Google Docs for the Financially Challenged
Warning: Savings Opportunity
How NOT to Upgrade
Call me tight-fisted if you will, but I am one of those software users that often refuses to update applications just because there is a newer one available.
If the old version still does what I need it to do, then I am more than happy to sit on my hands (and wallet) and stick with what I have. In fact, my Office Suite 2003 is now three releases behind the current Office 2010.
When you are forced to use an Office product (Word, excel, powerpoint, etc) there is usually an option to "save as". I recommend "save as" the oldest office available, which on mhy machine is Office 2003. Changing file formats is predatory, but Microsoft only gets hands slapped in court with sharp and expensive lawyers.
Unlike some of my mathematical friends, for instance, I do not need the enhanced features in Word 2010 for editing equations. If I did, I likely would have shelled out the money years ago for the upgrade.
Still, I frequently receive attachments in the newer Office 2010 format including .docx, .pptx, etc. These will not open without assistance in my older Office 2003.
Now Microsoft (a.k.a. M$) is hardly known for backward compatability support since it obviously is in their interest to "encourage" users to upgrade. (To the purists out there, yes, there is more complication involved in the new formats than merely a predatory Microsoft trying to make money. Those issues are beyond the scope of this article.)
But, to their credit, Microsoft does offer the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack to support the newer formats on older Office versions, with exceptions M$ documents. This solution may work fine if you have administrative privileges on the computer which you wish to install the Pack, plus enough disk space to accommodate it. (Another opportunity to jab M$ for bloatware! I guess this is OK as long as they do not sic their corporate lawyers on me, huh?!)
Howsoever, if you do not have administrator privileges or choose not to install additional software on your computer, there is yet another option: Google Docs.
I have recently been "testing" the Google Docs because it is a convenient way for me to share files online with others. Plus, I have access to my own key documents without having to remember to carry a memory stick. Finally, the availability of Google Docs obviates the need for me to lug my fairly ancient laptop into many libraries and other places I frequent that offer Internet access.
As serendipity would have it, Google Docs also has the ability to open the newer Office 2010 formats. Not everything is perfect compatibility-wise, mind you, but here is a second viable option to forestall upgrade plans and use those savings elsewhere if your document needs are fairly basic.
To sum up, Google Docs offers a wonderful compatibility choice when for whatever reason one does not have the latest M$ Office version. And with the current economic forecast, I look for ways to save whenever I can, as parsimoniously as I can. -- Laura in Denver
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