OpenOffice is probably the best-known of the free, open-source office software suites. It comprises a word processor, spreadsheet, and graphics apps. But despite the fact that it's open source, few attempts have been made to create genuinely new and useful products from that code. Until now.
OOo4kids is, as the name implies, a version of Open Office (or OpenOffice.org, hence the 3 O's) that's specially designed for use by 7 to 12 year olds. The menus are trimmed down to the bare minimum, to keep things easy. The word processor, for example, allows only a choice of font, size, colour, and bold/italic/underline. The other options are still there, and can be enabled if required, although the facility to do so is password-protected so it's up to you whether or not to tell the child about it.
While the basic word processor in OOo4kids is no better than the bundled Wordpad, which comes free with Windows, the suite does include both a spreadsheet and graphics apps, all of which work nicely together in order to create, say, a document that includes an illustration and a spreadsheet.
OOo4kids is a great idea, especially if it encourages kids to use computers for something other than playing games or social networking. The program is quick and easy to learn, and gives them a real feeling of doing grown-up things with their computer. The product is free, and you can get it from www.ooo4kids.org. It's available for Windows (32-bit), Mac and Linux, and the download for Windows is a relatively hefty 87 MB.
My thanks to site user Fran Bott for recommending this one.
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