Home User Program

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The Home User Program was an initiative between the NHS and Microsoft that enabled NHS employees to obtain Microsoft Office software. The user was required to prove that they worked for the NHS (usually by providing an NHS email address) and then pay a sum to cover administrative and distribution costs, after which they would receive a copy of the latest Office Suite for use at home. The user did not buy the software. The user received a licence to install it on a computer at home. One of the rules was that when they left the employment of the NHS, they had to uninstall it.

In June 2010, the agreement was not renewed (details on e-health-insider.com ) and, subsequent to that, people who took advantage of the HUP arrangement are required to uninstall the software. More information can be found on the Microsoft web site.

Alternatives to Microsoft Office

For Windows

alternatives to Word,Excel and Powerpoint

  • Open Office.org ( Opensource and therefore free) Word processor ('Word'), Spreadsheet ('Excel') and presentation ('Powerpoint') software, plus database, drawing, and formula applications.
  • Lotus Symphony ( Opensource and therefore free) Word processor ('Word'), Spreadsheet ('Excel') and presentation ('Powerpoint') software only.
  • LibreOffice is the latest open source, free arrival. In 2010 Sun Microsystems, which had been a major supporter of OpenOffice.org, was bought by Oracle. A number of OpenOffice.org developers became unhappy about the potential future direction of OpenOffice.org so they left and set up the Document Foundation. Using OpenOffice.org's open source code they set about creating a 'fork' of OpenOffice that would not be subject to the same commercial pressures that might potentially be going to affect OpenOffice.org. Version 3.3.0, the first production version of this fork was released in January 2011. For all practical purposes LibreOffice is an updated version of OpenOffice.org.

All these programs will read documents written initially using MS Office, and will save in MS Office format (as .doc, .xls , and .ppt) as well as a variety of other file formats. OO has the useful ability to save documents in the .pdf format and also supports the increasingly popular *.ODF format (open document format)

alternatives to Outlook for email

If you use Outlook at home, and collect mail from your ISP using POP or IMAP there are several choices:

  • Outlook Express, Windows Mail, and Windows Live Mail are free email clients provided by Microsoft for successive generations of the Windows Operating System. They integrate with the Windows Address Book but lack some of the more sophisticated functions found in Outlook. That said, they do everything that most users will ever need.
  • Thunderbird is from the same people who do the Firefox web browser. It is highly regarded.
  • Evolution, originally part of the Linux/Gnome desktop now has a Windows installer. It is probably the most 'Outlook-like' package around.

alternatives to Outlook for Calendaring

  • Google Calendar. You need a Google account.There are terms and conditions of use [1] . You can synchronise Google calendar with other programs and share your Google calendar with other users.
  • Sunbird is a stand-alone calendar . The FAQ [2] provides details of integration with other calendar applications.
  • Lightning is an extension to Thunderbird email client that adds the Sunbird calendar to Thunderbird email program

For Mac

alternatives to Word,Excel and Powerpoint

  • Open Office.org produces a version of its office software for Mac OSX. It has the same functionality as the Windows version. Updates of OpenOffice.org are synchronised across all the supported operating systems - Windows, Mac, Linux, and Solaris. It is released under the LGPL licence, and is primarily financed by Oracle who bought the original major sponsor, Sun Microsystems, in 2010 (see above). It is free to users.
  • NeoOffice uses the OpenOffice.org code to produce a suite of office software specifically for Mac OSX. It is released under the GNU General Public License (sic) and is virtually identical to OpenOffice.org in use, although this author believes it really does open files more quickly (as claimed), and certainly does not have the annoying bug that plagues OpenOffice.org's spreadsheet on his MacBook Pro. NeoOffice is supported financially by voluntary donations from users. Donors get some (non-essential) functionality not available to those who choose not to make a donation. One of the obvious advantages of NeoOffice is the way it highlights text in the standard OSX manner; OpenOffice.org does not do this. On the other hand NeoOffice does not support 'Universal Access', the functions that facilitate computer use by those with impaired hearing or vision.
  • LibreOffice has a Mac OSX version. So far this author's limited experience of its use is favourable.

There is more information about OpenOffice.org, NeoOffice, Lotus Symphony, and LibreOffice on their respective web sites whence the software may be downloaded. The downloads are 160 to 180MB. As always, it is important to ensure that your system meets the specification required by the software package.

alternatives to Outlook/Entourage for email

  • Mail is provided free with OSX and will satisfy the needs of most users. It works with iCal and Address Book.
  • Thunderbird, from the same people who do the Firefox web browser, is highly regarded.
  • Opera has an email client as well as a web browser.
  • Eudora gets good reviews.

There are many email clients for both Windows and Mac that are not listed here. Information about them can be found by searching the web. If all else fails then purely web-based email (Yahoo, Hotmail, etc) can be used, although not all are reachable through the NHS firewall. NHS Trusts vary when it comes to email providers to which they allow access, although Doctors.net seems to be trusted by most (this may be a function of the way the firewall works - exclude "doctors" from any internet search or url and the system becomes effectively useless). NHS email (user.name@nhs.net) can be used in purely web-based mode and there is now an application for synchronising NHS mail with Blackberry smartphones. The DH is currently trying to persuade all NHS Trusts etc to move away from local email (user.name@nhstrust.nhs.uk) to NHS email.

Gmail/Googlemail users have access to a useful feature. Like most, it can be set up to receive emails sent to other accounts. But unlike most, the recipient can reply as if using the email account from which that message originated. It is not known if this feature is forbidden by the NHS firewall.

alternatives for Calendaring

There are many calendar applications for Windows, Mac and Linux platforms. Also, most web mail systems (Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.) have a calendar application. Thanks to the widespread adoption of the iCalendar file format most of these systems can exchange calendar information and synchronise with the calendar applications on mobile devices.