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A while ago I bought a copy of Microsoft Works for considerably less than the price of Word. The trick was that Works, otherwise pretty useless, included a full copy of Microsoft Office's Word, which you could install on more than one computer.

OK, cheapskate, but smart.

Recently I tried installing this Word on yet another computer but, when I typed in the legal passcode, the smug message came from Microsoft HQ that I couldn't install it any more. Quick as a flash I wiped out all traces of Works and Word, and downloaded Open Office.

Open Office is interchangeable with Microsoft Office and thus Word - except it's free. Sun, the company which devised it, sells it for around £50.

But that's because they found, and this is true, that corporate IT people couldn't believe such a serious and extensive suite of applications was free.

Sun put a price on it and everybody snapped it up.

The really nice thing about it is that it is regularly updated so that, instead of paying multiple ransoms for the latest changes in Word's fi le structure, Open Office automatically updates you with a compatible version.

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