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Durban - In times gone by, the cost of a computer system was largely dictated by the cost of its hardware components. Today, software consumes a substantial chunk. This is especially true for subscription products like Microsoft’s Office 365 and Adobe’s Creative Suite.

The newer models of licensing offer the latest versions of the software product for a monthly or annual fee. Over the lifetime of the products, the costs can add up to be more via a subscription route than they might have under previous licensing models.

With many of us using our computers more for web-based services and social media than the traditional office suite tasks like documents, spreadsheets and presentations, software like Microsoft Office might not be as important as it once was. If your needs are basic, or you’re willing to adapt to slightly different programs, you could have the functionality you need, without the expense. Give one of these Office alternatives a go.

Option 1 - Office Online

My first alternatives to Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint are, um, Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint! That’s right you can access the products free. The caveat is it’s the online versions, which are accessed using a web browser via a broadband connection, and some of the more advanced features are removed. You can edit and create Word, Excel and PowerPoint files without having to install software.

All your files are saved, backed up and stored securely on Microsoft’s cloud servers, so they’re safe if your PC crashes. It’s also easy to share files via Office Online as you can send a link to a shared file rather than having to attach a copy of it to an email. Your correspondents can edit the file and you can see and collaborate on their changes in real-time.

To start using Office Online you need a free Microsoft account, which can be a Hotmail or Xbox Live account, or you can sign up for a new one. Head to www.outlook.com and follow the prompts. Once signed in, the apps are accessed by clicking the little white and blue squares in the top left of the Outlook.com web page (the “app launcher”).

Option 2 - Apache OpenOffice

If you prefer to install office suite software on your PC, or need to be able to work offline, Apache OpenOffice from https://www.openoffice.org has been a leading alternative to Microsoft Office. OpenOffice is free for business or home use on any number of computers. Features are pretty much as found in Microsoft Office, but users might need some time to find them all. Visit https://tinyurl.com/oouf2018.

I have more options for you next week, including an office suite that emulates the look of Microsoft Office. See you then.

The Mercury