and other heavyweights roll out more Microsoft Office challengers
Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business
October 9-15, 2007; issue 937
High Tech Office column
we looked at Apple’s new iWork ’08, a $79 software package with word
processor, presentation software and new spreadsheet taking aim at
Microsoft Office customers – at least the ones using Macs.
Since that release, other technology giants have lined up to wean users
from Microsoft’s Office suite.
In no particular order:
Google previously offered online word processing and spreadsheets as Google Docs
now it’s added Google Presentations to the mix, letting users, at least
in theory, get by without Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint.
with its other Google Docs partners, it’s relatively bare-boned. It
offers text and graphics, but no fancy media types, and it requires
Internet access to use. Users can work with existing PowerPoint files,
at least if they’re under 10 megabytes. Google Apps are available free
or as a $50/user première edition with added features and support.
the various Google Docs components offer relatively basic feature sets
and only work online, Google is also making Sun’s heavy duty Star
Office suite available as part of its free Google Pack (pack.google.com
for Windows XP and Vista users. (The pack also includes other free
stuff: security programs and more. XP users may like the included
Google Photo Screensaver.)
Not to be left behind, Yahoo got into the MS Office replacement rat
pack with its purchase of Zimbra Inc
The company’s software handles e-mail, contacts, shared calendar,
search and voice-over- Internet protocol (VoIP). It’s usable online and
off and is challenging Microsoft’s Outlook and Exchange Server for
IBM took two stabs at Microsoft Office. First,
the company announced that it was assigning a team of software
developers to add tools from IBM’s Lotus Notes product to allow
OpenOffice.org to offer an alternative to Microsoft Outlook in its free
Office-competing software suite.
The following week, IBM went one step further and announced its own
office suite. Like Sun’s Star Office, the new Lotus Symphony
is based on the OpenOffice.org suite. It has a word processor,
spreadsheet and presentation modules that can open standard Microsoft
Office documents, though not documents saved in the new Microsoft
Office 2007 file formats.
Longtime computer users may remember
the Lotus Symphony name. It was last used on a 1980s spreadsheet
package that failed to gain much of a user base. During the late 1990s,
IBM marketed an office Lotus SmartSuite to compete with Microsoft
Office. However, unlike that IBM product, which was last updated in
2002, the new Lotus Symphony is being made available for free download.
which boasts nearly 100 million downloads, just released version 2.3,
which takes a page from the popular Firefox web browser, by allowing
developers to create add-ons to extend that product’s functions. There
aren’t many OpenOffice.org add-ons available yet, but that sort of
customization has proved very popular with Firefox users.
all these competitors to Microsoft Office can work with documents in
Microsoft’s widely-used doc, xls, and ppt file formats, all are also
supporting the OpenOffice.org Open Document Format, which (unlike
Microsoft Office 2007’s new Office Open XML format) has been adopted as
an ISO standard.
Despite the increased challenges, Microsoft
Office continues to hold an estimated 90% of the office productivity
market. The company has stated it has no plans to lower prices.
you’re using Microsoft Office 2007 but prefer the menu and toolbar
interface used in previous Office versions, you may want to take a look
at Patrick Schmid’s Ribbon Customizer (pschmid.net
It adds a button to the Office 2007 ribbon bar that lets users switch
between Microsoft’s new interface and the menus and toolbars that many
have grown comfortable with. It’s available in free and $30
Professional versions. The free version works fine for me. •