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OpenOffice vs. MS Office for Education? 1039

Posted by Cliff
from the search-for-a-red-tape-solvent dept.
dbrian asks: "I work in a large high school district where there will be some discussion on whether or not to purchase another term of 'Software Assurance' for MS Office licenses on thousands of computers. This seems to be an ideal opportunity to promote an alternative such as OpenOffice. It will not be an easy sell, even though OpenOffice should more than satisfy all curricular needs and save the district lots of money; like many other districts we have political and cultural 'challenges'. So, I ask you, have you been successful in moving your education or business organization from MS Office to OpenOffice? What were the pros and cons from your migration? What advice do you have in selling this to tech coordinators and administrators who are not enlightened by Open Source?"
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OpenOffice vs. MS Office for Education?

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  • Demo it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:15PM (#12315295)
    Can't you just do a demo? Call it "microsoft office" and show them the latest features. Then say "oh, by the way, this isn't microsoft office after all. It's a $300 competitor. Then say, "Oh wait. It's not $300 after all. It's free"

    That way you kinda ease them into it.

    Just a thought.
    • Re:Demo it? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TrippTDF (513419) <hiland AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:22PM (#12315435)
      I bet you have a harder time selling the district on a free, less popular product than on an expensive, popular one.

      Not a testament to M$'s programming, but it a testament to their marketing department.
      • Re:Demo it? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by clickster (669168) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:45PM (#12315816)
        I look at it as a testament to human laziness. Since OOo can be given to the students to install at home for free, you shouldn't have a problem there. Pre-existing forms can be recreated. Not every MS document is supported by a later version. Things change. Sure, sometimes an OOo document looks like crap in MS Office, but sometimes and MS Office document looks like crap in OOo. Unlike businesses, schools are tax-funded and have a fiscal responsibility to choose cheaper alternatives if they will work - even if it takes some actual work in the beginning.
    • Re:Demo it? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DrXym (126579)
      I use OpenOffice everyday, and although it's usable I wouldn't say for a second that it was a $300 competitor. It's not that it's bad, more that it's arcane. The UI is arcane, the functionality (aside from certain things like PDF support) is arcane. There's too many menus, the common things are mixed in with the uncommon things, the icons and L&F feel old etc. The drawing module is evil and essential features like outline mode don't exist at all.

      But for what I use it for, it's mostly usable, albeit no

    • by Chordonblue (585047) on Friday April 22, 2005 @04:49PM (#12317467) Journal
      Above all else - BE HONEST. Let them know what shortcomings exist with OOo and how to address them. I wouldn't try some stunt like fooling them into believing it was MS Office (PHB's HATE that sort of display because it makes them feel foolish); however I *would* compare them side by side in something like 'Impress' and then conclude the slideshow by saying that it was prepared using OOo.

      Here's some more things you can do:

      1) Demo it by giving it away to those who are making decisions as well as to the teachers. Before OOo 2.0 I would have said not to because of installation hassles, but even the 2.0 beta makes this a thing of the past. Be prepared to answer questions on usage and comparisons to MS Office. I would recommend using 2.0 beta since it's release is imminent and it is far more polished.

      If you can wait, I'd wait until The OpenCD w/2.0 OOo is finished before handing them out, but if you can't, then by all means give them the beta anyway.

      2) .DOC is NOT a standard! Prove it to them with examples. Not every student at home has office - some have Works and thanks to Dell, some have NEW versions of Wordperfect (go figure). Standardizing on OOo (or StarOffice for support in-school) is a way of circumventing this without stepping on a lot of toes. In fact, OOo now imports WP/.DOC as well as exports in Flash, .DOC, and .PDF (a real standard). Compare this to MS Office and OOo becomes more compelling.

      3) International concerns? Some private schools wrestle with the fact that Word 2000 in Asia and elsewhere, does not produce the same .DOC as the U.S. OOo revels in it's worldwide usability.

      4) Prove compatibility with existing MS .DOC documents. Use examples from your school and be truthful with them. If something breaks, be honest about it. To this end, do use 2.0 because it now supports tables in tables (required for decent .DOC compatibility). HINT: 2.0 hasn't broken a single .DOC here yet! Yay!

      5) Use the past to point to the future. Point out that there was a time back in the 'elden days' of computing where .DOC was in the minority. Use your own school's history if you can. Example: Before we standardized on OOo we had Word: XP/2000/97/95/DOS, Wordperfect Win/DOS, XYwrite, Notepad, Edit (yes, I'm serious), and a few others I can't remember. All this in only the last 10 years!

