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Not Just Microsoft Word

Official Description

Microsoft Word is the dominant text editor. Everybody knows about .doc files, and many are learning about .docx files. But Word isn't the only way to read and write such files. There are excellent open source (free) alternatives. This two-hour session will explore the options, paying particular attention to LibreOffice and Abiword. You should learn enough to determine if one of those options might be right for you.

Dates: Feb. 12 and again on Mar. 12
Time: Wednesday, 10:00 a.m. - 11:55 a.m.
Location: VIC 607A
Instructor: Bob Fabian

Prerequisite: Basic familiarity with Microsoft Word

Bob Fabian was the first Chair of Computer Science at York (1971-76) and is now retired after a career as a consultant, manager, and academic. Writing has been important to Bob throughout his career, and he has worked with dozens of text editing systems.


In an office environment, there will be almost no word processing options. Everyone will use the same software. That greatly simplifies training and support. The dominant office choice has been Microsoft Word. Everyone uses Word, and everyone can read and write .doc and .docx files (the old and newer file format supported by Microsoft Word). There are some office exceptions to Microsoft Word, but those exceptions are limited.

As an independent, or as someone no longer working for money, the choices are considerably broader. LibreOffice (and its predecessor OpenOffice) offer an open source (no charge) alternative. LibreOffice Writer does almost the same things as Microsoft Word. It's not 100% equivalent, but neither are different versions of Microsoft Word 100% equivalent. But LibreOffice Writer is close, and has some features that Word does not have, e.g. the ability to word with .pdf files. 

Beyond LibreOffice there are many other options. AbiWord is one of those options. It's an open source word processing program that handles all standard file types, e.g. .doc, .docx, .pdf, .rtf, .odt, .txt. It's clearly "lighter" than either LibreOffice Writer or Microsoft Word. If all you're working with are relatively simple word document, AbiWord could be a good alternative. It runs well on even the most limited systems.

More generally, those who work with words have many, many options. This session is designed to open the door to those options. Participants should walk away with a clear sense of whether a Word options might be preferable to Word, ... at least for them and for their purposes.

PDF file of presentation slides.

Copyright © 2013-2017. Creative Commons

May 6 – June 10 (6 sessions) Time: Wednesdays, 10:10 a.m. – 11:55 a.m. Location