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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

FREE Ways to Word Process, Collaborate, etc...


At the end of September my son got married. He lives in Ohio and we are in Texas. We were helping him plan and design the ceremony. Instead of sending files back and forth or using lots of email David set up a Google Doc and invited us to share it. We could all work on it at different times or even at the same time in order to collaborate!  Amazing!

Recently I updated my MacBook to Lion, but to my unhappy surprise I found out that it does not support Microsoft Office. It has something to do with programs that used the Intel chip... I can't explain it... I'm not a Geek, but anyway there I was without some expensive software that I used all of the time. (side note: now when I receive an excel or word document I have to open up the Open Office first and then use File-Open to find the file and open it up.

You wonder what these two stories might have to do with each other?  Well, it is just that there are so many ways to get around having to use expensive software to do word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations now!

In this post I want to share with you some of what  I have done to fill in the gap from the software that no longer works on my system.


I downloaded a free program called Open Office. It is very similar to Microsoft Office, but it is Open Source which means that anyone can work on the code of it and make it better and it is FREE! I have been using it regularly for word processing. I have not used spreadsheets or presentations or anything else yet, but I think it will be fine. When I save something in Open Office I have to remember to change the format before saving because it has its own format (.odt) which other programs cannot open. When I save under "save as" I choose .doc and so far it seems to save everything just fine. 


I have been using Google Docs and Spreadsheets. The biggest benefit of these programs is that they can be shared online with others. You can give them rights just to look at the document or to edit it. You can make it public, so that everyone can see it or make it private so that you are the only one who has access to it. Google has just updated to Google Drives which I have not worked with much yet. It looks to me like you can download all of your Google Docs into a free software on your laptop. Then when you are not online you will still have access to your Docs and you can work on them. Then when you are online the newest copy syncs so that you have the same copy in both places. 

One drawback of using Google Docs is that you will be relying on Google to keep all of your stuff. It is all saved on one of their servers. If this is a problem for you avoid Google Docs. You will not have total control of everything. 

However, it is probably safer, in terms of not losing your documents because their servers are duplicated and regularly backed up. You can ALWAYS get to your stuff. It will be accessible even if you are in a flood or a fire and loose everything. You can access it from anywhere on any computer. 


For some presentations I have started using Prezi. It is a whole new way of presenting ideas based more on networking thoughts and graphics together rather than presenting them in a linear way. The best way to see what it does is to go to their website and see some of their samples. 

So, we are getting to the point where we do not need expensive software to do the basic things that we want to do! 

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