      Remember this mantra: .DOC is not a standard. It varies between versions and changes at MS's whim. Some administrators may remember a row with Office '95 - a truly horrible version for those who are in the least concerned about compatibility.

      Mayhap some of your administrator's remember a conversion process long ago with Wordperfect or some other format. Remind them that this process would not exist for OOo for two reasons:

      a) Import of .DOC is damn good now.
      b) Export of pure XML data is assured with OOo.

      And finally, mention that it's FREE. Better still, preface this with the fact that StarOffice's terms for schools are outragiously good. Tell them that in standardizing to OOo, your teachers, administrators, students, parents, whoever wnats a copy from the library (you DO have some in there, right?), can have it free of charge. Remember: 'Free' should be the LAST thing you mention, not the first.

      Let them know how the world is changing. Show them examples of who and where OOo is already being used full time. Convince them that they could grasp the brass ring before most others have. After all, isn't embracing new technology and learning new things what education is about?

      Again, be honest about what OOo can do for you, and how it will improve compatibility and document longevity. You can win this battle (I did at Linden Hall School), but you have to 'sell it' for the right reasons and be prepared to help in the transition.

      Good luck!

  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman.gmail@com> on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:15PM (#12315300) Homepage Journal
    1. OpenOffice is free, but support may be obtained from a very popular computer company. (Sun Microsystems)
    2. OpenOffice fully supports Microsoft Office file formats.
    3. OpenOffice can be distributed to students without cost.
    4. OpenOffice (and its sister project NeoOffice/J) run on ALL popular OSes, including Macintoshes.
    5. OpenOffice is continually updated to have the latest features, again at no cost.
    • by lintux (125434) <slashdot@wilmer.gaa[ ]net ['st.' in gap]> on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:20PM (#12315385) Homepage
      2. OpenOffice fully supports Microsoft Office file formats.

      I just wish this were true... It gets close, but there are still many, many problems. :-(
    • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:27PM (#12315531) Homepage
      If it really is that simple, then why haven't people been flocking in droves to OpenOffice?

      This is an honest question. Why isn't OpenOffice experiencing the same explosive success as Firefox? What is keeping these same Firefox "switchers" from getting their hands on OpenOffice, as well?

      • This is an honest question. Why isn't OpenOffice experiencing the same explosive success as Firefox? What is keeping these same Firefox "switchers" from getting their hands on OpenOffice, as well?

        My only answer is, that OpenOffice *is* experiencing tremendous growth. My wife actually converted before I did. She got tired of Word blowing up on her all the time and asked if I had something that would work. I sheepishly told her that I could let her *try* OpenOffice, and she agreed. She's never looked back.
      • by Enigma2175 (179646) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:34PM (#12315636) Homepage Journal
        If it really is that simple, then why haven't people been flocking in droves to OpenOffice?

        One word: Outlook

        • Agree. There are only 3 things that I still must stick to windows.

          1.) Outlook (not outlook express)
          2.) Games
          3.) Graphics Apps

        • Another word: Access
      • A few reasons (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DamienMcKenna (181101) <damien.mc-kenna@com> on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:50PM (#12315876)
        Here are a few reasons off the top of my head:

        * Download size. Firefox is under 5meg for Windows, OOo is approaching 100meg. Someone on a modem would download Firefox but most likely not OOo.

        * "If it ain't broke". People visible see problems in IE thanks to popups, spyware, etc. MSOffice doesn't have the same problem.

        * Piracy. IMHO most (home) users of MSOffice get their copy from friends or work, I've not known of too many people to buy it for themselves, even the educational version. With MSOffice perceived to be "free", why bother with something else?

        * File formats. MS Office is considered the defacto standard therefore for interoperability reasons a replacement must offer perfect import/export support for its file formats. Public perception also plays a part in this, while OOo's importers have improved these past few years people may still think of what it was like two years ago and not consider re-investigating it.

        * Laziness. People are lazy. If they perceive no improvement with changing then why should they put out the effort?

        * "Oh-Oh-what?" How many people even *know* about there being alternatives to MSOffice?

        Damien
        • Re:A few reasons (Score:3, Informative)

          by KagatoLNX (141673)
          Actually, I'm constantly amazed by the number of people who don't know that there IS Microsoft Office.

