If you’re looking for a free Office-compatible suite then there’s plenty of choice around, with tools like and OpenOffice.org offering a host of powerful features.
Another option is simply to install Microsoft’s Office 2010 Starter edition, though. It’s cut down, but still has more than enough functionality for many purposes, and can be used without a product key.
The package only includes Word and Excel, and if you’re familiar with the regular editions then running either of these will quickly reveal some limitations.
There are less tabs on the ribbon, for instance (References, Review and View are all missing from Word). The other tabs have fewer options: click Insert in Word and there are no SmartArt, Bookmark, Cross Reference, Quick Parts or Equations buttons. And as you use the programs so you’ll encounter other restrictions: no table of contents support in Word, for instance, and no PivotTables or password protection in Excel.
The programs also display ads next to your documents. These are small and unobtrusive, no web-like animations to distract you, but they still take up valuable screen real estate which now isn’t available to your documents.
By way of compensation, though, the Office Starter “Tools” menu includes Microsoft’s “Office Starter To-Go Device Manager”, which allows you to create a portable version of the suite which you can save on a USB flash drive and use on any convenient Vista or Windows 7 PC.
And while it is a little cut down, which may cause problems if you have to import complex documents created by others, there’s still plenty of functionality here for basic letter and report writing, organising your finances in Excel Starter, and more. So if your requirements aren’t too strenuous then give Office 2010 Starter a look: it could provide enough to satisfy all your productivity software needs.
This article originally appeared at softwarecrew.co.uk