Why I Dumped Microsoft Office


Its been a while since I did a computer-related post. For those of you who didn’t read my old blog, I’m kind of a computer geek. I used to try to put up something every week or so about computer-related topics. Kind of fell out of that routine for a while, but something that happened to me last week prompted this post.

I purchased a computer from an online store several years ago and along with the purchase was included a copy of Microsoft Office 2003.

I have since upgraded computers, but still continue to use Microsoft Office 2003 on my computer as it is a decent program and suits my needs for presentations and word processing.

Microsoft Office Not Genuine

I was content with using Office 2003 until I got an updated message via Microsoft’s “validation” process telling me that, after six years of use, Microsoft’s powerful computers and the company’s due diligence had finally determined that my copy of Microsoft Office was … not valid. The serial number that is on the sticker on the CD that came with my computer from the store was really a serial number for a large corporation and somehow Microsoft knew that I didn’t work for the large corporation. I got a countdown of how many days were left until Microsoft was going to tell its Office programs to mark all of the programs I purchased as “not genuine.”

Microsoft recommended that I contact the store that sold me the program and “ask for their help” to ensure that the copy of Microsoft Office I purchased was genuine. Of course, since so much time has passed, the receipt for the computer and software I purchased is long gone, so I have no way of proving that I actually purchased the software – other than the disk and serial number sticker which I have kept.

Not legit

How absolutely thoughtful and diligent of Microsoft. Create a “Genuine Advantage” program and make users install it. Have your program call home to check the serial number on my software for the past 4-5 years and certify that the software I purchased is legitimate. Lull me into a false sense of security. Then all of a sudden, after I have long discarded the receipts for my purchase, change your mind and then insinuate that I’m a software pirate, leaving me no way to prove otherwise.

But never fear. Microsoft had the answer to make sure that I was “protected against vulnerabilities that may exist in non-genuine copies.” I could “learn more” by clicking on a button in the “not genuine” notification. The link took me to a Microsoft store where Microsoft would gladly let me drop an extra $499.95 to purchase a “genuine” copy of Office Professional 2007 … at least for the next six years until Microsoft’s powerful and diligent computers could determine that the copy I purchased now was not valid and provided me with a button I could click to go to a Microsoft site where I could spend $1500 to purchase a “genuine” copy of Office Professional 2013. Oh, and you can do a search on eBay and get the same Microsoft Office Professional 2007 software for less than $100, but Microsoft’s powerful and diligent computers forgot to mention that.


So I did what every self-respecting person who purchased “not genuine” copies of Microsoft Office would do.

I told Microsoft to go pound sand.

I was going to install an old copy of WordPerfect office that came with another computer I purchased (who knows what Corel’s computers would say), but then I went to OpenOffice.org and looked at their latest office suite. I’ve tried out previous versions of the OpenOffice suite and the functionality of the programs were adequate, but lacking for my purposes.

I installed the beta version of OpenOffice 3.2 and have been using it for about a week. This program rocks. The developers of OpenOffice have really made a lot of great improvements. I haven’t tried Microsoft Office 2007 (and won’t be doing so), so I can’t and won’t compare Office 2007 to OpenOffice 3.2, but the OpenOffice suite has a good 90% of the functionality of Office 2003. You can open any Microsoft Office documents and save everything in Microsoft Office format as well so that those people who still want to pay large licensing fees to use Microsoft Office are still able to open the documents.

Oh, did I mention that the OpenOffice suite is free? As in pay nothing?

If you’re in a government office, a university, or any other business and spending money on Microsoft Office licensing, you should really reconsider your investment. OpenOffice 3.2 is prime time and there is a low learning curve for the transition between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.

This link goes to the OpenOffice site where you can download the software. The latest version (3.0) of the suite has been downloaded 100 million times in the past year, so they have to be doing something right. I downloaded the Version 3.2 beta which means there may be a few bugs, but it is close to what the updated version will look like.

As a disclaimer, I have no financial interest at all in the OpenOffice platform. The above link goes to OpenOffice.org’s home page and has no tracking code. I am receiving nothing from them for this post.

It’s just a good program. Try it.


  1. Office decided to do the same thing to me–just what I needed in the middle of midterms! I had no idea it wasn’t just a problem on my end. This is really helpful, thanks.

