Thursday, December 15, 2011

Free and Cheap Software for the SOHO Office, Part 4

Part 4: Thinkfree Office, the South Korean option

In our current theatrical production of alternatives to Microsoft office, we travel around the globe to South Korea, to take a quick look at ThinkFree Office. Unfortunately, with some visual display problems in my Windows version, I can only cast ThinkFree in the role of Helen Keller, in The Miracle Worker . With the patient tutorage of Anne Sullivan, our deaf/blind Helen learns sign language, and overcomes all obstacles to become an international software distributor and Cloud office application provider.

Seoul-based ThinkFree Office 4 emphasizes file compatibility with Word, Excel and PowerPoint (2003, 2007, 2010), with its three programs (Write, Calc and Show) plus a ThinkFree Manager for coordinating your files online (ThinkFree Online) and off. You can download the software (free for 30-days) or use the online version. The free online registration gives you online storage (up to 1 GB) plus online file-format translation, sharing and web embedding tools. Software is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. There are also versions for Android phones, Netbooks, Mobile Internet Devices, Servers (Standard and Enterprise), API apps, and conversion software. After 30 days, the cost is $49.95 for the basic suite (with different prices for other versions).

The program opens all Office Word, Excel and Powerpoint formats for 2003 and 2007/2010 Office suites, including templates (.dot), Rich Text Format (.rtf), and text (.txt). ThinkFree appears to use the same file formats as Microsoft for saving its files to preserve compatibility, and also saves PDF files. It is not compatible with Libre/OpenOffice formats.

The interface is similar to Office 2003. When using the font dialogue box, you have a choice of Asian as well as Latin fonts. Unfortunately, when testing on my PC, the font rendering on screen was terrible, even using larger sizes. Since displaying text and numbers legibly is a basic function of word processing or a spreadsheet, this is a severe limitation (at least in the Windows version). The fonts did print properly. (An email request asking for a solution went unanswered.)

Word files with graphics and text wrapping generally opened properly in Office 4 with only minor tweaks needed to adjust formatting (possibly because of the bad font rendering). To edit online, you need to download extra Java compatibility software. You can use your installed fonts even when online, but the fonts have the same display problems and the program feels a bit sluggish.

ThinkFree also offers a suite of server options from web-based file sharing and collaboration to full enterprise solutions.

If you use Asian languages (especially Korean), or you want to change file formats back and forth from Microsoft Office or create PDFs from another program, try it. (It might be interesting to compare features between the online ThinkFree Office and Microsoft’s Office online apps on their sites alongside Google Apps and If ThinkFree can solve their font display problems, this could be an interesting and frugal alternative to Office online.

Tags: ThinkFree, software, SOHO, office, webapps, HelenKeller, MiracleWorker