Although Microsoft has dominated the office software market for several years now, other apps have started to claim the wider public's attention. OpenOffice is the suite of choice for those who want a stable, free set of applications; but for those who need to work regularly with Microsoft Office, Ability Office 4.0 may prove the more workable solution.

Read our review of Microsoft Office 2007 here.

It's not a question of file format support, but rather the interface: on first opening up Ability Office Basics 4.0, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were working with Microsoft Office 2003.

The biggest change to the latest release of Ability Office 4.0 is compatibility with Windows Vista, but tweaks have taken place to ensure the crossover is as faultless as possible. Thus Ability Office 4.0 programs can now save automatically to Excel, Word or Photoshop formats, while some decent modifications to Ability Office 4.0 Write means it can save to PDF and has a built in spelling and grammar checker for English, French, German and Spanish – which is something missing from OpenOffice.

The Ability Office 4.0 Basics package reviewed here includes Write, Spreadsheet, Photoalbum and Photopaint. Write and Spreadsheet work pretty much as you would expect, while Photoalbum is a basic media manager.

The real surprise is Photopaint: it won't give Adobe Photoshop too much concern, but for the low price tag it proves a highly competent and very usable photo editor.

Ability Office Basics 4.0: Specs

  • 500MHz Intel Pentium III or AMD Athlon processor
  • Windows 98/2000/ME/XP/Vista
  • 128MB RAM
  • 60MB hard drive space
  • 500MHz Intel Pentium III or AMD Athlon processor
  • Windows 98/2000/ME/XP/Vista
  • 128MB RAM
  • 60MB hard drive space

OUR VERDICT

Ability Office 4.0 Basics is, unfortunately, a little too basic. Word and Spreadsheet are fair alternatives to Word and Excel, and Photopaint is a minor revelation. However, we would recommend spending an extra £10 for Ability Classic or Standard. If you just require one program to transfer files, say between the home and your workplace where Office is installed, purchase individual applications. Click here for our free alternatives to Microsoft Office

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