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Head to Head: Microsoft Office 2010 vs Open Office 3.3

For many an office suite is just as essential as the computer it runs on. But should you continue investing in Microsoft Office or choose the free OpenOffice instead? Karl Wright gets down to business and finds out in our review.

Value and Conclusions

OpenOffice is free and does almost everything Microsoft Office does. It's not entirely as clear cut as that, of course. You get more programs with Microsoft Office or, at least, more that most businesses will actually use. Probably not many businesses will need a DTP program, but a database and a note-taking program will be useful in almost any organisation. As infuriating as it can be, Outlook remains the most popular email client on the market.

Then there's the issue of support. If you buy Microsoft Office you know that there's professional technical support there to help you if you run into trouble. With OpenOffice you're at the mercy of internet forums. You'll have to decide whether this is a big problem for your company. In small firms, it may well not be a huge issue. In large companies, with lots of users asking lots of questions and, potentially, having lots of problems, it's bound to push your running costs up.

The pricing for Office 2010 greatly depends on what edition of the sutie you want

The pricing for Office 2010 greatly depends on what edition of the sutie you want.

Having said all that, you really can't argue with free. OpenOffice would have to be pretty dreadful not to be fantastic value for money - and it isn't dreadful. If what you need are the core functions of an office suite word processor, spreadsheet and presentation program and you don't mind an old-fashioned interface, you really can't beat OpenOffice.

So what's our final verdict?

Verdict

Winner: OpenOffice 3.3 – it’s not as slick or polished as Microsoft Office and we far prefer Microsoft’s tabbed Ribbon interface to the maze of menus, submenus and toolbars in OpenOffice and every other non-Microsoft office suite. Very demanding users who frequently create complex documents should stick with Microsoft Office, but for everyone else OpenOffice is our pick. You really can’t argue with something that is free and is, for the most part, really good.

Microsoft Office 2010 system requirements Operating system: Windows XP or later Processor: 500MHz processor Memory: 256MB RAM Hard disk space: 1.5GB free OpenOffice system requirements Operating system: Windows XP or later Memory: 512MB RAM Hard disk space: 650MB free

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