Join 3,415 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


snsranch had an oopsie! (computer wise)
March 13, 2009 9:05 PM   Subscribe

I Screwed Up My Wife's Computer and I'm In TROUBLE!! HELP!

My wife is a teacher and somehow I screwed up her MS Word. It now asks for a key code and I don't have one that works.

Instead of fooling with it and MS, I'd like to find a suitable replacement for MS word for her, and hopefully for free.

Any recommendations for free software that is functionally similar to MS Word?

I'm sure I'll eventually work this out with MS, we have legit copies of Office for students and teachers.

In the mean time, she's on MY machine, and will be until I rectify this!

Many thanks in advance!
posted by snsranch to Computers & Internet (40 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The first thing I can think of is openoffice. Free and very similar to MS Office.
posted by xiaolongbao at 9:08 PM on March 13, 2009


Nothing better for what you're looking for than OpenOffice. Just make sure you change the default file type to something Office-compatible (.doc or .rtf).
posted by Benjy at 9:10 PM on March 13, 2009


A common replacement for MS Word = OpenOffice. Some discussion about opening Word documents in OpenOffice is here.
posted by crapmatic at 9:10 PM on March 13, 2009


Wow! Thanks folks! It looks like we'll be back in business!
posted by snsranch at 9:11 PM on March 13, 2009


OpenOffice is very good - seconding that recommendation. It's even better than MS Word in some ways.

Sometimes, if the computer came with Word, they'll put the key code on a sticker on the back of the machine...

Oh, and one other thing: here's a good list of options.
posted by koeselitz at 9:12 PM on March 13, 2009


Ech. Here's a good list of options, then.
posted by koeselitz at 9:13 PM on March 13, 2009


Excuse me if I disagree with the openoffice recommendations, unless it has improved significantly in the last few months it is a steaming turd which will screw up your .doc files and try to convince you that it was your fault that it did so.
posted by TimeDoctor at 9:41 PM on March 13, 2009


Abiword and Open Office are fairly decent, but if she's trading files with MS Office people more than a little bit, she will eventually have problems. Just saying.
posted by ae4rv at 9:56 PM on March 13, 2009


Try using a product key finding utility such as Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder.
posted by shinybeast at 9:59 PM on March 13, 2009 [11 favorites]


I tried to use open office, but I eventually caved and bought a copy of Office. I couldn't take the constant crashes.
posted by sugarfish at 10:28 PM on March 13, 2009


2nd Magical Jellybean Keyfinder. Even though I use Macs now, that little app never leaves my USB stick. It has saved the bacon of quite a few of my friends.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 11:05 PM on March 13, 2009


Failing all that, if it came with restore discs, use that after backing up data.
posted by multiphrenic at 12:33 AM on March 14, 2009


Why not just use google docs?
posted by delmoi at 12:41 AM on March 14, 2009


Open Office is bad and will get you in more trouble. Buy a home edition of Office, it's a lot cheaper than the business edition.
posted by w0mbat at 1:24 AM on March 14, 2009


Run Belarc Adviser. It'll list all your software licences and codes, including the one for Word, unless you've already deleted it.
posted by essexjan at 1:47 AM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


By 'deleted' I meant uninstalled Word. Too early in the day, too little caffeine.
posted by essexjan at 1:49 AM on March 14, 2009


All you need to do is have her IT dept reinstall it they probably have a volume liscence or know where she can get another copy of the key.
posted by Rubbstone at 4:19 AM on March 14, 2009


You don't say if it's a Mac or not (probably not if you're having issues with it... heh) but I find that Apple's iWork app "Pages" is far superior to MS Word. I believe the entire suite is $79, but cheaper ($59?) with an educational discount.
posted by bengarland at 5:15 AM on March 14, 2009


TimeDoctor (and ae4rv), could you please be a little more specific? I use OpenOffice all the time and haven't yet run into problems exchanging documents with MS Word users (or Excel users, or PowerPoint users) - but I don't think my workflow is very intense. If you have specific reasons why OpenOffice won't work well, that would be good to know.
posted by amtho at 5:37 AM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I find that Apple's iWork app "Pages" is far superior to MS Word."

Really? For straightforward word-processing, I find MS Word to be a far superior programme in almost every way. The fact that Pages cannot autosave is reason enough not to touch it, in my view.
posted by SamuelBowman at 6:02 AM on March 14, 2009


amtho, I've been using Open Office for a while in hopes of avoiding buying MS Word for my Mac. It works for basic documents, but if you're doing anything serious with styles (like some documentation I work on at work), or graphics that are laid out in anything fancier than a simple column or row, it just doesn't translate between the two types of software. I've spent more time trying to clean up badly converted graphics and styles from an MS doc in OO than I probably would have spent just redoing it myself.