          A lot of the "civilians" that I help out have bought computers bundled with Office and have Office provided at work, so they don't understand that it's not PART OF WINDOWS (if they understand that Windows isn't a fundamental part of the computer, which lots don't).

          Recently Office has been yanked from the more competitive PC options from Dell and the like, so more people I know buy a computer and freak out
      • by MrNonchalant (767683) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:54PM (#12315955)
        My interpretation was always that OpenOffice seems to lack in massive quantities the polish you see in Firefox. The user interface just feels clunky, the icons incongruous. There isn't padding in the right places and it doesn't feel native.

        That was in many ways Firefox's advantage over Opera and Mozilla, it looked a lot better and cleaner. And don't lecture me on how software should be judged by quality instead of prettiness, I know that. You know that. But does the average user know that?
        • by CausticPuppy (82139) on Friday April 22, 2005 @03:19PM (#12316257) Homepage
          And don't lecture me on how software should be judged by quality instead of prettiness, I know that.

          "Prettiness" is one of many crucial aspects of software quality. I'm not talking about prettiness only for the sake of being pretty, don't get me wrong. But a well thought-out, consistent, logical user interface indicates that the whole package was designed well.
      • I've already upgraded my friends and relatives. My office has completely switched (except for a person or two that relies on years' worth of VB automation). Our local city government is considering it. My oldest kid's school is looking into it and talking about handing out CDs to parents.

        People are flocking in droves to OpenOffice. It just doesn't get as much press as Firefox.

    • by Malc (1751)
      I haven't used it, but does OO allow you to track changes and insert comments in the same way that Word does? That would seem to me to be the best way for a teacher to provide feedback. If not, then the students should be providing their documents in PDF format and neatly side-stepping issues of cross application file format compatibility.
  • by MPHellwig (847067) * <mhellwig@xs4all.nl> on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:16PM (#12315309) Homepage
    Be sure it it is indeed a viable alternative, it doesn't need to be better as long as it is good enough for that situation.

    I work as an administrator/application manager at high school, the point you have to consider when trying to switch is:
    Documentation, some teachers probably need to adapt their lessons, are they motivated for that and do they have the experience to make a change for them self?

    Why should teachers be motivated to switch? Because it is a moral obligation for non-profit organizations to use product that are more suitable for the common good and not just profitable for a monopoly.

    Education should be accessible to all layers of society, even the ones that don't have the money to buy "big bucks office".
    So by using open source they aren't forced to use illegal software just to be able to get educated.

  • by gandell (827178) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:16PM (#12315312)
    But I'm not impressed with Open Office's load times. One of the reasons we aren't moving more people to this particular open source package is that it typically takes 5 times as long to open the Text Document app if you don't have the tasktray icon loading.
    So no, we're not planning on moving anyone to Open Office. We have, however, moved a few workstations to Star Office.
    • But I'm not impressed with Open Office's load times. One of the reasons we aren't moving more people to this particular open source package is that it typically takes 5 times as long to open the Text Document app if you don't have the tasktray icon loading.

      Even with the quick-launch loaded, it takes OO.o ungodly long to open. And on top of that, the quick-launcher takes forever to load. I have 16 programs that automatically load on start-up (everything from my wireless network connection, to Folding@home,
  • Will it be useful? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Monf (783812) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:16PM (#12315319)
    When a kid leaves the school and tries to get a job and says "Yes, I am proficient in OpenOffice", how many employers are going to say "That's great, but we use M$ Office..."
    • by liquidpele (663430) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:22PM (#12315426) Journal
      And when I go to an employer, and I say "I can code in C and C++', and they say "That's grea, but we use Visual.net", I'll give them the finger.
    • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:22PM (#12315437)
      Good education will teach skills and not teach to a particular application. For what 90% of people use something like Word, WordPerfect, or OOo Writer for is really basic, and how to do it really doesn't change much between programs.
    • by CheeseTroll (696413) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:26PM (#12315496)
      I certainly hope my kids will learn more in high school than how to be good secretaries. I wrote school papers with pen/paper, and later with AppleWorks, yet I have somehow managed to move on.
    • My high school (graduated two years ago) had Corel WordPerfect Office installed on all of its PCs. Could you not make the same argument against that, or any other "alternative" office suite?

