I’m all for free. Free food, free toys, free giveaways, free software. I’m all about quality, too, but no one can expect top-notch when what they have didn’t cost them a penny. You get what you pay for, after all.
That goes for Open Office, a free software solution for those who don’t want to make Microsoft richer. Plenty of people ask me if I recommend free word processors, and Open Office is one. Zoho offers some good solutions too.
But not for professional writers. I’ll repeat that: Not for writers who earn their living through writing.
If your career is writing or you actively write full time for pleasure, invest in tools of the trade that get you the most out of your experience and the highest quality possible. Buying the best tools you can to have the best results possible is important if your profession involves receiving money for what you do.
Open Office doesn’t have the same level of spell-check and grammar-check that Word offers, be it Word 2007 or earlier. (Of course, Word has its shortcomings too, but so far, it’s the best out there.) There are some other small glitches with it as well, such as older versions of OO having a word count that is off.
This came to light recently when I realized that not just one but four of my team were using OO to work on. I was getting frustrated with word counts being different from my results and the amount of green underlines on my screen that signaled passive, weak language. I’m assertive and confident; I like to read confident content. Watching my screen light up like Christmas each time I opened a document from certain writers was driving me nuts.
Cost, they all told me; cost was the one single reason they weren’t using Word. That blew me away. The career of writing doesn’t have much overhead (if any) and all writing costs a writer is time. Paying for Word is equal to about a week of a writer’s take-home income, and that’s on a slow week. There wasn’t any excuse for this.
If you wanted to have your website redesigned, would you hire the company that uses the latest technology and design for the best, most current results or do you say, “Hey, I’ll think I’ll go with the guy that uses outdated, obsolete software.” No, you don’t. Clients who hire writers don’t say that either. Technology moves fast and people in the online world want the latest and greatest.
If you’re just going to write for fun, sure, go for free. OO might not catch “is being”, but so what? Who is going to notice? If you’re going to be a professional writer and sell your work, though, just say no to free word processors. Invest in yourself and your business. Have the proper tools (good software and a solid computer with high-speed internet) to do the best damned job you can. Don’t scrimp to save a few dollars; the difference in efficiency and quality pays for itself many times over.