Also, the spreadsheet program has a tendency to crash every time I ask it to sort more than five rows, and if I try to edit a spreadsheet I've left open when I sleep my laptop, it crashes the entire OO program.

So in conclusion, OP, if you need to be doing anything professional, get MS Word fixed. If you just need to open a document here or there or write a letter or something, OO will do you fine.
posted by olinerd at 6:25 AM on March 14, 2009


As many have already suggested OpenOffice, I'll mention that, as an educator, your wife may have a .edu or .k12 email address and qualify for The Ultimate Steal - Office 2007 Ultimate for $59.95.
posted by geekyguy at 6:26 AM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just do a system restore to an earlier point in time prior to screwing up Word.

start> programs> accessories> system tools> system restore
posted by Slenny at 6:29 AM on March 14, 2009


1- If it's a school owned pc, claim ignorance and get them to fix it.

2- If it's a personally owned PC, use the install disks you got when you purchased Word.
posted by gjc at 6:52 AM on March 14, 2009


Yes, totally agree with olinerd.
posted by ae4rv at 7:37 AM on March 14, 2009


Nthing OpenOffice. It's rock stable, won't lock you down with a proprietary format, and it has all the functions you will ever need.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 8:30 AM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


OpenOffice is a good stopgap solution, as it will happily handle most of the tasks that the vast majority of word processor users will ever need. The layout is similar enough to Word that she'll learn it very quickly.

That said, I'm aware that there are a handful of software packages aimed at teachers (preparing students' reports/evaluations, customised worksheets etc.) that are tightly integrated with Word. They probably won't work with OpenOffice, Abiword or anything else. Does you wife need these?

The teachers I know also have to exchange a lot of files with their colleagues - lesson plans, curricula, electronic forms, complex templates etc. While OpenOffice's support for Word files is very good, it isn't perfect: eventually it'll mangle something on the way in or out. This is most likely to happen with documents containing complex formatting, macros, or that have been laid out in weird ways.

So I'll say to install OpenOffice -- it probably does everything she needs for now -- but be aware that dealing with macros, electronic forms etc. might be flaky. How much of this stuff teachers have to deal with seems to vary widely between schools, so only your wife (or her school's IT support) can guess how big an issue that's likely to be.

As already mentioned, can she ask her school to install a new copy of Word? They probably have a site or volume license that will let them install x copies, or install a copy for each member of staff even on home computers.

Failing that, if you have your MS Office install disk you could try phoning Microsoft. I've heard (but never confirmed) that if you can read off the serial numbers from the install disk they'll know you have a genuine copy and tell you a license key. Sounds a bit dubious, but it's worth a try.
posted by metaBugs at 9:01 AM on March 14, 2009


Just a note to your wife if she switches to openoffice--remind her to save as .doc if she's sending files to people who will be opening her documents with Word. If she's doing something formatting heavy that's not going to be further edited, she can save as a .pdf. That should stop the vast majority of problems.

I've written a novel and a master's thesis on openoffice. It's not definitely not "bad", and I only needed to tweak my thesis a little bit to get it to work right with the thesis and dissertation office's MSWord styles.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:07 AM on March 14, 2009


I've been a long-time OpenOffice user (pre 1.0 version) and while it has improved in leaps and bounds over the past few years, there are some occasional remaining compatilibity issues.

Do not, I repeat, do not use OO to save word document for layout-sensitive files that you have to send to other people (especially those with nested tables and such). This double applies to documents which were previously created with Microsoft Word, because chances are, it would look different when viewed on their side.

If you have such documents, export them to PDF and ask the recepient whether they would accept the file format. Alternatively, you're stuck with Microsoft Word.
posted by joewandy at 9:43 AM on March 14, 2009


Just a heads up as to what might have happened; microsoft office 2007 has online activation. Depending upon how and what version of version of office 2007 you have, you may have reached your activations limit. OEM versions can only be installed on one computer, for example - if you install it on multiple computers, even if it's uninstalled from the originals, it will fail.

However, it is often possible to call the telephone number shown for your region when activation fails, and talk through the activation help-line to resolve the problem, even if you're technically out of your licence terms.

If it was a volume copy provided by the school, go back to them as suggested; otherwise do a full uninstall, reboot, then reinstall with your media and key, then ring the phone activation number if it fails.
posted by ArkhanJG at 9:52 AM on March 14, 2009


olinerd: amtho, I've been using Open Office for a while in hopes of avoiding buying MS Word for my Mac. It works for basic documents, but if you're doing anything serious with styles (like some documentation I work on at work), or graphics that are laid out in anything fancier than a simple column or row, it just doesn't translate between the two types of software... Also, the spreadsheet program has a tendency to crash every time I ask it to sort more than five rows, and if I try to edit a spreadsheet I've left open when I sleep my laptop, it crashes the entire OO program.

