The best free open source software for Windows

If you run Microsoft Windows, you owe it to yourself to try these 10 killer open source apps -- InfoWorld's top picks

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Get down to work with OpenOffice.org

OpenOffice.org is one of the tools most closely associated with the free open source movement. Encompassing word processing, spreadsheet, presentation graphics, drawing, and database functions, OpenOffice.org is a full-featured office productivity suite designed to compete with commercial solutions from Microsoft and SoftMaker, as well as SaaS offerings from Google and Zoho. It also serves as the basis for a variety of derivative productivity suites, including IBM’s Symphony and the Novell inspired Go-OO.org. (See my review of OpenOffice.org 3.1.)

Unfortunately, OpenOffice.org’s high profile has also made it a lightning rod for criticisms of open source development practices. A sprawling, sometimes top-heavy product, OpenOffice.org has been accused of succumbing to a kind of featuritis, with each new release trying to match or surpass Microsoft’s market-dominating commercial Office suite. Meanwhile, core deficiencies -- like the lack of a reliable import/export capability for Microsoft-formatted files -- has caused many IT organizations to take a pass on this free, yet fundamentally flawed, Office alternative.

But for users who don’t need to exchange data regularly with Microsoft Office, OpenOffice.org provides a capable set of tools for accomplishing just about anything a typical business user would require. The OpenOffice.org Writer application is comparable to Microsoft Word in terms of core features, and the Calc and Presentations applications are more than adequate for all but the most demanding usage scenarios.

Bottom line: OpenOffice.org provides a powerful business productivity solution for IT shops that are looking to save costs and for which Microsoft Office compatibility is not a top priority.

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OpenOffice.org is the quintessential free open source application, with numerous derivative works -- like the Novell-driven Go-OO.org variant -- providing an endless variety of custom-tailored solutions.
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