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ThinkFree Office

Despite its name, ThinkFree Office is actually a commercial product that offers a low-cost ($49.95) alternative to the Mac version of Microsoft Office. It includes three tools (Calc, Show, and Write) that mirror Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. All three applications are solid tools that sport an interface that very closely resembles the Windows version of Office and they support opening and saving using the standard Office file formats (with the exception of Microsoft’s new Office 2007 XML formats). Like Office, the suite includes its own clip-art library.

ThinkFree Write includes support for all the text-formatting and styling features offered by Word. It also supports formatting based on Word templates. A few advanced features such as Word’s Track Changes features aren’t included, however. The product is such a solid re-creation of the Word for Windows experience that users could easily forget they’re working in a different application altogether.

ThinkFree Calc and Show also offer many of the features included with Office and are equally so well-designed as to make it easy to forget that you aren’t using Office. Calc includes a robust range of functions and chart-making capabilities that are on par with Excel, although again some advanced features are missing. Show is virtually on par, feature for feature, with PowerPoint and includes a full range of slide templates and transitions. It also supports an export to iPod function, which is an interesting addition.

ThinkFree is also beta-testing a web-based version of its suite that is currently available for free. The web-based implementation is actually very impressive and relies on Java to duplicate with astonishing success the interface and capabilities of its desktop applications. The web interface supports the creation and uploading of files, online publishing (including publishing to a wide variety of blog tools).

The online suites support a full editor, which can load rather slowly if you don’t have a particularly fast Internet connection, as well as a quick editor that offers only basic data entry and formatting tools (the quick editor does not function with Safari). Although ThinkFree Online is a robust solution, it has the same pros and cons of being a web-based solution as Google Docs. Also at this time, the service is still in beta and some functionality is not fully implemented.

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