If a friend or colleague asks you to recommend an office suite, your first thought is likely to be Office for PC or iWork for Mac. But both don't come cheap, which can make it a prohibitive cost for an individual or small business. The need to run Office for compatibility's sake is no longer as compelling as it was either, with a raft of free alternatives all capable of opening even the latest Office document formats with few problems.

Of those free alternatives, the granddaddy is OpenOffice, the first serious rival to Microsoft Office. Despite losing its way of late - leading to rival LibreOffice taking the lead, OpenOffice is now firmly back on track and making waves of its own.

For those uninterested in such rivalry, the key thing to note is that OpenOffice will write and open most Office formats, while its cross-platform nature means you can use it across Windows, Mac and Linux without having to learn a whole new way of doing things. That compares favourably to the Mac and Windows versions of Office, which are very different beasts, making it hard to become experts across both.

OpenOffice ships with a document writer, a spreadsheet, a presentation maker and many other modules. Everything you need to run your business. OpenOffice also saves your documents in the open document format (ODF) meaning that they can be opened within other office suites, even Office itself.

Version 4.1.3 comes with the following changes:

- Key security vulnerability fixes
- Support for new language dictionaries 
- Numerous bug fixes, including installer and database support on OS X 
- Enhancements to the build tools (for developers)

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It's fallen behind LibreOffice in recent times, but OpenOffice remains a good choice for those looking for an alternative to Microsoft Office.