      The fact is, pretty much all office suites are pretty much the same. Most people at my school had MS Office installed at home, but they were still able to pick up WP just fine. No one ever had any problems with it.

      I think the same thing would be true for OOo. Sure, it won't be able to deal with MS Office macros or
    • by idsofmarch (646389) <pmingram AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:34PM (#12315630)
      Oh not this little bourbon again...a school's job is not to teach people to be little software drones, it's job is to instill critical thinking, knowledge, and ethics. Furthermore, the kid if properly taught will be able to quickly adapt to the brand-new MS Office which is somthing employers are really looking for: intelligence and adaptability. If a graduating student cannot get a job simply because he does not know Office than we should abandon the school system entirely and just simple hand-out MS manuals. There is more to knowledge than knowing how to dismiss Clippy with the right combinations.
  • Crappy Tech Policies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by suyashs (645036) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:17PM (#12315332)
    My school district has the most backward Tech policy I have ever seen. Every computer is licenced for all the MS Office apps, many random apps, and one cannot buy anything from anyone unless that vendor is "approved". This leads to some interesting pricing issues such as $200 for a stick of 128 MB ram, $50 mice, and very expensive computers. Furthermore, the computer science classes are stuck with old 233 Mhz Pentium IIs while keyboarding classes are upgraded to new 2.8 Ghz P4s. It's a big mess and nobody seems to care.
  • by johansalk (818687) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:17PM (#12315333)
    I'm a power user and have been using openoffice, and before that staroffice, since 2000. I can't see why kids in a school would need any more than I do. I have access to MS office 2003, yet openoffice, and especially with the promising beta of version 2, remains my choice for now and perhaps a time to come.
  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:17PM (#12315335) Homepage Journal
    The decision-makers will be finance-oriented, not technologists. Keep the "just like MS Office" points at a high level and keep pushing how much money it will save. Worst case, MS radically discounts their sw to play for the block. With either outcome, ther's more money to spend on the students, and that is what it's really all about.
  • Compatibility (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ZephyrXero (750822) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (orexryhpez)> on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:19PM (#12315366) Homepage Journal
    I work as sys admin at a dept. of my University. One of the teachers was having trouble getting a powerpoint to open. It seems she had used Office XP at home to create it, but for some reason Office 2003 at the school would not open it. I opened it with Open Office just fine though....problem solved.

    Just because OO isn't always perfectly compatible with Office doesn't mean anything since MS Office isn't even compatible with itself sometimes...
  • Tough sell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:20PM (#12315384) Homepage Journal
    What advice do you have in selling this to tech coordinators and administrators who are not enlightened by
    Open Source?


    Short of "Don't even bother", I'd say that you have your work cut out for you. Undoubtedly these people will be familiar, even comfortable, with MS Office and you will face huge momentum because your target audience probably sees no problems with MS Office. All the benefits of OSS except price will likely fall on deaf ears, so you'd better do your homework and have a very compelling presentation.

    I can't offer specifics because I'm not really familiar with OO. In my mind it is self-evident. Office sucks more ways than you can count. Period.

    However, you can't make this sell by bad-mouthing Microsoft or Office. Most non-techie people won't see it that way, and in fact will probably have a high opinion of Office since it's all they know. OO can't be just "good enough" to replace Office. It has to be made clear that it is superior... and not in the ways that we computer folks tend to think, but ways that will be convincing to non-technical people. You got a "gimme" on price, but the rest will be a steep hill.

    Good luck, I wish you well.

  • I've found (Score:4, Interesting)

    by whackco (599646) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:20PM (#12315389) Journal
    It is difficult for people to go from Open Office > Microsoft Office, but if they start on Microsoft Office they tend to be much more proficient at Open Office as MS Office tended to set the 'standard' for them on how to critically think where things are and such.

    Rate me flame bait, but this is honestly what I have found. Take somebody that never used MS Office and only used other products, and put them infront of Word and get them to do something reasonabily complicated, they are lost.

    Take the person raised with MS Office and put them infront of OO and they seem to find their way around.

    Strange but true! So I have personal reservations about using one or the other in a public (or private) school or body.
  • by zulux (112259) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:20PM (#12315396) Homepage Journal
    Break the problem down into server groups of users:

    The ones that just need to write english reports would be well served by Abiword.
    The ones that need just a bit more page layout flexability and a good spreadsheet could use OpenOffice.
    The 'Power Users' that use Excell like a psudo-database, and have gotten used to Word's horrably random page layout should stay with MS Office. L

    So...

