Edit 1: Updated 13 December 2008
I’m currently conducting an experiment, as I move towards my bid to become a bootstrapping Design-Entrepreneur. I have 2 objectives. The first is to install as little software as possible on my computer and use everything online as I work with many different computer systems.
Next I’ve always wondered can a Designer, corporate or freelance, be productive without having to buy any of the established software products like Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator or Rhino3D. Can there be good free/open sourced software alternatives for my designing needs?
So I’ve installed a few, removed quite a few more and as a result have formulated some suggestions and recommendations. My conclusions is yes you can survive, but do expect some lowered productivity, simply because of file compatibility issues.
The Cream de-la cream of my the free software experiment. This is because it mimics almost exactly the offerings Microsoft has in their Office Suit. I used it quite a bit, and found it pretty good though a bit slow and buggy (hangs occasionally). Unfortunately as the majority of my documents are Microsoft based, the conversion compatibility between the two is a problem. A friend of mine who runs an Internet security business, uses it exclusively and has no problems at all. The built in PDF export makes the documents an all platform performer.
I’m sure by now most of you have heard of Google Docs, part of their online OS offering. In terms of compatibility with Office it is all there, except with Powerpoint, where it tends to miss out formatting and graphics. That is expected as Google CEO has indicated that “Google’s web applications have different feature sets and don’t have all the functionality of Microsoft’s suite.” However the usefulness for me is limited as I find it a hassle for me to upload the documents. However Google Docs is great for sharing documents though.
This time lets look at AbiWord a dedicated WordPressor that, just like the Write of openoffice, is an open-source alternative of Microsoft Word. I picked Openoffice in favour of this as the former was the complete suit. However if you want a dedicated wordpressor this is about as good as it gets. Unfortunately it still has Word compatibility problems just like Write.
Jarte is “A free word processor based on the Microsoft WordPad word processing engine built into Windows.” It is probably worth mentioning here as most computers have WordPad already built in for free. Not only that it is compatible with Word as well. It is a great little product, but I have problems with the Microsoft GUI, so it did not stay long on my PC.
This is my current word processing editor of choice. I like it as it completely rethinks what a word processor should be. Inspired by the simplicity of a type writer, this light weight full screen word processor focuses on one thing writing. Not only that, important things such as word count, page count and spell check etc. are all present. Oh and if in doubt hit F1. The only complaint I have that is lacks formatting, so you will need to get it into another program to add it.
Do stay tuned for more updates with me adding new programs as I find them!