ONLINE we are moving through phases. There has been the chat phase, blogging phase and many others. At the moment we are in a social networking phase and also in a “free” phase.

We are lucky to live in a time where the word “free”   should   no longer be associated   with something being of a poor quality. I am often amazed at the way in which people perceive opensource software as being of a lower quality than paid-for software.

The world is moving to an open and free model where the community collaborates to build   something   for   the greater good. This is a model where money is generated through other sources and where the opensource project stems from a passion for the project and a strong believe that the community can create something greater than any team getting paid for a project.

Please   note that I am not trying to tell you that all opensource software is better than proprietary software. Not at all. I am saying that we should never assume that opensource projects are inferior in any way. The quality of software should be evaluated on a case by case basis. If you are a small business and you are in the market for a word-processing software package, you should consider downloading OpenOffice from before you   spend thousands on a package that will for the most part do exactly the same thing. I even   discovered some great features in OpenOffice that I have been missing in other packages. I think the main thing I am trying to say is that if someone is trying to tell you you should never use opensource software, you can be sure   the   chances are he is either   trying   to sell you   a   package   or   he is spending   someone   else’s money. Schools,   institu­tions,   organisations   and companies should   encourage   and   support the   use   of   opensource   software. The long   term   benefits will be tremendous.

If you would like help to get started with OpenOffice, has just released a book on using effectively.
.  Nico Baird is an instructional designer: Media at the Central University of Technology (CUT), Free State, and New Media and Educational Technology enthusiast and can be contacted at