Apache OpenOffice is an open source office suite, which has been designed to function as an alternative to Microsoft Office. It contains various components, has its own file formats and is able to read and save other file formats, including those associated with several Microsoft Office applications.
The program is completely free and available on an open source basis, meaning users are free to view and modify the application's source code and share any modifications made to it.
Apache OpenOffice is completely legal to own and use in both private and commercial settings. Although the software is compatible with Microsoft Office file formats and has equivalent components, it is a completely separate office suite and has no official association with it.
The software is perfectly safe to use. Questions surrounding the safety of OpenOffice tend to stem from the fact that it is an open source project, meaning the program can be modified and distributed freely. Some of these modified versions have included unwanted extras, such as web browser toolbars. However, the core program does not contain any of these and as long as you download the application from a trusted source, you are completely safe.
The various components are: Writer (a word processor, equivalent to Microsoft Word), Calc (a spreadsheet program, equivalent to Microsoft Excel), Impress (a presentation package, similar to Microsoft PowerPoint), Base (a database program, equivalent to Microsoft Access), Draw (a vector graphics editor, similar to the drawing functions within Microsoft Office) and Math (a mathematical equation platform, similar to Microsoft Equation Editor).
The software can be used to open Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Access files or documents. It can also be used to create and save such files, which can then also be opened in Microsoft Office.
The suite is also available for Mac users.
Unfortunately, the package does not include a direct equivalent to Microsoft Publisher. The closest component to Publisher contained within the package is Writer, although this more closely resembles Microsoft Word. As a result, Microsoft Publisher files cannot be opened, modified or created within the package.
In order to run the software, users are required to have at least 256MB of RAM, while at least 512MB of RAM is recommended for optimum performance. In addition, a minimum of 650MB of hard drive space is required for the installation process. Once the suite has been installed, it will take up a minimum of 440MB of storage space.
Since Apache released their first version of their OpenOffice software in 2012, there has been at least one new version released each year. However, there has never been more than two versions released in the same year. Therefore, on average, a new version is released every six months to a year.