Open Office.org, a popular open source office application is becoming a great alternative the Microsoft's Office suite. Here's why.
When the Mozilla foundation introduced Mozilla Firefox, the fire-breathing, website loading beast of a web browser, Microsoft was shaking in their boots, and rightly so: Internet Explorer's reign was over. One product was five years outdated and full of security holes, the other was cutting edge in every respect and super secure to boot.
Firefox's real secret sauce is not really the built in features, the security, but rather, it's the ability to easily add whatever feature or enhancement one can think of through extensions. Mozilla created not just a browser, but a platform that's extremely easy to customize and add onto. I can make it work just the way I work.
Another thing Firefox did was break the stronghold of pages that could only be rendered in Internet Explorer, opening up the internet to any browser, thus paving the way for further innovation.
Open Office is doing to Office what Firefox did to browsers: their creating a platform that works great out of the box, but can be customized to work just the way you want it through extensions.
In a sense, it's the same formula as Mozilla Firefox: an easy to use product with tons of features, the ability to add features through extensions and the support for the OpenDocument format (usable by a number of office suites) and Microsoft Office (not to mention direct PDF exportation).
The project is developing OpenOffice 3 (now in Beta), which has an interface reminiscent of MS Office 2003. The new version adds features, such as a start center, multiple page views, a zoom slider, margin notes, support for MS Office 2007 format and a re-designed (yet still lean) user interface.
The bottom line: Open Office, especially the new version, does just about everything you can do in MS Office, supports extensions to extend functionality and ease of use, plus it runs on just about any platform. Before you go out and spend $$ on a commercial program, give it a try!