  2. I concur with this post. Unless you’re a highly technical user (such as a software developer doing Office automation) you won’t notice a difference. Furthermore, OpenOffice products can read and write in the Microsoft file formats, so you can use it as a replacement to the office products you use. I have found that performance isn’t quite as good as Office, but that’s mostly in launching the apps (as opposed to editing a document, which is pretty zippy).

    Should I start a company, I will certainly save $400 per computer by using OpenOffice. It’s a great product.

    • I have to respond to say that I am a highly technical user, and I strongly prefer OOo to MSO.
      I use Calc extensively and currently have it set up to propogate cells with data extracted from our corporate database through Base (Access equivalent), check it for errors, and inform me of which values in which records need to be updated.
      While setting this up in MSO is slightly simpler initially, maintaining it is much faster in OOo. For an overworked IT guy, OOo is the obvious choice.

  3. Been using OpenOffice for a long time now and will never go back. Word is good, but bloated and OpenOffice does about 99% of everything I need. BTW, WC, have you tried MS Live Writer? I just started using it for blog posting and have found it to be excellent. It’s free from MS and the only downside is that it comes with a bunch of other MS apps that you may or may not want. Link here: http://windowslivewriter.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!D85741BB5E0BE8AA!174.entry

  4. OpenOffice is excellent, it’s what I’ve used on my PCs for years, however if you ever find that you really need a code for MS Office they aren’t that hard to find. There are a lot of possible explanations for what really happened to your copy of office, but the most likely one (IMHO) is that several of the codes in the string generated for the run of CDs you eventually wound up with were posted for public use, and rather than admit copies were being stolen MS marked them as ‘for corporate use’ and tried to pull the whole run.

    It’s idiotic but MS would much rather make a few customers angry than have a bunch of customers realize just how often their products are being stolen. In essence they stole your copy from you to try to stop other people stealing from them.

  5. One quibble: OO.org is actually “free” as in “OO.org respects your freedoms”, and that is what link you provided refers to. That it’s also “pay nothing” is incidental. The usual meme is “free as in free speech, not free beer”. Pointing out that the program comes free of charge is fine, but then linking the word “free” to a discussion of user freedom is misleading.

  6. What’s fun is Office 2007 defaults to saving in the new format, which isn’t always readable if you don’t have 2007. Now I know this, and I’m sure many others know this, but enough don’t that it can cause big problems. Word and Excel seem to be able to convert files to make them readable (these days) but .pptx is still unreadable with Office 2003. So Microsoft is desperately trying to make their files unreadable to OpenOffice users (not sure if they succeed as I have Office 2007 at home and Office 2003 at work).

    And one of my friends that bought Vista when it was fairly new was always having trouble with it trying to tell him it wasn’t genuine.

    Honestly if I didn’t need Windows to play games on my home computer I’d have ditched that too by now.

    • You can run more than one operating system. Load up Linux and use it for your day-to-day computing. Keep Windows in the background and only use it when you can’t do without it. :-)

      • Heh. My day-to-day computing IS playing games. I suppose I could be running linux to check email and play browser games, but it wouldn’t enable me to ditch windows so I don’t really see the point. I’m not that much of an anti-windows fanatic.

    • As the IT guy for a small business with ~50 computers and servers with a minimal IT budget, upgrading to MS Office 2007 was never an option. Most of our computers are still running MSO 2000, and only a few of the newest have 2003. When other people started sending us 2007 files (.docx, .xlsx), I installed OOo on every computer (it was only on mine before that). I have had no more complaints about being unable to open these files.
      The one issue that I have seen is that OOo does not handle MSO Power Point files very well – but this has yet to have any affect at all on our business.

    • Google Docs is an option but it’s nowhere near as sophisticated as OO. I used it to write a large book with Master document, each chapter as a separate file, automated table of contents, hundreds of endnotes, etc.

  7. If you just downloaded the validator during an update you can use system restore to go back to the date before you installed it…Warning will be gone.

    Open Office is good though…Good choice.

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  9. I’ve been running the missus’s entire office (15 computers) on OpenOffice for about 3 years now, and have only had two complaints.

    [1] make sure to tell everyone to save as .doc formats for anything they send out attached as an email. Unfortunate, but, it is the de-facto standard, and the folks stuck using Office freak when they see an .odt

    [2] a “print pdf to email” application that came with a scanner stopped working and absolutely refused to function. It turned out, that one of the innumerable Microsoft “security” updates deliberately sabotaged this, by forcing you to use an Outlook component to do all email attaching. Yea, Microsoft, way to go.

