| By Ian “Gizmo” Richards |
Anyone who’s read my column more than once or twice knows I’m a long-time advocate of free software, which is why only eight of the 40 programs on my laptop are commercial products.
Those eight are applications that simply work better than any of their free competitors — I’m going to tell you about five of them, and why I still use them.
Microsoft Office wins over Open Office
I’ve used Microsoft Office for many years, but a while back I made a promise to myself that Office 2002 would be the last version I’d use. Rather than contribute to Bill Gates’s coffers by purchasing Office 2007, I tried the closest freeware solution — Open Office.
I tried for two months. I tried to forgive Open Office’s mind-numbing slowness to load; I tried to work without many of the features I had become used to in Microsoft Office; and I tried all sorts of solutions to overcome file-format and feature incompatibilities when exchanging documents with Microsoft Office users. In the end, I relented and bought Office 2007. My life quickly returned to normal.
The real deal-breaker was Open Office’s lack of a Microsoft Outlook equivalent. Although Open Office has components equivalent to those in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, it has no e-mail client. To compensate for this omission, I tried several free products, including Thunderbird, Foxmail, and Gmail.
Sure, Outlook is bloated and slow. But for my work, its combination of features makes me far more efficient with my e-mail correspondence than with the alternatives. In particular, I like the way Outlook integrates my To-Do’s and tasks seamlessly with my e-mail work flow — it has no peer in any freeware product I’ve tried.