Coming Soon: MS Office Alternatives for Mac

Open-source suite NeoOffice/J and the low-priced ThinkFree Office 3.0 will provide impressive functionality, but are short on support.

Major milestones were recently announced for two Mac OS X-compatible software suites that could provide an alternative to the near-ubiquitous Microsoft Office. The free NeoOffice/J, an open-source software development project created by Patrick Luby and Edward Peterlin, has reached its "first stable release," and South Korea-based Haansoft has announced that it will ship a Mac OS X version of its ThinkFree Office 3.0 suite close on the heels of the July release of the Windows version.

NeoOffice/J 1.1 represents the first "final" release of the office suite, which includes a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software, and a drawing application. It also offers improved text handling and bug fixes to the earlier Final Candidate release.

According to its creators, NeoOffice/J is compatible with most Microsoft Office files. Unlike some open-source office suites, NeoOffice/J users can drag and drop as well as copy and paste data to and from other applications.

In addition, NeoOffice/J uses a standard Mac OS X installer, presents native Aqua menus, does not require Mac OS X users to install and use X11 software, uses Mac OS X fonts and has native printing support.

/zimages/4/28571.gifCan the Mac do without Microsoft Office? Read David Courseys commentary here.

However, "NeoOffice/J is not perfect," the developers caution on their Web site. Support options consist of perusing online forums, such as NeoWiki and Trinity Forums. This has long been a barrier to corporate adoption, as many companies prefer to work with software companies that can offer support contracts.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read about the conflict over the inclusion of Java in OpenOffice.

NeoOffice/J, which is based on the code base, is distributed under the GNU GPL (General Public License), which means that users can freely create and share copies as long as they include the source code. In addition, users are encouraged to make and contribute changes, as long as these are, in turn, released to the public under the same GPL terms.

In contrast, the ThinkFree Office 3.0 suite will not be free, though it will not cost nearly as much as Microsofts product; Haansoft has not released final pricing, but the current version of the suite is available for $49.95.

According to Haansoft press releases, ThinkFree Office 3.0s main advance over Version 2.3 will be improved compatibility with Microsoft Office features and file formats.

ThinkFree Office includes the ThinkFree Write word processor, the ThinkFree Calc spreadsheet application and the ThinkFree Show presentation application.

Haansoft also publishes Hangul 2005 and Hancom Office 2005, which are popular word processing and office applications in South Korea.

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