Google offering free software package

/ Source: The Associated Press

Google Inc. is making its word processing and spreadsheet programs available for free to all comers on its Web site, marking the Internet search leader's latest effort to provide an alternative to Microsoft Corp.'s dominant software applications.

(MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

The software package, expected to be available Wednesday, combines a spreadsheet application that Google introduced in June with a word processing program called Writely that the Mountain View-based company bought for an undisclosed amount in March.

As part of the expansion, the Writely name will disappear.  The new package will be called Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

Google also had been limiting usage of both the word processing and spreadsheet programs, but the company now expects to be able to accommodate anyone who signs up, said product manager Jonathan Rochelle.

Wednesday's move continues Google's attempt to assemble a suite of software applications that are tethered to an Internet connection instead of a single computer's hard drive.

That makes it easier for people to work on the same document from different locations, a convenience that is also meant to encourage more sharing among users with common interests or goals.