Open source, Unicode, everything!

I posted earlier about my frustration with the “standard” word processing program for most institutions, MS Word. The Macintosh version of the program does not support Unicode (I am told that there is a newer version which does, but am not willing to subsidize Microsoft with a reward for doing what they should have done in the first place), which limits the number of languages a person can read and write with the software. Now thanks to a tip from "Barba de chiva", I seem to have found a partial solution. OpenOffice is an open-source word processing, graphics, spreadsheet and presentation package that supports Unicode, can share files with other programs, and is available for free download (though they will happily take contributions, not necessarily in the form of money). There are two versions of the software for Mac. I downloaded the version that is designed to operate “natively” on OS X, which seems simpler and is called NeoOffice/J 1.1.

A couple of notes for anyone who wants to try this out: 1) it's a big hunk of software, and downloading it by following OpenOffice's links through your browser may take a very long time, so try using a peer-to-peer filesharing program instead (I used LimeWire), 2) You do not have a choice of styles when typing with the “Serbian” and “Croatian” keyboards, but if you use “Dialog” as your main font then the shift from non-accented to accented characters looks fairly seamless, 3) you can open all the MS Word files you like, but if you want to (or want other people to) be able to open your OpenOffice files with MS Word, save them as RTF.

Thanks, Barb! This takes care of a long-standing source of frustration, and there is the added benefit of getting a little bit further out from under the thumb of Microsoft.

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