I have a lot of respect for Microsoft and all the effort that it went on to create all their products, but I get really tired of upgrades and the costs associated with them. It isn’t cheap, and I tend to spend a lot of money on software.   So it is perfectly natural that in the course of the past (gasp!) 22 years of computing that I have acquired a taste for freeware… especially Microsoft replacements in order to save some money.

One of my favorite Microsoft alternatives to date is Open Office, and I recently upgraded to Open Office 3.0. This free office replacement has Writer, Calc, Draw, Impress, and Base; together, they are great alternatives to Word, Excel, Visio, Powerpoint, and Access. The newest addition to Open Office as of the last version was Draw, which is great for folks like me who wireframe and flowchart for a living.

Click on the images to enlarge the screenshots:

I haven’t seen much out there in terms of strong Visio alternatives, and this one is definitely good. I like this version because it downloads and installs as a desktop application, so you can use them offline as well as online.

Thinkfree.com is a web-based solution, with Write (Word), Calc (Excel), and Show (Powerpoint). Thinkfree is different because it is more about syncing files multiple platforms, mobile access, and online collaboration. Thinkfree also offers a workspace for team working.

As for Outlook, the closest desktop replacement I have for it is Thunderbird, with Sunbird and Lightning. Of course, there is also Google’s Gmail and calendar, which is   a nice web-based version.