Google offers free alternative to pricey Microsoft programs

Ben Sadkowski/Staff Writer
Anyone looking to buy a software suite always looks at the price as a large factor in the final decision, but what if there was a replacement for Microsoft’s popular Office suite that would cost literally nothing? Google has your answer.

Google has a suite of computer programs called Google Apps, available at www.google.com/apps. All you need to access them is a Google account, which you can acquire for free. Once you have the account, you have full access to everything. Some of the most important programs Google offers are Google Docs, Sites and E-mail or rather G-Mail.

Google Docs is a great substitute for Microsoft Word. There are a few minor weaknesses, such as a lack of fonts in comparison with MS Word, but all of the basic ones that you need most are there. Don’t upload any fancy documents with flowing fonts, because most likely they will not work, but for regular papers, this program is awesome. When I uploaded my Great Books paper to it at home, it was fast and painless. Here at school, the paper appears on both the Mac and Windows machines for me to print whenever I choose. Also, I can upload PDF files, spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.

Google Docs’ interface is extremely easy to use, and it’s easy to find the sort of file I was looking for. Everything is lined up on the left-side toolbar and the controls are easy to use. Simply put, it’s Microsoft Word with just a few cutout features that I hardly noticed at all. Google Docs is by far the most useful of all the programs offered.

Google Sites is a free website creator that allows you to create websites located at the URL: http://sites.google.com/site/(your site name goes here). I’ve looked at the themes you can use to spice up your site, and in my opinion they seem rather limited. There’s an interesting option that you can add to your site if you wish: you can make it viewable by only certain people you specify. I hope to see more work on Google Sites, particularly in its ability to be customized by the users. Google Sites is great if you want to try your hand at creating a website, and it’s a risk-free way to see how into it you really are.

Finally, there is G-Mail, or Google E-mail. G-Mail does an excellent job of blocking spam, which is always a worry for me because who wants to waste time deleting spam? Also, the amount of storage space you can use is constantly on the rise, and I think it’s really useful for sending large file sizes, for example photos. Of course, there’s a lot of competition between e-mail providers such as MSN and Yahoo, but G-Mail is more than an equal with all the others.

Google Apps are extremely useful for high school students and adults alike. I ecnourage you all to check out this option. By getting Google Apps you make your life a lot simpler, and best of all, it’s free.

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