While Microsoft's Office continues to dominate the general market, in recent years corporate desktops have begun to adopt either Star Office 8.0 or OpenOffice.

The latter alone accounts for more than 60 million downloads. It's not hard to see the appeal of such alternatives. OpenOffice is, after all, free and has a comprehensive feature set.

Office - the free alternatives

OpenOffice is available only via download. However, it's now up to version 2.2, which offers a bunch of cosmetic changes to the interface.

The core applications of OpenOffice 2.2 are just as you would expect, comprising a word processor, spreadsheet, database, drawing application and a presentation package. Writer, the OpenOffice 2.2 word processor, isn't as snazzy as Microsoft Word 2007, but includes a few elements Microsoft has only just caught up with – such as the ability to save to PDF.

More important to most users is the fact that compatibility and performance have been greatly improved, with OpenOffice Writer capable of opening multiple file formats. OpenOffice can merge documents as emails, but the support for macros in StarOffice doesn't extend to OpenOffice 2.2.

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