    Oh, yeah, and there are other reasons to be a little cautious around Microsoft and Windows: Internet Virus Frames Users For Child Porn. I think I need to write an EMR for linux …

    • Note that you can set the OO defaults to MS Office formats. Then you don’t have to remind them.

      However – some of the more advanced features are better supported in the OpenDoc standard. I gradually shifted to it when I ran into a problem opening a Word 2 file. OpenDoc is an open standard designed to be accessible long term. I save my archives that way.

  10. This is great. Thanks for the info. My brother and my mom went to Open Office and have tried to get me switched, but I’ve been using MS Office so long I’ve had a hard time wanting to make myself switch. Lazy, eh?

    I’m going to load it up and give it a run. I despise Microsoft.

  11. As a student, if you do really prefer the microsoft office suite, I bout the whole professional shebang for $70, including Outlook. Just search google for “student deals microsoft office” and if you’ve got a University email account, you’re golden.

    Open Office is, however, extremely cool. Down with the man…

    • Hi Gibbney

      The student packs sound ok on the surface.
      Its all the hidden costs that you face…
      Let alone … what happens when you are no longer a student.

      They are only done to keep out competitors and suck people into the MS office/upgrade cycle

    • You’re not so golden than that, because when you’ve bought your computer, it is very likely you’ve paid the windows license, and your university have paid it too with the “university program” of MS.

      You will be golden when you’ll be able to buy your computer without a windows license you actually don’t need as it is already paid!

  12. Mottsapplesauce on

    This happened to me with Microsoft Word. I found another program online, for free, that functions at about 95% of Word’s capabilities. Sure it may not have all the bells & whistles, but it does what I need it to do. Thanks for the link WC.

  13. Mottsapplesauce on

    P.S. while I’m on the subject of links, I’ve forwarded the link anysoldier.com to several friends, church and family members who’ve been wanting to contribute not just on the holidays, but all year round as well. Again, thanks for the link, WC.

  14. On another note, I paid for star office, from sun and have been very happy with it. openoffice did not let me look at password protected files, and staroffice did.

  15. The same thing happened to me with two mission critical XP installations after 15 months of continuous use, although in this case the supplier sharply disappeared. However clearly reading the blogs there was no guarantee of future protection from another Microsoft demand at all. They got one sale off me. But after that I determined that if I ever bought anything with their name on it ever again, it was going to be second hand off eBay. I have done that 4 times so far. And Open Office is just fine with me.

  16. My motivation to migrate to OO was when Office 2000 started fighting with what turned out to be Google Desktop. Every time I used cut and paste functions in ANY program (even with Office not running), the system would lock up for up to a minute. Then allow pasting. When I contacted MS about the issue, they told me to buy a new version. I uninstalled it. That fixed the issue.

    Tried OO and have never looked back. That was 2.5 years ago.

  17. I dumped M$ Office two years ago when I found OO.
    Had used (and still do occasionally) Word Perfect as my main word processor since DOS days. But was forced into Office by management.

    OO has worked out much better than M$ Office for my applications and I’ll be staying with it.

    As far as e-mailing documents to others, I prefer to print them as .pdf and then forward the .pdf file as no user should be unable to read or print them, unlike sending in .doc, .wpd, .odt, etc.

  18. Some time ago, I learnt that Microsoft will no longer support the Office 2000 version, which I have. I have a genuine version, not a pirate, though, and I was offered a 2007 Office for reduced price. Then I was also offered a gratis tutorial day in Office 2007 even before I purchased the version. What I discovered was this: All my friends running earlier versions, wouldn’t be able to open a .doc, only a .docx, which required Office 2007, or a reader program that was free (for how long?)I didn’t buy the Office 2007, I downloaded OpenOffice 3.0 instead. Then I discovered that I can convert easily to pdf, which is necessary since all my family has a Mac computer. Thank you, OpenOffice!

  19. I have used OpenOffice and Office together for 3 years or so. OO is on two old computers, 5 yr. and 7 yr old. Consequently OO is slow to open and Impress very slow! OO Writer is much better with graphics but unfortunately do not transfer to Word. I have had compatibility problems plus the writer will not print on labels with the correct spacing. Unfortunately Office is the standard.

  20. I have not been a fan of Microsoft for ages and used to use Lotus for years. Come 5 years ago I bought a new non-major brand computer and with it came some Cd’s, which happened to include OpenOffice. Give it a look see I thought and, well, the rest is history. The only thing I did miss from Lotus was the calendar but hey, I can live with that.
    Bought a laptop recently…. trial version of Microsoft Office Suite included …. nah, forget it. Didn’t even bother.