    Kindergarden through 8th Grade -> Abiword
    8th through 12th -> OpenOffice
    Normal Teachers -> OpenOffice
    Crazy Teachers, Faculty etc with hard to port custom grading scrips, tables and other crap -> MS Office

  • Evaluation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by davecrusoe (861547) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:20PM (#12315397) Homepage
    The best way to determine if it's going to work for you is to set up 5-10 machines running OO and have a handful of students work with the program for a bit. Have each student complete a short survey, and you'll quickly identify who uses it best, and where the difficulties lie. Otherwise, many of our comments are heresay. Be sure to take into account all the normal uses students might want, for example: dropping images from the web into a document, printing small charts and graphs, and spellchecking. I'm sure you can think of others. Best of luck...
  • Pros and cons (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:21PM (#12315412)
    What were the pros and cons from your migration?

    Easy that one:

    Case #1: students and/or personel work exclusively with OOo:

    * PROS: OOo costs $0 and it's more than adequate
    * CONS: None or nearly so

    Case #2: student and personel want to exchange file to/from MS Office, to work at home or communicate with other non-OOo organizations:

    * PROS: See above
    * CONS: plan on commiting suicide soon after deploying OOo, when everybody comes to you and says "this documents looks like @*#& on Word, it's all your fault, it worked before!!"

    Since case #2 is prevalent, as much as I enjoy OOo myself, I say stay the hell away from it if you're in any position to be blamed for problems.

    Sad, but that's the way it is...
    • Re:Pros and cons (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gurps_npc (621217)
      Case #2 is NOT prevalent in a student environment. Students tend not to work at home if they can avoid it. And the ones we really need to give the most help to generally can't afford a computer.

      For those that actually do work at home, as it costs $0, they usually can afford buying it.

      So basically, the only problem is getting the brighter students that do homework and own a computer to install it as a 2nd option. But, being brighter students that do homework and own a computer, the school should encour

  • by Talinom (243100) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:25PM (#12315473) Homepage Journal
    Tell the teachers that "every dollar that goes to Microsoft takes away from the salaries they deserve." This should break past the FUD that Microsoft spreads.
    1. It appeals to the "help the community" group by knowing that they are looking out for their teachers.
    2. It could be used to pressure the school board. "They are sending money to Microsoft rather than to our starving teachers."
    3. It helps the local economy by keeping the money, well, local.
    Oh, and if it gets media attention then the pressure will really be on them. Just my two cents worth.
  • by Raul654 (453029) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:29PM (#12315560) Homepage
    When I got my new laptop in September, I decided to try it with open office instead of MS office. As a graduate student, I deal with LOTS of powerpoint files (both making them and reading others'). I was sincerely disappointed by the experience. First, the files it produced inevitably had formatting errors (if someone else tells you they are fully compatible, they are lying). Graphics tended to display differently, with different color schemes, 'etc. Second, it was so slow as to make it unsuable. On a top-of-the-line Pentium 4, there was a 30-45 second load time for the program, a 10-15 second lag between slides, and a really annoying 1-3 second lag between mouse clicks. After a semester, I gave up and went back to MS office. I'll be staying put until I see these issues resolved.
  • by eric76 (679787) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:30PM (#12315579)
    Three years ago, everything we had used Microsoft Office. We now use Star Office and Open Office on PCs and don't even bother with Microsoft Office.

    The way this came about was I started using it on my own. Whenever someone new came in, I'd set up their PC with Open Office instead of Microsoft Office. Earlier this month, our accounting clerk, the final holdout, asked to switch.

    Now the only Microsoft Office we have is on the Macs. And they are using a really old version of Microsoft Office because of one particular feature available on that version.

