Commercial software can be expensive for the home—a full version of Corel WordPerfect Office 2002 costs nearly $400, and a full version of Microsoft Office XP Standard Edition costs more than $400. That seems a bit expensive if all you want to do is type a few letters. Yet, as tempting and widespread the practice of sharing illegal copies of software is, as an IT support pro, you should avoid such behavior.

So how can you run Word processing software on home computers without falling foul of the law? Use a free alternative. The next time someone asks you for a copy of Microsoft Office or Corel WordPerfect, suggest they try one of these free options instead.

RoughDraft from Richard Salsbury
RoughDraft is an absolute delight, because it’s free and because it works. It’s a minuscule download of only 1.76 MB, yet for anyone who wants a simple word processor or, conversely, a highly featured text editor, this little gem is well worth a look. It offers to save files in either RTF or TXT format and can publish files as HTML. RoughDraft even has a spell checker. I was impressed at just how many of the most common writing tools this program provides (Figure A).

Figure A

In the words of the developer, “RoughDraft is not designed to compete with major commercial word processors….If you want a no-nonsense writing tool, RoughDraft should (I hope) give you what you need.” RoughDraft 2.11 works with Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP, and you can download a copy from Richard Salsbury’s Web page or CNET’s

NotesPad from Skip Bremer
If you’ve been a user of NotePad but always wished it could do more, then you’ll love NotesPad. NotesPad is designed as a replacement for the Windows text editor NotePad and includes several handy features, such as a choice of fonts, a spell checker, and an HTML generator, to name a few.

NotesPad is available in a 32-bit version for Windows 9x/NT/2000 and a 16-bit version for Windows 3.x. The 32-bit version includes these features:

  • Glossary
  • Dictionary
  • The ability to edit up to 16 large files at once
  • The ability to open files at the point where they were last edited
  • The ability to open and drag multiple files at once
  • Multiple undo and redo commands
  • An accumulative clipboard

The download file for NotesPad is less than 1 MB, and you can download it from

EasyOffice from E-Press Corp.
EasyOffice is a complete office suite that includes almost everything the average SOHO user could ever want. EasyOffice is compatible with Microsoft Word and Excel. Its features include the following:

  • EasyWord for word processing
  • EasySpreadsheet for creating basic and advanced spreadsheets
  • EasyPresentation, a PowerPoint-like presentation tool that includes animated art
  • EasyBookkeeper, an accounting system that can produce classical income statements, balance sheets, aged receivables, and expense reports
  • Easy Contact Manager with hot lists, mass e-mails, and form letters
  • EasySpeaker, an English-speaking voice module that can read your documents and e-mails to you
  • EasyZip, a full-fledged compression tool
  • EasyHelper, which includes extensive online tutorials and help

EasyOffice is available as freeware, and there is a commercial version that costs $40. You can download the 58-MB freeware version from E-Press’ Web site or CNET’s EasyOffice works with Windows 9x/Me/NT/2000/XP.

Although I found most of EasyOffice’s features to work extremely well, I was rather put off by the recurring nag screens. Each time you open one of EasyOffice’s components, a nag screen reminds you that the freeware version is strictly for noncommercial use. This annoyance—coupled with the fact that after installing EasyOffice I experienced several unexplainable system crashes—forced me to uninstall the application after only a few days of testing. Unfortunately, I continued to suffer errors and eventually had to reinstall Windows on my test laptop.

I have yet to determine whether the problems were caused by my Windows installation or by EasyOffice. I am certain, however, that the problems didn’t occur until after I installed the software.

602Pro PC Suite from Software602, Inc.
The 602Pro PC Suite from Software602, Inc., is another free office productivity package for SOHO users. At 14 MB, it’s a realistic download for a 56K dial-up connection and it installs quickly and easily.

Some key features of 602Pro PC Suite, such as the spell checker, require you to register the application on Software602’s Web site. However, the registration process was quick and simple.

Figure B

The package consists of the following integrated features:

  • 602Text—This word processor is compatible with Microsoft Word DOC files for Office versions 9x/2000/XP (see Figure B). It automatically saves your documents in Word 97/2000 format but also offers RTF, TXT, HTML, CSS, and its own WPD format. There are more than enough WP features to keep the average SOHO user quite happy.
  • 602Tab—This spreadsheet application resembles Microsoft Excel and is compatible with Excel XLS files for Office versions 9x/2000/XP. Software602 boasts that 602Tab has over 150 available functions. I tried out several Excel tricks, and they all seemed to work well.
  • 602Photo—The image-editing tool, 602Photo, is disabled until you register the software. 602Photo supports 15 different image file formats and provides quite a range of image editing options including color balancing, sharpening, and blurring. You can also access your digital camera or scanner from here to upload images.
  • 602Album—The image organizer, 602Album, is also disabled until you register the software. Once your product key has been entered, you’ll find a fairly useful photo album package with options to select your Twain devices so you can scan or upload images from a digital camera.

You can download 602Pro PC Suite from Software602’s Web site or CNET’s

More freebies

If you like getting something for nothing, check out these other TechRepublic articles on shareware and freeware: