Today we will be taking a look at productivity applications, as a continuation of the Tech in Tough Times Series. Microsoft office is the world standard in business, that is a fact. If your solution to document preparation doesn’t work with office, as seamlessly as possible then you are going to have a rough road ahead. In that spirit I’m going to introduce you to two free solutions that fit different parts of the need for word processing,presentation design and spreadsheet management, in short the most basic productivity applications.
Free is good and I love free software, or services. While I am willing to pay for things, I would much rather not have to, especially right now. Right now the name of the game is seeing just how long you can ride the free software train before you need to get off. These packages are very common, and widely used by a ton of people in the tech community, however I’m often stunned by how few people outside of the tech community have even heard of them.

Open Office Title BarOpen Office : Open office is a free office suite developed in part by Sun Micro systems. There is an application for almost any productivity application or task you are trying to replace, you can even import .doc and .xls files with little to no trouble. I love using this suite, and have relied heavily on the Portable app version of this for mobile writing needs. The only failing of the protable suite is that i need two different applications installed when moving in between mac and PC, which I do quite frequently. But for workstation use this software package simply cannot be beat, the only problem area is in importing heavily modified and formated content. For instance if you attempt to import a resume from office to Open Office you will have a decent amount of reformmationg to do to get it back that way you would like it. I have seen a recent uptick in adoption of Open Office since Microsoft Office 2007 came out. People simply don’t like the new interface, and would much rather stick with existing conventions.

Google Doc Title BarGoogle Docs : Google Docs is slapped with the beta moniker as so many Google products still are. But i love this service for their simple plain versions of word prescessing applications and for spreadsheet management. I just can’t get into the presentation designer, with an application like that i like having all the featurtes on hand. Orginally pieced together from different acquisitions of Writely, and a program called Spreadsheets Google docs puts the most basic features at you fingertips, in a web client, regardless of platform. With the addition of Google Gears you can even work offline. The colaberation tolls with the different pieces of Google Docs as a who;le make them great for group editing sessions of large documents, and has even produced some performance art style spreadhseet design.

Between the two choices I use Google Docs as my notepad, i write down rough ideas and scraps of content that i need to be able to access the world over. While i use Open Office for finished work. When it comes time to produce copy and format for wider use the full feature set of Open Office really starts to show its power. Either way you have two very serviceable popular alternatives to Microsofts Paid Productivity solution.

There are plenty more productivity applications out there, feel free to submit any others that you enjoy