) you also get 1GB of free online storage. This makes it great for students on the go.

Two other solutions are OpenOffice and Googles alternative Google Docs and Spreadsheets. While I like many of Google's offerings, I haven't been overly impressed with this entry. If you use Google Doc's I'd be interested in hearing your comments.


Derek said...

I've used Google Docs, quite often, in my distance/online classes. I admit Google Docs is a poor substitute for Microsoft Office when compared to products like Open Office (I use Neo Office on my Mac, which is a version of Open Office). But for any sort of collaboration among students in an online class it really shines.

Everyone involved can log in to the same Google document and work on it together without having to pass around Word document attachments via email. It's all in one place already. Also, you can see what everyone else is writing as they write it. You don't have to worry about covering an area already covered by your partner(s) and its blatantly obvious if someone is procrastinating and not bothering to contribute till the last minute.

I didn't even realize group work was possible in online classes until I started using Google Docs. Now it seems even easier than classroom based group work.

Poppy said...

I have used Zoho with two students whom I tutor. We have had fun learning with it, but it has posed some difficulties. The word processing function is great; I have added tests and quizzes.However, the program did not want to accept many uploaded documents. Also, the portfolio jumbled comments that we left for each other. The wiki was great fun to learn. The students had trouble accessing it from out of state, though. They often travel for medical reasons, so the fact that they had trouble with the wiki while on their trips was a major obstacle. But, it was educational and fun...and free.:)The problems may have been more because of the user (me) than Zoho itself.

Raju Vegesna said...


Did you try Zoho Writer lately? Can you please let us know the issue you are facing so that we can help you.


Mia... A Tech Lover! said...

i use the google option for spreadsheets and documents. and i found yugma for desktop sharing/collaboration. i really like yugma for this! they have a free 15 day trial, i suggest trying it:


and they're integrated with skype, which cuts down on cell minutes and phone bills :)

Mary said...

Thanks for the yugma recommendation, I'll check that out, too