  21. I’ve been running OpenOffice at my business for a few years. It’s a huge savings over MS and does everything we need done. Actually, I’d rather use it. It makes smaller files than MS and is easier and more powerful in some functions.

  22. I don’t think the importance of ODF can be stressed enough. The standard and more importantly, the license is open for anyone to use without royalties – ever, and the design of the document standards are meant to completely remove the entire concept of forced obsolescence.

    This, of course, frightened Microsoft to no end, who have historically planned obsolescence in their office document formats to force end users to upgrade to the latest version of the MS Office suite.

    However, when several EU governments, wanting long term document life for archives, rejected MS Office for this very reason, MS hit the panic button. They needed an “open” document format as well and designed a technological nightmare called OOXML, fast tracked it through the ISO (with accusations of bribery and the whole nine yards,) only to have it come out that their latest office suite cannot support their own document standard to the specifications approved by the ISO. Their software engineers determined that they could add ODF support with little effort, but they would have to change a great deal to support their own “open” document standard and that it wouldn’t be feasable for MS Office until 2010 to be fully compliant with their own design. Hence, MS Office 2007, SP2 can read and write ODF natively, but their own default document format, OOXML, doesn’t meet their own approved specifications.

    If you have an older version of MS Office, you can grab a free plugin from Sun Microsystems which will allow full ODF support.


  23. Similar story here. One of my Windows XP machines produced a warning that I had a illegal copy and wanted me to produce the original invoice. The store from which I purchased the computer was no longer in business so being very much annoyed with MS (even though it may have been an illegal XP) I did some research and discovered the Ubuntu distrobution of Linux.

    Switched over all 4 of my computers to Ubuntu and installed OpenOffice on them. Then I installed a virtual copy of XP on one of them so we could use the only essential Windows application we needed and have been extremely pleased with the results. No more MS hand in my pocket.

  24. I started up with OpenOffice years ago, because a friend told me about it and got hooked. Then came firefox, followed by thunderbird plus lightning. That ment, I was indipendend from MS Office, Outlook and IE. Gradually I found out about other open source programms like eg. the VLR player (faster and much more complete than the MS Media player) or Starburn for burning cd/dvd’s as an alternative to Nero. And they nearly all run under Linux as well. All of it legal and at no costs. Saved me a quite some Euros. For the time being, I am about to get myself familiar with Linux. That job done, I will finally be able to say Good by to Microsoft as far as every-day- business is concerned. Mind You, I will keep a naked Windows on a different partition, if it becomes necessary from time to time. However,it will only be run with a try-and-decide programm, so I can use eg. downloaded MS Office trial versions, install them and when the trial period is over, I just tell the try-and-decide programm to dump MS Office. Next time I need it, I reinstall it and it starts all over again.
    I know, that is not a solution for business users, but as a privat user, one can be close to be independent from Microsoft.
    Thank You Open Office, because you got me started on all of that

  25. I am an ordinary private person with simple requirements and not a computer geek. I love listening to Bing Crosby on 78 rpm records. And in this world of Hi-Tech, I am happy with Lotus 123 and Lotus Smart Suite. I do not need anything more.

    In 2006, I had to discard my 1999 Pentium II Toshiba Satellite, to meet the requirement of present day internet connectivity, I bought another Toshiba Satellite, that came with VISTA. Soon I realized buying Toshiba was a big mistake. None of my previous programs would load or run e.g. Adobe 6.0; Lotus Smart Suite 9.0; Microsoft Office Professional 2000; Palm III; Corel Draw etc etc.

    I wanted Toshiba to downgrade to Windows XP, Toshiba denied any alteration of the OS. And soon Microsoft reminders started popping up reminding me to buy the “UGLY 2007 Office Suite” or else………….

    I wasn’t happy in the way Microsoft in collusion with Toshiba treated me. I was stuck with a PC and could not go for MAC. I was desperate looking for cheaper alternatives, when miraculously I found Open Office Programs. It was love at first sight. Since 2006, I have been using it and have provided links for Open Office Downloads from my business website with the purpose to help people like me.

    I am now toying with Linux-OS (UBUNTU), once I am assured that Toshiba Satellite would work as it does with Windows XP, I will make sure “Microsoft” is no where near me or my friends and business associates.

