Office Suite Software is a key part of educational institutions, and every business from small start ups to fortune 500 companies. The problem is that this software can be very expensive costing hundreds of dollars for a single license. So what if you're a struggling student, a business having a hard time staying a float, or just trying to save some money. Here is where free and open-source software can help can help.
Go-OO is a branch of the popular free and open source OpenOffice.org software. Go-OO is free for all uses business and personal. The programs interface isn't as polished as MS Office but it does support Office binary formats(doc, ppt and xls), and the Office Open XML formats introduced in Microsoft Office 2007 (docx, pptx and xlsx), as well as the OpenOffice default format ODF or Open Document Format (odt,odp,ods,odg) which is also XML based. Go-OO includes Write which is a word processor, Calc which is the spreadsheet, Impress which is the presentation creator, Draw which is an application for creating graphics charts and diagrams, and Base for creating databases. Go-OO also has the native ability to export your documents as PDF files.
IBM Lotus Symphony is another free office suit which is also, compatible with ODF, Office bianary formats, and it can open but not save as Office Open XML formats. Lotus Symphony also has the ability to export files as PDFs. The Suite has a tabbed interface for easy switching between multiple documents, and a built in web browser, but doses not not have a graphic or database program like OpenOffice and Go-OO, and while it is Freeware it is not completely open-source.
Google Docs is another free office suite based on web technology, it is also free but requires an internet connection and a Google (gmail) account. Google Docs supports ODF files, and Office binary files, it contains a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation creator, and web form creator, while Google Docs may not be as robust as some desktop software it does have the advantage of allowing you to share files and collaborate in real time with any one else who has a Google account.
On the topic of office suite software you may have noticed there is a common format that all of these office suites support and that is the Open Document Format, ODF is even supported in MS Office 2007 SP2 and will be supported in MS Office 2010. With that being said I think its safe to say there will soon be a new de facto file format in the world of office software.
Now that you have been informed of some free options that you may not have known about prior to reading this post, before you go and pay for a proprietary software suite or even an upgrade, consider giving some of the free options mentioned here a try.