Five (Free) Alternatives to Microsoft Word: Page 2

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Google Docs and Spreadsheets

Some users might worry about a free office suite offered by a start up. Will it still be around once I get comfortable with it? With Google, of course, that’s not a worry – the search giant’s gonna be around for the foreseeable future. That said, for all Google’s wealth, this beta offering has yet to earn a reputation as a Wonder App.

Google Docs’s combination of a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool is seen as a straight forward, if essentially bare bones, competitor with Word. Users access the software over the Internet, which facilitates collaboration, and also makes it OS platform independent. However, Google Docs doesn’t have an offline counterpart, so if you’re away from the Net, you’re sunk (though rumor has it that an offline version will debut in 2008). More worrisome, some observers have raised questions about Google Docs’s terms of service, which includes this shocking clause:

“By submitting, posting or displaying the Content you give Google a worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit…”

In other words, Google can take any of your private documents and post it on the Internet. Yikes! Only an all-powerful tech giant would dare use legal language like that. A start-up would get laughed out of business by attempting to retain the right to publish private content. Why does Google even want this right?

Zoho Office Suite

A free online office suite, Zoho isn’t content to merely offer office productivity tools. Sure, it has a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software, yet it also offers Web conferencing, a database, a project management app, a Wiki…the list goes on (and on). There’s even something called iZoho, which allows you to view docs in your iPhone. The company claims it grew from 150,000 users to close to 600,000 in 2007. Zoho is building some buzz: it was one of PC Magazine’s “100 Best Products for 2007.”

One highly useful feature: Zoho has a plug-in for Microsoft Word that allows you to save your Word files to the Zoho servers with a single click. Unlike some free online Word competitors, Zoho allows you to open several documents in one window. The company offers free email tech support.

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