Office Tax

Surpisingly, one of the largest line items in a church IT budget is no longer the PCs or the printers or other new gadgets, it is often the license for Office Management Software, particularly Microsoft Office. For many individuals and small office environments such as churches there ARE alternatives:
  • OpenOffice Sometimes, the Excel/OOCalc compatible spreadsheet or Word/OOWriter compatible document editor has features not found in older versions of Excel or Word currently installed on member/staff/minister PCs or Macs.
  • Word/OOWriter compatible text editors or Excel/OOCalc compatible online tools from docs.google.com (however, note that advertisers may indeed take advantage of data mined by Google to share with their partners).
  • Embedded spreadsheets such as these available from Wikispaces can bring these documents into your Web space framework
  • Free PDF file creator (works with ANY Windows software): CutePDF which creates a very portable file to share which includes graphics, tables, etc and has several free viewers available

OpenOffice Info

For most office uses, OpenOffice is an amazing platform for a PC with at least 512MB of memory, at least 10GB free hard disk space, and at least a 1GHz Pentium 4 CPU. There is wonderful training for OpenOffice at: Goodwill Community Foundation (GCF) or LearnOpenOffice.org. Versions are available for the Mac and Linux as well.
UPDATE: OpenOffice has supported the new Microsoft XML formats and the Open XML formats are standard formats that all the big Software tools companies agreed to use, except Micro$oft!

Vista or Windows 7 Tax: New Hardware!

A close second of the "Microsoft taxes" on any PC which has a Microsoft Windows Vista or Windows 7 license (yes, MacOS is different, still a pretty hefty license on a pretty expensive, though better integrated platform). Note that getting a PC with Microsoft Windows/XP requires looking for a refurbished PC, new PCs aren't sold with the less bloated XP version of Windows anymore. For office staff who are OK learning a few new ways to launch their OpenOffice (or alternative) application, there are a number of easily installed Linux alternatives for Microsoft Windows, perhaps easiest to install is a CD or DVD from: Mandriva Linux or Ubuntu

Alternative: Replacing PCs

For many, Apple's much more tightly integrated platform is very attractive. MacOS at it's core resembles Linux more than Windows. Setting up to support Apple Macbooks or Workstations does require a bit more attention to some of the unique evolution of the Apple infrastructure. It is well worth the time and energy to insure both the dominant Windows and Apple platforms are supported at your church!

Virtual PC Image on Upgrade

One free alternative to buying a whole new stack of software for your PC is to use VMworkstation's vCenter Converter software and VMware Player to create an "image" of your old PC and run it on your new PC. There are several other ways to do the same thing; here is a link to a good article describing this in more detail.