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I was surfing the net the other day, and I must be getting either old or I was just plain tired because I haven't a clue how I found this fascinating program. Its called Open Office 1.1 ( by Open Office. All of us who use desktop applications in which we need a word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation developer should take a look at this package.

Microsoft has the "lock" in the Windows marketplace with Office. The software giant has also migrated the package to the Mac. But what about that other OS, Unix? And this piece of software offers the magic word that makes all of us just jump for joy it's FREE.

For those of you who don't know, there are a tremendous number of FREE (no charge, no cost) programs available for Unix, just as there are for Windows. However, for office productivity suites the only item I ever heard about (for Unix) was Star Office, produced by Sun Microsystems ( But, a year or so ago, Sun started to charge for Star Office. Currently, the price for the home is $79.95 (MSRP). For education markets, it's still free, except for shipping and a media charge. Star Office also runs under Windows.

I had tried Star Office Version 6.x and truthfully was way under-impressed with its capabilities, specifically its poor spreadsheet offering. The majority of functions available in Excel or Lotus were missing, which made the package useless for me. I haven't tried the latest version, Star Office 7.

I just downloaded 1.1 onto my Windows XP system. Yes, that's correct, XP! It runs under XP and W2K, as well as Unix. Comparing it to Star Office, I was extremely impressed with the number of its spreadsheet's built-in functions. In fact, I opened one of my Excel spreadsheets without flinching. In addition, all the functions I used, which included standard deviation, if statements and percentiles, worked flawlessly.

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