Open Source–It’s for Windows Too.

There are a number of really good open source software packages for Windows. Here are some of my favorites and where to get them:

I have used all of these on Windows and tested them thoroughly.

OpenOffice, a full-featured office suite, is probably the best known. is a fork of Sun’s Star Office suite.

It does everything that Microsoft Office does and some things it does not. It has, for example, had the capability of exporting to *.pdf format for several years. No, it can’t open and read *.pdf files, but, if you mess up your export (as I frequently do), you can go back to your file, fix the problem, and re-export the file. It can also *.doc files, *.xls files, and *.ppt files, edit them, and save them back to the same format, though, sometimes, more advanced formatting is a little quirky when “saving as” MS format.

Open Office’s native format is the open document format, which works on any supported platform.

OpenOffice Calc, the , is one that I use frequently. I have not tried to do really fancy things like pivot tables because I don’t need to, but, for doing spreadsheets, I know it’s rock-solid. I’ve got one workbook that has 26 spreadsheets and would take 164 sheets of paper to print. It works like a charm. I enter the number here, and it goes there and there and there, just as it’s been told to.

I have been using OpenOffice for at least eight years, since version one dot something. For most of that time, I have also used MS Word (I am very good with Word), because that’s what customers want. OpenOffice is different, but it is as good. In some functions, it’s better.

Like Word, it uses styles, but expect a small learning curve. OO’s styles work differently from Word’s styles.

Total cost for the software: $0.00.

Dia, a diagramming program comparable to Visio. The Windows version is here. More information is here. (In another life, I used to do flowcharts, network diagrams, and so on.) It comes with a number of libraries of icons, including a library, a Cisco library, a standard network library, and several others. Files can be exported to graphical formats, such as *.jpg, for printing.

It cannot read or save to the proprietary Visio format, but, if what matters is the end result, it does the job and does it very, very well.

I drew the diagram here with Dia.

Total cost for the software: $0.00.

Pidgin, a chat program. It recognizes almost every chat format, including AIM. Unlike AIM, it is just chat. Different chat icons are available, but I lost interest in them when I realized that the icons in any chat program were for me, not for the person on the other end.

It’s not as pretty as AIM, but, unlike with AIM, there are no ads, no sales promotions, and no Weather Bug, just chat.

Pidgin used to be known as GAIM.

Totat cost for the software: $0.00, same as AIM, but with no hidden costs, such as ads or Weather Bug.

Pysol is the best program I have found. It has hundreds of variations of games, including card games, Mah Jongg games, and others I haven’t explored yet. It is programmed in the Python language, so it runs on almost every computing platform.

My favorite is a two-deck card game called “Double Canfield.”

Total cost for the software: $0.00.

You can find more open source software, much of which works with Windows, at Sourceforge.

A warning: Sourceforge is a huge site. Searching it takes some time. It gives you a great opportunity to practice making up search strings.

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