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Word up, price down

This open-source program proves that you don't have to come up with a chunk of change to score a worthy word-processing program. And the fact that it's compatible with Microsoft Word certainly doesn't hurt.

This free, open-source word processor strikes us as a worthy alternative to pricey, big-name products. AbiWord has a quick learning curve, since the interface is very similar to those in Word and WordPerfect.

You'll find just about all the features you need, including the ability to cut and paste, highlight, and a bevy of common formatting tools. Although we did miss a grammar-checking utility, AbiWord can check your spelling in many languages--you'll need to choose the appropriate foreign language dictionaries during installation. A huge plus is the ability to open and save Microsoft Word documents, though the program also has its own proprietary file format. You can download plug-ins at the publisher's site to import and export a wide variety of other formats, including OpenDocument.

The latest version integrates with the AbiCollab Web service for sharing documents, and finally introduces an annotation feature that competitors have long had. AbiWord should appeal to a wide range of users who seek a functional word-processing app but lack a large bank account.

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