Office can’t create ODF files without a free third-party plug-in that you can to get here http://sourceforge.net/projects/odf-converter and install yourself. And the new Office 2007 Ribbon interface requires you relearn Office to do anything complicated.
Alternatives on the DesktopSomeday, online services will let you edit your documents as quickly and efficiently as desktop suites, but that day isn’t here yet. If you value speed and you prefer to keep your documents on your own computer, you’ll work mostly in a desktop suite. Microsoft so thoroughly owns the desktop market that any alternative suite needs to offer users a very enticing reason to try it. OpenOffice.org and the IBM Lotus Symphony Beta have one: They’re absolutely free. Corel WordPerfect Office has another reason: It’s different enough from Microsoft Office to spare you most of Office’s annoyances—for which it substitutes some of its own.
Alternatives on the Web
Don’t uninstall Office or WordPerfect just yet—the Internet isn’t available everywhere and all the time—but take a few minutes to try out Google Docs Beta, ThinkFree Office Online, and Zoho. They can’t match the feature depth in Word or Excel, but they make up for that with some unique advantages.
The Mac-style office application suite is excellent for personal and small-business use, but not ready for the corporate world.
This enterprise-level open-source Microsoft Office alternative is powerful and highly compatible with Office-format files (through Office 2003), but it’s marred by a dreary and complex interface.
IBM Lotus Symphony Beta
This free productivity application suite is based on OpenOffice.org, with IBM’s professional-level interface on top. It’s not as flexible or as advanced as MS Office, but it is one of the best desktop-based Office alternatives.
Google Docs Beta
Google Docs Beta is fast, elegant, convenient, and free—all of which adds up to an Editors’ Choice—winning online office suite.
ThinkFree Office Online
This free on-line office suite uses standard Microsoft-Office file formats for its default formats, making it the most Office-compatible of the online productivity suites.
This smorgasbord of free online services has more functions than any other MS Office alternative, but that doesn’t add up to a best-of-breed service.