    I've talked to many of the school board members about OpenOffice and Star Office. They keep complaining about the school district being short on money but they still haven't seriously looked at switching.
  • by Coryoth (254751) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:40PM (#12315726) Homepage Journal
    There have been a number of studies with regard to difficulties in shifting businesses over to OpenOffice, but it is important to remember that the school environment provides some key differences.
    1. Training: This is significantly limited in comparison to a large company. Students and teachers are not going to use as much of the complex and or custom features, and the basics of OpenOffice are sufficiently similar that there isn't too much to learn. More importantly a school has massive turnover - students are constantly graduating and new students arriving. The majority of computer users (which is to say students) are going to fresh meat for training anyway. There simply isn't the large staff base that needs to be expensively retrained.
    2. Features and Compatability: As already mentioned, an office suite at a school is not going to get the same work out as it will at a large company - custom macros, document tracking, custom styles etc. are all things that simply aren't going to get used. Compatability is also less of an issue. The majority of material produced on school computers is going to be students typing up reports, or using spreadsheets for assignments. These are transitory - it really doesn't matter very much if they can't be flawlessly imported into the new office suite after the report/assignment deadline has passed. There simply isn't the same amount of critical documents locked up in other formats as a large company will be faced with.
    3. Support: Support can be purchased from Sun if you want, but at schools the majority of users are students who are, let's be honest, often left to figure it out themselves. As an added bonus OpenOffice runs on most operating systems, and the school can easily provide free copies for the students to take home and learn. At High Schools I've been to senior students who are interested are often drafted in to help with a certain amount of system adminstration (the same way senior students can volunteer to help in the library etc.) Given that OpenOffice is freely available even in source form, you can expect interested students to have a high degree of knowledge of OpenOffice and help provide support. Some of them might even be contributing code to OpenOffice!

    Schools are, in general, far better placed than large companies to switch to OPenOffice. That doesn't mean that it is an easy or painless transition, merely that it is a lot easier than it is for corporations to make the move.

    Jedidiah.
  • Results: so-so (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kristoffer Lunden (800757) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:41PM (#12315741) Homepage
    I've seen it tried. It didn't really work out, mainly because more than half the students promptly pirated MS Office instead. In many of the cases without even trying out the provided alternative seriously, but rather dismissing it right away.

    On the other hand, for some parts of the suite, like for the presentations part, the MS variant is still so much better interface wise that it saves a *lot* of time using the real variant - we are talking hours and hours here. And yes, doing presentations are a large bit of what the students do around here.

    It doesn't really handle MS documents all that well either, in the sense that almost anything opens, but the formatting is often distorted and the same thing the other way around, plus that the warning everytime you try to save something back to doc can be really scary to the average user. To those who say that formatting shouldn't matter - it does. We are not talking about just being readable, but papers and mateial that should look a certain way, if only because the student wants it to look that way. And we are not talking advanced stuff either... a simple image can be enough to throw it off.

    Personally I do use OOo exclusively, but then again I'm not the average user; I'm a geek. No amount of gentle education, helping out or poiting to similarities will get the average user to even try something new if it doesn't behave just like they are used to - at least that is my experience. A real pain in the ass.

    On the plus side, we don't use doc as the internal format, we use HTML or in worst case PDF instead, which makes the situation a bit brighter. :)
  • Get a plan! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by metoc (224422) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:42PM (#12315772)
    First of all do you have sponsor for your idea? Someone who knows the organizations ins and outs. If you don't find one or forget it.

    Two. Make sure you factor in the conversion (old files still need to be accessible) and retraining costs (users and support), including time and effort. Many users will complain loudly to their bosses if you give them a new app without training (easy to learn apps and well written user guides don't make a difference).

    Three. Compare the cost of subscribing versus the cost of upgrading when the next version of office comes out (that you want to upgrade to). I know of a few organizations that skip releases because of the upgrade (mostly time and effort) costs.

    Four. Consider reducing the number of copies. Doesn't always work if it drops you from a high discount category in a low discount one.

    Five. The time may not be right. Microsoft is entrenched and people have to be ready to switch. You probably need a multi-year plan to slowly bring OpenOffice (and Linux for that matter) onto peoples desktops, and make the decision to dump Microsoft a natural decision.

    Last. Make sure you don't end up on the pile with others who have made unpopular decisions. It just means your are no longer able to influence change.
  • by bsdbigot (186157) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:50PM (#12315888) Journal

    Aside from the "minor," bugs with OOo that this thread is bringing to light, there is another serious consideration as far as interoperability and cross-office compatibility: Visual Basic for Applications (VBA).

    Before anyone considers a migration from MSO to OOo, you must consider your existing use of VBA; if none at all, no problem. On the other hand, if you have administration using VBA to manage accounting information, and teachers using VBA to manage grades, and students using VBA as part of their curriculum, then OOo is definitely going to be a more expensive solution, at least in the short term.

    On the flip side, VBA is one of the major featu^H^H^H^H^Hsecurity concerns; you could try to take that angle if you are using VBA extensively.

