Is your school still paying for your Office suite?

I served as a Director of IT for three years for a private school in Chicago.  We had several hundred computers and every computer needed its own copy of Microsoft Office.  I don’t remember exactly how much it cost to purchase a new license every few years, but I know it sure wasn’t cheap. 

However, new web based applications are popping up all over the place that offer similar features to Microsoft Office, with little or no cost at all.  Just imagine being able to provide your teachers, students and parents all the features that they need from Office, without any cost at all.  And since it’s all web based, they can use the exact same software at home as well!  Definitely something to consider.

The most complete list of "Office 2.0" apps can be found at ITRedux.com, but here are a few of my personal favorites:

  • Writely: Your personal word processor, with a twist.  Can also work collaboratively on documents in real time.  Completely compatible with Microsoft Word.
  • NumSum: Your number cruncher.  If you are comfortable with Excel, you’ll feel right at home working on spreadsheets here.
  • Gliffy: Perfect for flow charts or as a substitute for Inspiration.  Gliffy allows you to draw wireframes and diagrams with just a few clicks.
  • Thumbstacks: Build your presentation in minutes with this substitute for PowerPoint.  It’s easy to customize your theme and you can even add photos directly from Flickr.  The only thing that seemed to be missing was a few thousand annoying transitions!
  • DabbleDB: A personal favorite of mine that I blogged about on Teach42.  Turns your spreadsheets into dynamic relational databases.  Does have a monthly subscription, but I found it worth the investment.
  • Google Calendar: Easy enough to handle your own calendar, powerful enough to handle your school’s.  Take some time to explore it, many of the features are hidden out of plain sight.
  • ScanR: Scan text from a digital photo?  Sounds too good to be true!  I haven’t had a chance to use this one personally yet.  It’s supposed to take your digitial photos of any sheet of paper, chalkboard or whiteboard and clean them up, turning them into searchable PDF’s when possible.  Sort of like OCR from digital photos.  Looks promising!

When you have some time to play over the summer, check out some of these new online applications and see if they might work for you or your school community.  And if you have any other reccomendations, please share!

Comments

  1. David Lee

    Kindly take a look at EditGrid (http://www.editgrid.com), an online spreadsheet, to see if it fits for school enviornment as well. We would love to have your comments.

  2. F Delventhal

    There’s also been a recent bloom in the number of sites that offer online video editing. Sites such as Jumpcut http://www.jumpcut.com and Eyespot http://www.eyespot.com may prove useful for classroom use. It would be nice if unitedstreaming could incorporate some of these Web 2.0 applications. Along with the new Writing Prompt Builder and the updated Assignment Builder and Quiz Builder, it would be one stop classroom suite for teachers.

  3. Mark Wagner

    Don’t forget thinkfree.com… It’s like writely, but it’s a whole office suite with plenty of Web 2.0 features. :)

  4. Suzan Bird

    You can also see iRows (www.irows.com) which is an excellent online spreadsheet application

  5. Alfred Thompson

    How well do these sites work when the Internet is not available? Or when all that a student has is dial-up? Or when 100 students at one school all hit “Save” at the same time? Oh I think they are interesting and potentially very useful but are they really a replacement for a client based tool? I’m not so sure about that.

  6. Steve Dembo

    That’s a really great point, Alfred. It may not be a perfect match for every school district. I do think it’s worht looking into though. If a person is still using dialup for financial reasons, then they probably won’t be spending hundreds of dollars to get their own copy of Microsoft Office. Many of these sites are free alternatives which might fit their needs. Definitely worth looking into!

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