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An Alternative To Existing Office Suites

ThinkFree Office suite uses the same file formats as Microsoft Office, similar programs and runs equally well on Windows, Mac and Linux. Best of all: the $50 pricetag.

Easy Installation

Installation of ThinkFree Office is a relatively painless process and takes only a few minutes. It requires a Pentium III processor, 256 MB of memory and at least 200 MB of free space, and ThinkFree recommends at least a Pentium IV and 512 KB of memory. As far as the operating system is concerned, ThinkFree will run on Microsoft Windows 98/ME and Windows 2000 (SP3 or later) and XP (SP1 or later); for Linux, it will run on Haansoft Linux Workstation 2005, Fedora Core 3 and Red Hat Linux 9 (over Gnome 2.6.2 or KDE 3.4); and for the Mac OS, it will run on Mac OS X 10.3 (Java 1.4.2 Update 2 or later), Mac OS X 10.4 (from August 2005) and over PowerPC G4 and G5.

I installed it on my laptop, running Windows XP with an AMD Athlon 64 3700+ processor and 1 GB of memory. ThinkFree ran excellently on my machine, and I had no difficulties with loading times or opening files.

Compatibility

ThinkFree Office 3.0. Price: $49.99. ThinkFree. (408) 432-5074. www.thinkfree.com/

All three ThinkFree Office program modules are similar in interface and function to their counterparts in competing office suites. Anyone familiar with Microsoft Office will find adapting to ThinkFree an easy transition. Not only does ThinkFree look and feel like other suites, but by using Microsoft file formats it allows for easy file importing and exporting. The lack of a proprietary file format also makes it easier to integrate ThinkFree into an existing network application architecture.

ThinkFree Write supports the following file formats: Microsoft Word and RTF (Rich Text File), Adobe's SVG (Scalar Vector Graphics), plain text and Adobe's PDF (Portable Document Format). Calc supports Microsoft Excel formats as well as XML, HTML, Adobe's SVG and PDF, plain text and CSV (Comma Separated Values). Show supports only standard Microsoft PowerPoint formats.

I was able to open a .DOC file created in OpenOffice in ThinkFree Write and found that nothing other than foreign fonts were changed from the original document. Spreadsheets made with Microsoft Excel with complex formulae and charts were perfectly preserved in ThinkFree Calc. PowerPoint files were the exception, with WordArt having spacing issues between letters. Beyond that, however, Show presented no negative issues. ThinkFree also seems to have no qualms with opening overly large files.

Final Thoughts

Unlike other word processors, ThinkFree Write allows you to save a word document as a PDF file. In my mind, that makes ThinkFree all the more valuable. Even in Linux, turning a word document into a PDF is a pain, does not always go as planned and cannot be accomplished in a single step. Also, the lack of a proprietary file format means that using ThinkFree in tandem with other word processors allows for a single file format that can be used throughout a networked office environment, thereby reducing interoperability issues that may arise from using multiple office suites.

ThinkFree does have at few oddities. Files created in Calc can be saved as HTML files, which seems rather odd; this capability definitely belongs in Write, not Calc. Also, being able to save a Write file as a scalable vector graphics document seems a bit unusual. Beyond these, however, ThinkFree seems to be relatively free of quirks.

There is very little reason not to use ThinkFree. When compared to Microsoft Office, it is incredibly similar--you would think they're almost the same application at first glance. However, ThinkFree's far more affordable price, as well as the few additional features it has over Office, gives it a very definite edge. It stands as a strong alternative to both Microsoft Office and suite alternatives OpenOffice and StarOffice.

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