  • Use both! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by east coast (590680) on Friday April 22, 2005 @03:07PM (#12316108)
    Not knowing exactly what you're using this software for as far as education I'd say to start by using both. Not only does this give an evaluation period to try them head to head it also gives some time to get some feedback from the students.

    You're going to have a hard time pushing away from MSO when 95% of the professional office environments use it. The idea of this schooling is to get the student in the grove of what to expect in the real world. What's the chances of OO being the dominate or even having a large slice of the pie by the time they graduate? Pretty slim. By giving them the opportunity to use both you can at least expose them to alternatives. Who knows, a decade or so down the line you may even convince your district to convert.
  • by CoccaNut (855912) on Friday April 22, 2005 @03:20PM (#12316266)
    I am the tech coordinator for a very well known LA Charter School. We recently completed a huge expansion project, and now have over 400 PCs on campus. Rather than paying Microsoft and other vendors thousands of dollars, we decided to transition over to a hybrid "Closed/Open Source" software model. That is, we run Windows XP (which came preinstalled on all of our machines), but primarily use F/OSS software otherwise (OpenOffice, GIMP, Anim8or, WorldWind, Celestia, etc). Doing so resulted in huge savings for the tech portion of our capital campaign, and (as others have mentioned), we're able to freely share all of our application software with our staff and students without worrying about copyright issues. It is with great rarity that anyone "complains" that we're using a non-MS office suite...
  • There is a very simple process that you can follow to introduce most new technologies to an environment. To introduce OpenOffice to the school I would expect it to take about 2 semesters to achieve success using this method.

    1. First thing you have to do is find a teacher who will be supportive of your efforts. It's best of the person has been around for a while and has respect among the other teachers and decision makers. You have to convince this one person to give Open Office a try. Once you've done this you have someone who will help you meet your goals.

    2. Your teacher is convinced that they should use open office. Great, now you have to get them to introduce it to their students. It's easier to get approval to do a trial run than make a permanent change. So ask the teacher to run with open office for one of their classes for an entire semester. This will give both the teacher, the students and yourself some really good experience with using open office in this particular environment.

    3. If the trial when well, it's time to tell a few people about what you've done. Find a couple more teachers who would be open to the idea of a non-ms office suite. With the help of your champion teacher tell this new group of teachers what you've done. Tell them about all the success you had and the problems you had and how you dealt with the problems. Problems are OK to have, so long as you have a way to deal with them.

    4. Now maybe you have a half dozen teachers that are ready to try using open office. Get them all to run trials in one of their classes. You've now run 7 or so trials of open office. You have lots of real word data to build a case with now.

    5. Now you have to introduce the idea to the executives and decision makers. Make nice reports with lots of graphs and pictures. Make nice presentations for them to view. Get your teacher friends to help you explain to the decision makers why open office is a good choice. Explain to them that you've already ran trials and they were successful. Detail the problems that you ran into and how you solved them.

    6. Don't buy any more copies of MS office.
  • Microsoft Office (Score:4, Informative)

    by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Friday April 22, 2005 @04:06PM (#12316944)
    Office 2003 all the way.

    I'm sorry, but OOo just blows. I've used 1.1 and 2.0 (beta), and they both suck in a wide variety of ways.

    Here's a few:

    - OOo defaults to A4 on my distro. You have to recreate the damn template to get it to use Letter.

    - OOo's spell checker has neither the comprehensive dictionary nor the excellent suggestions that make Word's usable

    - OOo manages to use 171MB on my Windows system, and a similar amount under Linux. Compare that to 15MB for Word - more than a 10x difference.

    - OOo's spreadsheet doesn't autofill well. For example, Excel's autofill doesn't muck with the unchanging "data" part of the percentile function. OOo's does. In addition, if you move an entire column in OOo, the cells often don't update properly.

    - OOo doesn't use native file selector dialogs (on Linux) without buggy 3rd party plugins.

    - OOo sometimes coredumps when I try to start a presentation under Linux.

    - OOo's 2.0 beta doesn't have working spellcheck at all on Linux.

    - OOo doesn't use native GUI calls, so every element has that "not quite right" feeling.

    - OOo can't autosave to a temp file; it must save to the original file

    - OOo Impress doesn't ship with any templates.

    - OOo has no groupware integration.

