Computer Guide

Is there a free Microsoft Office replacement?

by George Skarbek - 1st July 2008

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Microsoft office replacement?

Q: Which free office suite do you recommend for at home and studying?

A: In my opinion, OpenOffice is by far the best and it has very good compatibility with all Microsoft products. See:  for more details.

There is also a portable version of OpenOffice that can be run entirely from a U3 USB drive without leaving any trace of your programs or data on the host computer. This can be of use if you wish to work on some other computer.


Scheduled program does not run

Q: The defrag schedule was set for 1st day of each month at 6 pm (schedule was set in November and the process is enabled). But when I looked at the defrag schedule last week the dialogue box as shown in the attached file appears it states “Next schedule run: never”. Could you please explain why “never”?

A: In Windows when you set a scheduled task, the account that the task runs under must have a password otherwise it may not run. I am guessing that in your logon you do not have a password. Probably the easiest way is to make that task run as Administrator and enter the Administrator password when setting the task. If you don’t remember the Administrator’s password, assuming that you have Administrator rights under your account, you can reset that password to something that you remember.  


No Flash

Q: I have problem with Flash Player whenever I access to a website display with Flash Player, I only see a little "x" at the corner and nothing is displayed. I do not see any error message or warming. I still cannot see the Flash Player display. I compare and set ActiveX setting as the same with my desktop which is working ok with Flash Player. I emailed Adobe support help, but no reply. I wonder if you can help me and/or have any trick to overcome this problem.

A: I have seen this problem and my fix was to go to the Control Panel, Add / Remove programs and un-install the existing version for the Flash Player and then download the latest version to the hard disk and install from there.


Backup to MP3 players

Q: I’m looking at getting an 80 GB MP3 player to carry my music with me. I’ve been told that I can partition the disc and then carry Windows files (eg PowerPoint) on the second partition
But there are very diverse comments about this on the net. Can you advise me if this can be done and if so, how I can do this?

A: I also use a MP3 player as a backup for my data so this can certainly be done. There is no need to partition the had disk but only to create a new folder called, say, Backup and copy your important files to that folder. This will not interfere with playing music and only means that you can store less music. 80 GB will store an enormous number of MP3 music files. Even if you converted them using a high sampling rate to obtain very good quality sound, this will still allow you to play music for over one month, playing music 24 hours per day.


VCR to CD software 

Q: I wish to convert VCR tapes to digital CD’s.  Can you advise suitable software to allow this?  I am operating on an XP operating system.

A: You should convert from VCR to DVD as CDs are very limited in regard to video players. The actual software will depend on the capturing hardware and software combination that you use. Having captured the large file it must be converted to a suitable format for a DVD and then burnt.

Microsoft’s free Movie Maker can import a variety of formats but it cannot burn directly to the DVD and requires some additional plugins. If you have a relatively late version of Nero then Nero can burn the DVD.

Some other editing and burning software is Ulead DVD Movie Factory which has many more features than Movie Maker and is very easy to use. Prices start from $120. If you intend to do this in a more serious way and wish to do more complex editing, create chapters etc then you should consider Adobe Premier Elements which can be purchased for $130.


To look at the e-book in PDF format, Computer Guide, based on these columns click here