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January 10, 2011

Kim Komando answers your computer questions

OSKALOOSA — Q. I need to get productivity software for my computer. But Microsoft Office is so expensive. Is there a less expensive alternative?

A. Microsoft Office has become the worldwide standard productivity suite. But it isn’t the only one around. Check out the free OpenOffice. It has 95 percent of Office’s features, and it’s easy to use. OpenOffice is also compatible with Office formats. Most users will find it more than acceptable. You might also be interested in an online alternative. Google Docs and Microsoft’s Office Web Apps are free popular choices. They have far fewer features than Office. But they are adequate. And you can access your documents from any computer. Find links to these programs at Komando.com/news.

Q. I’m thinking of buying a Blu-ray player. But I don’t know if I need to buy one. How long will it take for Blu-ray to replace DVDs?

A. DVDs will eventually be replaced. But it won’t happen for a while. VHS tapes hung on for 12 years after DVDs were introduced. Expect to see DVDs on sale until 2013 at least. And don’t forget that Blu-ray players also handle DVDs. However, Blu-ray might not be what replaces DVD. Online video streaming is growing rapidly. It could very well replace both. If you buy a Blu-ray player, get one that streams online video as well. Fortunately, the ability to stream online video is becoming a standard feature.

Q. I was planning to buy a new Macbook Air. However, it only comes with a solid-stated hard drive. Should I get something with a regular hard drive instead?

A. Solid-state hard drives are quickly entering the mainstream computer market. These rely on flash memory instead of rotating magnetic media. That means they’re faster, more durable and more energy efficient. Unfortunately, they’re also more expensive and have smaller storage sizes. However, they will continue to get larger and less expensive at time passes. Not all SSDs are worth your money. But the one for the Macbook Air will definitely work well. And the storage capacities are large enough to suit most users.

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