    - OOo's outlining doesn't work like Word, AbiWord, KWord, or practically any other word processor.

    - OOo de-italicizes an entire word if you hit CTRL+I before typing the space.

    These are not minor squabbles. They are major issues that add up to a product that feels buggy, bloated, and awkward. It's a suite that just doesn't feel ready.
  • by marbux (761605) on Friday April 22, 2005 @04:30PM (#12317243) Journal
    You might point out that government procurement specifications may not lawfully specify software brands, but must instead be specified by standards of performance. See my article [groklaw.net] at Groklaw, section 4. The international Agreement on Government Procurement applies to all levels of government in the U.S., including school districts.

    You might also discuss the legal and policy importance of procuring software using open file format standards, a subject discussed at length in the article. Microsoft Office's XML Reference Schemas, because of an overly-restrictive patent license, do not satisfy such requirements, which are critical to software interoperability in eCommerce and eGovernment. OpenOffice file formats do not suffer from that vulnerability.

    There is also the important issue of vendor lock-in. OpenOffice, being cross-platform, is a giant step in the direction of freeing organizations from the necessity of using a proprietary operating system. Moreover, even should the school ultimately decide to continue using the Windows platform and Microsoft Office, it can likely receive a far lower bid from a MS Office vendor by using a specification that would allow selection of OpenOffice.

    Drafting government specifications in such a way that only one vendor can supply the procured product, particularly in a time of shrinking government budgets, is wasteful and anti-competitive. You might consider developing or requesting an estimated cost comparison, using the previous MS Office licensing cost as the base. A substantial savings is likely, freeing funds for other purposes.

  • OO isn't Office (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jimharris (14678) on Friday April 22, 2005 @06:02PM (#12318221) Homepage
    MS Office is more than just Word & Excel. If your school or company uses Outlook with an Exchange server, Office becomes a total work environment. We used to use Thunderbird where I work, but when they switched us to Exchange, I realized Outlook was the real cement that ties us to MS Office. Now the intergration between Office 2003 & IE 6 is even more complete when you use Outlook - so I gave up on Firefox too.

    In terms of total functionality and usefulness, I am completely happy with Office 2003. I don't like the alternatives. I don't even like Office 2004 on the Mac. For me to switch to anything else means I loose in overall user satisfaction.

    Sorry, but I hope my school never tries to save money by going to OOo.

    However, if you don't have Outlook/Exchange, and just use Office for Word & Excel, I'm not sure if it matters.
  • by b17bmbr (608864) on Friday April 22, 2005 @06:12PM (#12318307)
    I am a teacher and can share a similar experience:

    1) district tech people will get freebies er, um, demos, from microsoft. you know, windows server, visual studio, etc., to "tryout" as it were. gonna influence their decision

    2) people will already have 1000's of prior docs in .doc, .xls, and .ppt. OO.org won't do a good enough job on those. plus, asking teachers (and I am one by the way)to learn something new is going to be impossible, no matter how close the two really are.

    3) "if it's free, it can't be good" and "it's what they use in the real world" will prevail. schools are no longer institutions of learning, but exist simply to train workers. i could cry. we don't read nor write nor think anymore. sorry to kvetch. but, there is a mindset about "Office" and you're just a salmon.

    4) teachers get a copy for home. so they think they're getting a steal. kinda hard to overcome that.

    5) here's the glimmer of hope. set up a small lab with OO.org. since the really expensive thing for schools is hardware (software is actually pretty cheap. they want to get the kids hooked.) set up a linux thin client lab, or a linux lab with older computers. then use OO.org there. the other thing is this: since you can't give Office to the kids, but you can OO.org, make a technology plan to have a "give the kids a CD day". perhps if the kids turn in work in .sxw it might be a start.

    6) another alternative. since much school hardware is OOOOLLLLDDDD, try abiword. it's small and fast. that'll get them interested in OSS.

    look, I've been a teacher for ten years and been excited and shot down too many times to tell you. am I cynical, sure. you're going up against a beauracracy who doesn't care about saving money. remember, they have to do budget burning too. saving them money screws that up. sad but true. i hope you get this far down.
  • by ratboy666 (104074) <fred_weigel.hotmail@com> on Friday April 22, 2005 @06:42PM (#12318549) Homepage Journal
    Ontario, Canada...

    7 million seats

    Big enough?

    Ratboy

Prediction is very difficult, especially of the future. - Niels Bohr

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