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Hey, Chris...Where can I get a copy of Office?

Ummmm...Limewire? I get this question all the time from staff and students (who usually at least substitute "Dawson" for Chris, above).

Ummmm...Limewire? I get this question all the time from staff and students (who usually at least substitute "Dawson" for Chris, above). Usually their trial copy has run out or they're sick of using the crappy Works suite that came with their new computer (does anyone else really despise Works?).

I don't actually tell them to grab it from some P2P service, although I think that a lot of them expect me to just hand over the CD and license key since we run Office at school. A remarkable number of people really just don't get software licensing.

My actual response is usually more along the lines of "What do you need it for?" Invariably, they give me a funny look and then tell me that they need Word to type documents. The more adventurous might mention PowerPoint and/or Excel. I've never had anyone tell me that they need to

Simplify the challenges of today's workplace with the 2007 Microsoft Office system.

or

Meet their own particular challenges and those of their organization with the enormous power and flexibility of the 2007 Microsoft Office system

That, of course, is why Microsoft says we should be using Office. While I could see many businesses still using Office to its full potential (this is why we still use Office at my school as a teaching tool), the vast majority of educational and home users have absolutely no need for any of its bells and whistles and certainly no need for its price tag. In fact, as we look to tech refreshes over the next couple of years, as well as ongoing software upgrades, I can't imagine licensing Office anymore.

Sure, it's going to take some convincing in our Business department, but they do teach business after all. They should be able to understand the bottom line. OpenOffice is free and in 98% of the ways that matter, it has equivalent functionality to Office. I'll be glad to help them revamp their curriculum to focus on the use of a variety of software and Web 2.0 tools instead of teaching around Office.

Guess what else is free? Google Apps. While I tend to recommend OpenOffice to the staff who come looking for productivity software handouts, I've increasingly started pointing students to Google's online suite, especially now that it has added presentation support and solved its Linux performance issues.

Students need to type papers and create presentations. Ideally, they would have access to these documents both at home and at school (they can't very well say they forgot their homework if it's shared on Google Docs, can they?). As I've said before, they don't need to do mail merges. For these purposes, Google Apps really does excel.

As a full-time OpenOffice user now (at least when I'm not using Google Apps), I can say without a doubt that educational users aren't missing anything by using OpenOffice instead of MS Office, except the pricetag. There are a lot of slick features in Office; however, OpenOffice, especially with its 2.3 release, has such a compelling product, that slick just doesn't cut it anymore.

So where can my users get a copy of Office? Certainly not from the CDs buried on my disaster of a desk. They'd be much better served just downloading OpenOffice.