ThinkFree has three main components - Write (a word processor), Calc (a spreadsheet), and Show (presentation software) - all of which are listed on the site's My Office page, along with your most recently edited files.

If you want a free office productivity suite but are concerned about document compatibility with Microsoft Office, you want ThinkFree. There's simply no contest.

ThinkFree Write offers two modes of operation when you open a file and see a preview screen. Quick Edit mode offers a minimal interface - a few toolbar buttons for simple editing, reminding you more of WordPad than Word.

ThinkFree Write's Power Edit looks more like a full application: menus, a rich toolbar, a ruler bar and even a drawing toolbar similar to Word's for inserting elements such as AutoShapes, text boxes, clip art, and pictures.

In fact, ThinkFree's Power Edit menu reveals a startling number of word-processing features, from columns and drop caps to AutoCorrect and table manipulation, such as merging cells, distributing cells evenly across the page, repeating header rows. Though it lacks support for wild cards, the find feature can highlight all occurrences of your search term.

You can add bookmarks, create table of contents entries, choose styles for your numbered lists, insert page breaks and use fields (including formulae).

ThinkFree Write allows you to insert images from clip art, from an image file, or directly from the Flickr photo-sharing service. Right-click on a misspelled word (which is underlined with a red squiggly line) and ThinkFree Write offers properly spelt alternatives.

There's undo and redo, zoom levels and the ability to save files as PDFs. You can also publish your documents to your own website using HTML that ThinkFree Write generates, attach ThinkFree or Microsoft Office documents to articles in your WordPress blog or other options.

The downside: loading Write or Calc can take up to a minute, and saving a small file takes about 10 seconds. The upside: ThinkFree hides your browser's menu bar, so when you use familiar keyboard shortcuts (such as Alt+F, O for File/Open), you are operating within the ThinkFree interface, not your browser.

NEXT PAGE: ThinkFree and Microsoft compared, and speed in use > >

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