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Microsoft's Not The Only Game In Town

If you're like me, you use several Microsoft products every day: Windows, for starters. Word. Excel. PowerPoint. Windows Media Player. Huge numbers of you use Outlook for E-mail, contacts, and calendaring. Even if you've switched to Firefox or Opera, you probably use Internet Explorer for certain sites, such as corporate tools, that won't support other browsers.
If you're like me, you use several Microsoft products every day: Windows, for starters. Word. Excel. PowerPoint. Windows Media Player. Huge numbers of you use Outlook for E-mail, contacts, and calendaring. Even if you've switched to Firefox or Opera, you probably use Internet Explorer for certain sites, such as corporate tools, that won't support other browsers.

Microsoft software is everywhere on both corporate and home desktops. We use it all the time without even thinking about it. We may even like it. But is it wise to cede control of so much of our computing lives to one company? Deep down, I think even the most contented Microsoft users are curious about the alternatives, as shown by the runaway success of Firefox.Beyond curiosity, there are practical reasons to investigate other options, chiefly security and cost. Microsoft products are the favorite target of hackers and identity thieves. And you have to pay through the nose for Microsoft Office, even though equally powerful yet much less expensive alternatives exist.

In our story, "Kicking The Microsoft Habit," writer David Haskin set out to purge his desktop of Microsoft products. He explored several different options in the realms of office suites, E-mail and personal information managers, Internet tools, and multimedia apps. He had excellent results in certain areas--alternatives to Office, for instance--and mixed results in others. And he found himself unwilling to give up Windows: He's addicted to music services that simply won't run on Linux, and he wasn't about to fork over the cash for a new Mac.

But the point is he tried. While he wasn't successful in breaking free from Microsoft entirely, he's now leading a relatively Microsoft-free life. Maybe that's not for all of us, but we should at least explore our options. If you can't experiment on your work PC, there's always your home computer. Go on, give OpenOffice a try. Or Thunderbird, Google Calendar, or WinAmp. Break out of the Microsoft rut. You'll never know how refreshing it feels until you try.

Of course, our story only scratches the surface of the alternatives to Microsoft software that are out there. What are your favorite Microsoft substitutes? Add your picks in the Comments area below.