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ThinkFree’s browser-based launching pad presents the suite’s clean interface.
The folks at ThinkFree chose a hybrid approach for their suite. A free online version is available, but we were regularly reminded to download the resident ThinkFree Office 3 package. And for good reason—the online, browser-based version is sluggish at best. Typing lagged, and entering data in the spreadsheet was painfully slow at times. Once we downloaded the software version, however, ThinkFree performed as fast as the others. (The download is a free 30-day trial; a license is $49.95.) When you first launch the downloaded package, each app installs some Java code on your Mac, which requires some patience but results in a much faster startup. You’ll also get a ThinkFree icon in your menubar—it looks like you’re using a regular Mac app, but your work is still saved online.
All ThinkFree apps (Write, Calc, and Show) sport a clean interface reminiscent of Microsoft Office. We suspect that this elaborate interface is in part responsible for the sluggish performance of the online apps, but we found all options where we expected them and the apps were easy to navigate. ThinkFree’s apps were also much more integrated than the other two suites.
ThinkFree Write imported our test Word document perfectly—it’s the most compatible word processor reviewed here.
ThinkFree Write is the only word processor we tested that provides a visual representation of the document page with rulers and page size. Formatting options for characters, paragraphs, and documents include a large number of fonts and sizes. Images can be chosen from a large selection of clip art, grabbed from a Flickr account, or uploaded from your own Mac. Footnotes and endnotes, various lists, and a complete set of table functions round out the editing options. The spell checker presented us with all the options we are used to seeing in Microsoft Word.
ThinkFree’s spreadsheet is a virtual clone of MS Excel.
ThinkFree Calc is essentially an online version of Excel. It offers the most complete set of options, a broad array of functions and graphs, and resembles its Microsoft counterpart down to the design of the menu options. We were able to easily format charts even at the axis level.
ThinkFree Show offers a well-designed presentation package that mimics PowerPoint in most ways. With 33 themes and six layout options, this app offers more design choices than its competitors, but we could not insert sound or video files. We were, however, able to insert graphs from Calc.The ThinkFree package boasts the most options for layout and design and also has the most compatibility between apps. However, the sluggish performance of the browser-based version is a serious drawback. Downloading the local version of the suite solves that problem (for a price), but the promise of online apps is that we can use them wherever we are—and on any computer. So if you expect to use machines other than your own, ThinkFree may not be for you.