OpenOffice 3.0 shows that you don't have to pay a bundle for a great office suite - in fact, you don't even have to pay a penny.

The just-released beta of OpenOffice 3.0 is a free, open-source software suite that provides most of what anyone could want in an office suite.

OpenOffice 3.0 includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation program, database, drawing tools, and maths equation editor.

Although it doesn't include all of the high-end features and the slick user interface of Microsoft Office 2007 (for the PC) and Microsoft Office 2008 (for the Mac), it will handle just about any job you need done.

If you're not working in an enterprise that has standardised on Microsoft Office, you should think twice before paying full freight for Office, and give serious consideration to OpenOffice 3.0 - at least when the final version is released.

Keep in mind that OpenOffice 3.0 is in beta and should be used for evaluation purposes only. We tested the Windows version on a 1.83GHz Core Duo PC with 1 GB of memory, and found it to be somewhat buggy. For example, we were unable to create a document and save it without crashing - we had to first create a document in another program, and then open it in OpenOffice; at that point it worked fine. These types of problems should come as no surprise; the final version of OpenOffice 3.0 isn't due until September, and this is a very early beta.

OpenOffice 3.0 beta comes with six applications: the Writer word processor, Calc spreadsheet, Impress presentations program, Base database program, Maths equation editor, and Draw graphics program. Even as a 147.9MB download, though, it's still svelte compared to Microsoft Office.

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