- Architosh Staff ([email protected])
- 29 July 2001
MWNY: ThinkFree Office, Universal office productivity
We had the great pleasure of discovering and learning about ThinkFree, the folks who were at attendance at Macworld this year showing their Microsoft Office compatible office suite software for multiple platforms, including Mac OS X.
ThinkFree Office 1.5
What is ThinkFree? Their brochure says, "ThinkFree is the leader in next-generation productivity solutions for anywhere, anytime, any operating system computing from a variety of Internet-connected devices including thin client and mobile computing platforms."
ThinkFree is a full suite of word processing, spreadsheet and presentation graphics applications which allow you to essentially work with MS Office files directly. ThinkFree accomplishes this because they have reverse-engineered Microsoft's file formats for its office applications (Word, Excel, etc.) in a similar manner to how the OpenDWG Alliance has reverse-engineered Autodesk's .DWG format.
Now anyone with the need to work with Microsoft Office files can do so using ThinkFree; and they can do it from any device, on any platform, and on any OS. And they can do it for much cheaper than purchasing MS Office.
A Different Model to Office Productivity
Unlike the old software model with ThinkFree you rent your software. Ya, it's like .Net has already arrived, but unlike Microsoft's proprietary future with .Net ThinkFree's future is based on Sun's open Java and openly available on all the major platforms, including OS X and Linux.
What Comes with ThinkFree?
The current version ThinkFree Office 1.5 comes with a number of discreet applications (or modules in the Office suite). ThinkFree Folders is a file manager app, which also allows you to manage your ThinkFree files over the Net, in your Cyber Drive and through your Public Folder (typically you store your ThinkFree files remotely in your CyberDrive, allowing you to get access to them from anywhere).
ThinkFree Write is your word processor module and is completely compatible with MS Word. And you can even create HTML documents for the Web with it.
ThinkFree Calc is the spreadsheet module which with each release includes more of the functionality of MS Excel's advanced features. For general office use ThinkFree Calc supports over 300 functions and over 40 chartsmore than the typical user requires.
ThinkFree Show is the presentation module and is compatible with MS PowerPoint. You can fully open, edit and save presentations in MS PowerPoint format.
More on ThinkFree and the Macintosh
Steve Croft, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, gave us a brief showing of ThinkFree running both under Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X. The OS X version looked particularly nice but the OS 9 version was further along.
ThinkFree does not include every single feature of Microsoft Office. But it does include a large majority of them, including some advanced features. Most importantly, regardless of which advanced features of MS Office a file includes, ThinkFree can always open the file so you can view the data. So ThinkFree is perfect for those users who occasionally need to open MS Office files with typical features employed but do not wish to pony up the dough for MS Office.
The newest version of ThinkFree 2.0 is currently in preview version only. This version utilizes J2SE (Java 2 Standard Edition) virtual machine which makes Mac OS X the perfect (most capable J2SE) platform to run it on.
Who is Using ThinkFree - Should I Give It A Try?
Steve Croft told us that ThinkFree is currently being targeted at schools and enterprises which need affordable, scalable office productivity applications. Schools with limited software budgets are particularly good candidates and the software can allow students and teachers to access their private and public documents over the Net from school or home.
Although a single user license is a modest $49US per year, a business license of say 20 users would likely bring that cost down to $30US per year, per seat. That means for just $10 per "word", "spreadsheet" and "presentation" application you can have full seat coverage of up-to-date productivity software that is [mostly] fully compatible with MS Office documents. We say "mostly" because although ThinkFree will always open any MS Office file (Windows or Mac) it may not always support certain advanced features found only on MS Office.
And ThinkFree works perfectly fine offline as well as online. For more information on ThinkFree and its solutions and services visit their Web site.
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