Hate the big bad wolf, Microsoft? Tempted to dump the MS Suite and adopt open-source freeware instead? Then you might want to consider the words of Michael Meeks and his concern about the future of OpenOffice.

OpenOffice is a suite of programs that carry out the same tasks as the full Microsoft set of Office programs, including word processing, spreadsheets, databases, presentations and more. It has been created over the past 20 years by a bevy of volunteer programmers supported by Sun microsystems, and is openly distributed and free to everyone. Best of all, it runs on virtually any platform, including Windows, Apple, and Linux.

Sounds terrific, doesn't it? I've used it, and it is a great value. However, you might note the word 'volunteers' above. Without the impetus of the almighty dollar to drive continuity, keeping software up to date depends on the dedication of those volunteers. Meeks' detailed examination of the involvement of programmers in OpenOffice shows that this involvement has declined over time, to the point that he describes the project as now 'profoundly sick'. He concludes that the software package currently has only 24 active developers.

I'm not dissing OpenOffice by pointing out these findings, but I am cautioning you that freeware is only as good as those who willingly devote their time to keeping it current. So caveat emptor- if you're using freeware that isn't updated regularly, you might want to investigate alternatives.

Also read: WalletPop's freeware roundup


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