First of all, I use OpenOffice Calc spreadsheet most of the day translating my clients' MS Office spreadsheets into our database; I've never once had it crash on me. Yes, I know it's quite slow on the startup, but I've found it to be pretty robust on my end - so I guess it varies a bit from person to person. (I have a pretty modern and well-maintained machine, 2Ghz and 3GB RAM.)

Second, I tend to use OpenOffice Writer because, while I have the Word formatting problems you're talking about, I've always had those problems with MS Word too - between different versions of Word, between different computers running the same version of Word, and even on the same computer running the same copy, there's no guarantee that a document will open the same twice. Add to that Microsoft's continuing dubious business practices concerning document format - have you gotten one of those .docx documents from a Word 2007 user yet? The ones you have to download and install a converter for? Fun, eh? - and I've given up the whole word processor game.

I stick with OpenOffice because it can do another thing that Word can't (unless you also own a license for Adobe Acrobat) - it can export docs as pdfs. That way, I don't have to worry about formatting - I can just send clients a stable, font-, software-, and MS-independant document. At this point, .doc doesn't really cut it if you want to send something and know that it'll get there looking good.

And this is especially true if you're trying to lay out graphics or embed anything in-document - you shouldn't be using Word or Writer if you really want complex documents like that. InDesign is nice to have but prohibitively expensive. Here are two interesting options:

If you're creating documents for (especially print) publication, particularly scientific or mathematical documents, there is a great word / document processor called LyX. It's actually a front-end for the long-standing industry standard document layout language LaTeX. If you want to produce documents with accurate character spacing that look good, remniscient of an old mathematics textbook (all of the textbooks used to use LaTeX), it's a neat option.

But the real winner for Open-Source document publishing is Scribus. Seriously, no one talks about this program, and I have no idea why - it's dynamite. It's nearly as good as InDesign, it creates high-quality pdfs natively and does so in a flexible way, and it's free. If you're putting together full-color image-laden documents that you want to transfer, Scribus is really the way to do it.
posted by koeselitz at 10:28 AM on March 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


fwiw, just to respond to koeselitz's comment, I'm using OO on a brand-new, powerful Mac. Translating Word on Windows (either XP or 2007) to Word on OSX hasn't given me nearly the problems I've found in going from Word on Windows to OO on OSX, and the Mac thing may also be responsible for the crash issues. So YMMV, depending on your OS. But my experience with OO has been nothing but frustrating, and just wanted to indicate that in this discussion for the benefit of taking the advice in this thread.
posted by olinerd at 10:40 AM on March 14, 2009


Olinerd: Ah, that makes perfect sense. I've always had trouble with NeoOffice (that's OO for Mac, right?) too.

Good point.
posted by koeselitz at 11:21 AM on March 14, 2009


I stick with OpenOffice because it can do another thing that Word can't (unless you also own a license for Adobe Acrobat)

Just a small point, but pdfcreator is an excellent opensource program for 'printing' to pdf (and jpeg, tif etc). So if you use word, and want to send pdf's you an use this.

I use OO and MSWord. I prefer OO for small documents, but I find it slows down a lot with bigger files (20+ pages, even with the graphics turned off) - perhaps I don't know how to optimize it.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 2:07 PM on March 14, 2009


Wow, what a wealth of knowledge! I can't thank you folks enough.

We will use OO for a stop gap until we get her machine back to normal. I had completely forgotten how long ago I purchased that office suite until I read your comments! It's OLD.

Thanks again, we both appreciate your help!
posted by snsranch at 4:14 PM on March 14, 2009


Joining the chorus on Open Office is horrible. That is all.
posted by nax at 5:09 PM on March 14, 2009


Joining the chorus on Open Office is awesome. That is all.
posted by funkiwan at 10:45 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Joining the chorus on Open Office is great. That is all.
posted by Redmond Cooper at 1:01 AM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've always had trouble with NeoOffice (that's OO for Mac, right?)

NeoOffice is still based on version 2 code
A native Mac version became available with the release of OO 3.0 last year.
OpenOffice.org
posted by Lanark at 7:53 AM on March 15, 2009


Wasn't there something new we were supposed to be saying instead of "that is all?" That is all.
posted by nax at 10:47 AM on March 15, 2009


« Older We're makin' root beer! (Help?...   |  My cough is insane. I've never... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.