ThinkFree Office 3 Premium is a suite of three programs: Write, Calc, and Show. Write is a Word-type application; Calc is fashioned after Excel; and Show is like PowerPoint. (For purposes of this review, I did not assess the features or performance of the Write and Calc programs. This review looks mainly at Show and how it stacks up to PowerPoint and other presentation software.) ThinkFree Office 3 runs on a variety of platforms. You are not limited to Microsoft Windows; you can also use Mac OS and Linux. The total package of all three products is just around $50. This is a highly competitive price. It says on the box; "The affordable, compatible alternative to MS Office for the rest of us."
All three products are very similar to (and use the same file formats as) their equivalent Microsoft products. They are almost identical. If you are familiar with Microsoft Office, the learning curve for ThinkFree is almost nonexistent.
ThinkFree Office 3 Show is the utility that creates presentations. It's most similar to the 2003 version of PowerPoint and creates .ppt files (but not the new .pptx files that PowerPoint 2007 creates). The toolbars are almost identical to PowerPoint 2003, with a toolbar at the top of the screen and a toolbar at the bottom with icons for the same drawing tools as PowerPoint 2003. This makes it very easy to insert text or a picture. You simply click on the icon at bottom of the screen in the drawing tools. If you then want to format the box (for instance, with a border or a fill color), there is an icon to do this.
Considering ThinkFree Office 3 Show would cost about $17 if it could be bought separately, I wouldn’t expect anything approaching the functionality found in PowerPoint, but I was impressed by how much you could do with ThinkFree 3 Show. However, there are definite limitations. For the purposes of this review, I am comparing ThinkFree 3 Show to the PowerPoint 2003, which it most closely resembles. The 2007 version of PowerPoint is in a totally different league.
You can select from a variety of themes. You are not immediately prompted to choose a theme. If you want one, you need to click the Format button at the top of the screen, and select Slide Design. There are 33 pre-designed themes to choose from. The theme is applied to the whole file and you cannot apply different themes to different slides.
You cannot insert a whole picture album into ThinkFree 3 Show, as you can with PowerPoint. You can only insert one picture at a time. ThinkFree 3 Show has a selection of very useful clipart, different from the clipart available from Microsoft, but almost as extensive.
When creating a presentation, there are many good transitions that you can apply to individual slides or the complete project. ThinkFree 3 Show has about half the number of transitions of PowerPoint 2003. This is also the case with picture animations. I like the way that ThinkFree 3 Show presents you the options to set transitions or animations. The screen appears to the right of the design screen. It is very intuitive.
You cannot add music or sounds to the presentation. This might not be needed by many people, but is a really good effect for certain presentations. Also, there is no rehearsal mode to rehearse timings.
You can create a table in ThinkFree 3 Show and enter your data into the table. However, you cannot create charts of any kind. Notes can be added to the slides. There is no multiple monitor support. The notes will show when printed as a hard copy.
There is an "Export to iPod" function available, which looks like a great option, though I didn’t try it. However, I can imagine it would be useful to have a version of a presentation on an iPod. Because it is in the .ppt format, your presentation can also be synced to a Pocket PC device, as that format is compatible for such a device.
[Export to IPOD.jpg]
Installation & Setup (4 out of 5)
Installation is straightforward. Once the installation CD is inserted, the wizard takes about a minute to prepare the install. It took six minutes to complete the installation. The first time ThinkFree Office 3 ran, it checked for updates, which were found for all three products. It took about three more minutes to apply the updates.
User Interface (4 out of 5)
The toolbars are very intuitive. When you hover the mouse over any of the icons in the drawing tool toolbox, a brief explanation of what each icon does appears.
ThinkFree Office 3's screen layout is extremely similar to the equivalent Microsoft product. The formatting of objects is also similar, if not slightly easier, but this may be because there are fewer formatting options.
Price to Value (4 out of 5)
ThinkFree Office 3 Premium is an amazingly good value at about $50, especially when you consider it's a suite of three products. If your budget doesn’t allow for Microsoft Office, this is a great alternative. You can create very professional-looking presentations with ThinkFree 3 Show.
Product Features (4 out of 5)
ThinkFree Offfice 3 Show is the utility that creates presentations. It's most similar to the 2003 version of PowerPoint and creates .ppt files (but not the new .pptx files that PowerPoint 2007 creates). The toolbars are almost identical to PowerPoint 2003, with a toolbar at the top of the screen and a toolbar at the bottom with icons for the same drawing tools as PowerPoint 2003. This makes it very easy to insert text or a picture. You simply click on the icon at bottom of the screen in the drawing tools. If you then want to format the box (for instance, with a border or a fill color), there is an icon to do this.
[Top and Bottom Toolbars.jpg]
You can't create charts or use music or sounds in your presentation.
Performance (4 out of 5)
With ThinkFree Office 3 Show, you can save files in PDF format.
Security & Privacy (3 out of 5)
There is no way to track changes to a ThinkFree Office 3 Show file. You can save and access a past version of the document, but you can’t compare the two versions.
Help & Support (4 out of 5)
There is a User’s Guide included in the box. This is just a small 65-page booklet covering all three products. The Help within the program is extensive and easy to use. There is also a link to the ThinkFree website for further help and technical support.
I found one bug. I had a problem getting the first object on a slide to appear automatically. I emailed the problem to tech support. I was given a ticket number via email within a few minutes. This was on a Sunday. I received a reply on Tuesday evening asking for a copy of the file. I sent the file by return email. I still haven't heard from support over a week later, so this was very disappointing.
Pleasantly Suprised by the Power and Ease of ThinkFree (3 out of 5)
I am a heavy Microsoft Office user, therefore ThinkFree Office 3 Show was a very easy product for me to learn and use. For the price, I think this suite contains a very good all-around package of products.
It would be good to be able to add music to presentations. It would be very useful to also add charts, but at the price that this product sells for, maybe this is asking too much.
It says on the box that ThinkFree Office 3 is a compatible, affordable alternative to Microsoft Office and after reviewing the Show program, I'd have to say this is true. I was impressed with how much I could do with ThinkFree Office 3 Show, and because it was so similar to PowerPoint, all the tools were familiar and easy to use. You can create professional-quality presentations with ThinkFree Office 3 Show, despite its limitations.
Microsoft PowerPoint 2003, Apple Keynote (iWork '06)