    Thank you Open Office – tell me what else I can do to support your endeavor.

  26. My son finally got me to switch to open source software about 3 years ago (I tried it on an older laptop first, then went for it on the other PCs). Now my business is 100% open source. Why would any businessperson or government office let Microsoft suck money out of their bank accounts? I use Ubuntu/Linux for the operating system. OpenOffice has everything I need to run my business (I keep .doc and .xls as default file formats). I do a lot of product design, and I rely on GIMP for raster graphics and Inkscape (occasionally OpenOffice Draw) for vector graphics. If you’re not playing games at work, my advice is to get out of Microsoft’s upgrade money-machine.

  27. One good things of OO odt format is that it is actually open!
    I recieve many reports with pictures included. I quite often need to getthe pictures out of the format and save it again jpg file. With an odt file it is very easy to do. just unzip the odt file with any archiver soft, and you’ll get a folder with different files, including each picture of the document!

    try to do that with MSO. even try to copy the picture! Even the quality of the picture is not there anymore. Your data once performed through MSO is no more fully yours,..

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  29. I reckon there’s kind of 80/20 rule with office suites. 20% of MS Office features are enough for 80% of their customers, and OpenOffice.org has about 80% of MS Office features for, not 20% of the price, but no cost at all.

    So, if you’re like most people, you can either get 5 times as much as you need, and pay Microsoft for it, or get 4 times as much as you need, for free. It’s an easy choice.

    I admit that I’ve sometimes had no choice but to use MS Office for university assignments. The new OOXML format just doesn’t look right when opened in OO.o (not in the versions that I’ve used, at least), and the EndNote citation manager integrates with MS Word. But those are more to do with the market favoring MS, rather than any actual defect in OO.o. I have it open right now, because I’m using Linux :).

  30. Does OO have an email program? I am using Outlook and the same thing happened with me when I tried to update it. they told me it was an illegal copy. They say I have 11 days left until it is deemed illegal or non-genuine!!

    I would have to download OO (is it easy and does it automatically transfer your documents from Office/Word.

    then for an email program I could transfer back to Outlook Express. And all my emails and address book would be transferred?

    Anyone have any advice as to these questions?

  31. @mb: It is one of the known “issues” with OpenOffice.org (which I personally love) that it doesn’t come with an email program – I’ve been using Mozilla’s Thunderbird which does have account, emails and address book import from Outlook (and the distinct Outlook Express). I have both a Windows laptop and a Linux netbook and find that Thunderbird works well in both environments. I have heard of the Lightning add-on for calendar integration, but haven’t used it in anger yet…

  32. Anyone have any advice as to these questions?

    Yeah, why are you using Outlook or Outlook Express either one? Gag. Use gmail, or if you have domain-specific email, use Thunderbird. You can also configure Thunderbird to serve up your gmail if you just gotta have one of those Outlook-styled interfaces. Oh, and use IMAP, unless working offline is really really important to you, then use POP. IMAP allows you to get to your email ANYWHERE. Once you POP your mail, I think you’re stuck with it on that computer.

  33. I had a friend call me at 4am because his wife couldn’t print out the contracts for a real estate deal worth almost $10M because….. Microsoft chose just that night to cripple her computer. Everything she has was bought by her for her own business use.

    I went over, installed Open Office, imported and printed the contracts, saved her job, etc.

    After explaining the problem why it happened and why it would happen again as long as she had a windows machine, she bought a brand new Ubuntu machine with support and lived happily ever after.

    It’s been over 2 years and Linux just works. No more 4am calls, no more hysterical crying over Microsoft crippleware.

  34. My Office 2003 Pro has been declared non-genuine by MS. Converting to OO sounds like the right move. However I have been using Outlook email client for years with a pile of correspondence stored in Outlook format. Can all of these documents be read, processed, imported by Thunderbird? Is there a standalone converter of Outlook files to another format to recommend?

    • You can port them to a CSV file and then import them to many contact/e-mail managers.
      I never liked Outlook, so I have used Google and Hushmail for a long time. I can’t comment on Thunderbird.
      One shareware program I like for e-mails/calendars/etc (that also support Portable Apps) is EssentialPIM. $40 to register, but it imports/exports directly to Outlook.

  35. Coming in late to the party but just found your blog and been reading the archives.
    Anyway, just installed Windows 7 using a genuine Windows CD that came from HP and I’m being told that I’m not using a genuine MS product.

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