The Office Revolution

Over a decade ago, companies were scrambling to get a good office suite out into the marketplace. Microsoft had set their eyes on an idea titled “Microsoft Works,” Claris had one, Apple had another, as well as the ridiculous amount of independent programs including the etched-into-my-mind Wordperfect.

Eventually, everyone settled on the dominant force: Microsoft. Their leading product, Microsoft Office, sat on more computers than any other office application and offered some of the best features that rivaled anything a competitor attempted to put out. With the ability to make presentations, databases, pamphlets, documents, spreadsheets, and webpages among the many things it was able to do, Microsoft’s Office led the way for years to come.

But in recent years, a few new choices have emerged as people start to become sick of the “paid for” method and opt for much better uses of their money.

While not the first, Sun Microsystems released what has probably become known as the best & easiest free office application out today. OpenOffice is not only feature rich but free, an application that easily rivals much of what Microsoft try to provide in their Office suites. Featuring its own writing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications, users of the programs tend to find these days that everything they want working in Microsoft Office works a treat in OpenOffice.

There were problems initially with version 1 of the OpenOffice suite, issues with formatting and complete document compatibility being cited as the most common & frequent problems. Now at OpenOffice 3, those problems are all but a torn out page in a history book as OpenOffice has excelled past what I can only expect the creators had anticipated for it.

Document compatibility includes practically every format out there sometimes surpassing even Microsoft’s fussy file compatibility system, something which frequently results in a download from the Microsoft servers in order to get that random file working. Even Microsoft’s current dreaded XML based format (like .docx) can be seen as working with OpenOffice.

Just about the only thing wrong with the OpenOffice suite is that straight out of the box (or install as the case may be), the programs prefer to save in the proprietary OpenOffice format which is something that no other program can actually open.

Even with OpenOffice out there as stable & easy free solution, some people aren’t happy. They want to take their work with them, on the go, there for that random off-chance that they’ll need to open a spreadsheet or document when they’re nowhere near their home computer.

As a result of this, Google & Microsoft were locked in a war to see who could bring the first real usable web-based Office suite to the web.

Google won.

Based on the concept of “Cloud Computing,” Google Docs is one of the newest and most complete Office suites on the market. It doesn’t require any extra downloads nor does it require you to get that wallet or credit card out as Google Docs is free and able to be run from your current web browser.

To use Google Docs, all you’ll need is an Internet connection and an account at Google. Once you’ve got all of that, head to http://docs.google.com.

From there, it’s as simple as working out what you want to do as at your fingertips is an Office suite as collected as the rest. It’s not just the programs, though, as Google Docs uses the power of Cloud Computing, a concept that aims to allow you to take your information with you.

Based on the idea that everything you need exists in a central location or a “cloud”, future developments based off of Cloud Computing include laptops with just the bare minimum of what they need to work with downloaded information occurring in various places to complete your operating system & working environment.

Think of it as never having to worry about carrying your precious data wherever you go. No risk of stolen security as a login is required to see anything of yours that exists in that cloud.

Google Docs already has the idea of Cloud Computing sitting within its framework, a concept that provides users with space to store the documents, spreadsheets, and anything else they’re working on.

Not just that, Google also seem to have recognised the value that real programs have. We’re talking about tangible programs like Microsoft Office and the aforementioned OpenOffice as built directly into Google Docs files is the ability to export to proper formats that those applications will be able to read.

With both of these applications being big competitors to Microsoft, it’s easy to see that the fight for a free Office suite is far from over. At the moment, the ball is in Microsoft’s court with a proper web-based version of Microsoft Office in the works. We saw that with Office 2007, Microsoft were almost at that point with an application that relied on some element of the web.

What does this mean for all of you?

Choice. Choice is simply the answer in all of this as you no longer have to spend in excess of three- or four-hundred dollars trying to just find something that’ll let you write your documents anymore.

For more information as well as how to use any of the services mentioned in this article, click the following links:

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