Once upon a time the Word .doc format was the de facto standard for word processing. Then Microsoft went and mucked it up with Word 2007, which introduced the XML based .docx format.

To be fair it is an improvement on clanky old .doc but it also meant that older versions of Word were unable to open document written in Word 2007 or later. Again, to be fair, there is the free Compatibility Pack available from Microsoft, but what if you haven’t got Word, and you get sent a .docx file? Well, there’s always OpenOffice or you could download the free Word Viewer, but this is an old program and it has a number of limitations.

There’s another alternative, how about TextMaker Viewer 2010. It will not only open password protected .docx files it also handles OpenOffice documents and a number of other popular word processor document formats.

Needless to say you can’t edit documents but they can be printed and exported as pdfs. There’s no catch, it’s free, though there is an annoying ‘nag screen’ but this can be disabled after the third time the program is opened by ticking the ‘Do not show again…’ box.

You can minimize file-compatibility issues by standardizing on the most common file formats. By default, OpenOffice.org saves files in Open Document Format (ODF). Microsoft’s by-the-book support for ODF, unfortunately, breaks some spreadsheet files, according to a recent ZDNet blog post.

OpenOffice reads and writes Office 2007’s default .docx and .xlsx XML file formats. But the older .doc and .xls formats are still the ones most often used. I suggest that you make the classic Office formats your defaults in OpenOffice. To set .doc as the document default, for example, open any OpenOffice program and do the following:

Step 1. Choose Tools, Options;

Step 2. Select General under Load/Save;

Step 3. Click Text Document under Document type in the Default file format and ODF settings section; More »

The maturity of the ecosystem of software and hardware products built around Windows Vista contributed not only to the evolution of the operating system’s level of performance, along with Service Pack 1, but also to making irrelevant the vast majority of incompatibility problems which affected the RTM build of the platform. With the introduction of the Windows Vista Compatibility Center, Microsoft revealed that in excess of 9,000 products are fully compatible with the client, including over 5,500 devices and more than 3,500 software programs. In addition to the center, the Redmond company has also made available for download the “Windows Vista Application Compatibility Downloadable List for IT Professionals”.

The resource features a list of approximately 4,000 applications that are either compatible with or certified for Windows Vista. The document is offered under the Open XML file format for Office Excel 2007, but it can be accessed via Office Live Workspace or through OpenOffice.org 3.0.0 in the absence of the Redmond company’s productivity suite. More »

A couple of days ago, I met an old friend of mine who just got his hands on a brand new Mac and, after about half an hour of showing the ins and outs of the machine, he asked me why the Mac community has so few free applications. If he had known that I would start writing down every piece of free and/or open source software capable of running on a Mac and keep talking about them for a whole hour, I think he wouldn’t have asked me that question in a million years.

To be fair, I kind of slowed down about 30 minutes after I started writing the list but still got pretty far to cover two pages. Those were the apps that I could remember at the moment, while still trying to write down other apps in no particular order.

The exact same question seems to haunt a lot of Mac switchers out there and thus, I decided to put up a list of the most important free applications I would install on my own Mac after performing a clean install.

Because I do want to give the list some type of order, I have put the apps in six categories, again, in no particular order: Internet, network, audio/video, graphics, games, editors and miscellaneous. The content in the first five categories is pretty obvious. In the sixth, I have included the programs that wouldn’t fit in any of the first categories. More »

Binaries tailored specifically to the open source Linux operating system can coexist on the same desktop with Windows Vista and Windows XP programs via Ulteo Virtual Desktop. Essentially, the promise of the Ulteo Virtual Desktop is to deliver Linux applications on Windows via the Ulteo panel. The virtualized environment will permit end users to run native Linux solutions right on the Windows Vista desktop, and integration complete down to the level of sharing the Windows Aero graphical user interface.

“At the moment, you will find a selection of applications that include: Firefox web browser enabled with Flash & Java, the full OpenOffice.org office suite that can deal with your MS Office documents KPdf to deal with your PDF documents, Kopete: the multi-Instant Messaging software that supports MSN and other protocols, Skype, Thunderbird + Enigmail, Gimp and Digikam to manage your pictures and Inkscape and Scribus to create great graphics and newspapers,” reads a fragment of Ulteo’s description. More »