Tech Talk: Can’t afford Microsoft Office? No sweat …
November 25, 2008
My scenario is probably familiar to many: I am starting to work from home, but I still need to collaborate with my coworkers. My company has looked into Microsoft Office, but at $499 a pop, it’s cost prohibitive. This business computer application is crucial to our small business, but times are tough. Any advice?
Out Priced, you’re not alone. Every small business faces this dilemma: how to let employees collaborate, manage information and share resources without breaking the bank. Never fear, there are now many free or low cost options available. Below find solutions that work for both Macintosh and Windows users. These allow you to share documents with your co-workers who are still using Microsoft Office. I’ve used each of these solutions to run my business for several years, and even used Google Docs to write this article!
Google Apps: http://www.google.com/a
Google Apps (beta) gives small businesses full-featured Microsoft Word and Excel replacements. Additionally, you also get top-of-the-line e-mail and group calendaring apps. The collaboration tools are easily implemented and let users of spreadsheet and word processing work together in real time. To top it all off, it’s priced right. The free version will meet the needs of most small businesses and upgrading to the Pro version is very reasonable. —
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ZoHo Office: http://www.zoho.com
Zoho is a suite of online applications that you sign up for and access from their Web site. The applications are free for individuals, although some have a subscription fee for organizations.
Open Office: http://www.openoffice.org
OpenOffice.org 3 is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write Microsoft Office files. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.
In this age of e-mail and instant messaging, faxing might seem fairly old school, but it’s still necessary business tool (i.e. faxing signed contracts). If you only fax occasionally, it check out these wonderful web based alternatives. Instead, use FaxZero to send faxes for free http://faxzero.com/. If you need to receive them as well, use the free jConnect: http://www.j2.com.
This week, iPhone users the world over will delight in the new voice-activated Google Mobile app. This is Star Trek cool. The search app actually senses when you bring the phone to your face to speak into it. This is a way to forge a deeper relationship with your phone: It beeps, you talk and then it executes a Google search on what you just said. (Wouldn’t it be great if communication with your spouse were this easy?) Reviews of this app claim that it is freakishly accurate. To get the app, go to http://www.itunes.apple.com.
Kings Beach resident Ernie Dambach is a self-admitted computer geek who enjoys helping others navigate their way through the digital world. His computer and networking company Tahoe Tech Group serves small and medium businesses, as well as the home computer users throughout the Tahoe Truckee region. Log onto http://www.TahoeTechGroup.com, or call (530) 550-0999.