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Is it Time for Open Office? 449

Posted by Cliff
from the opportunity-for-adoption dept.
lazyron asks: "I've been using Open Office a bit more lately, and got to thinking: this is much more like my current version of Microsoft Office than Office 2007 will be. Could it be time to try Open Office in the workplace, especially since there is still some time left before Office 2007 will be forced on us by the demands of the product cycle? Are there any IT admins out there thinking about trying Open Office, either with a few users or all of them?"
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Is it Time for Open Office?

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  • by phorest (877315) * on Friday January 19, 2007 @07:51PM (#17689548) Journal

    Yes, I concur.

    When I am onsite for service calls I always load up OOo for new installs. Most of my customers have peer-to-peer networks or are running Small Business Server. Outlook is a great program and if you have a SBS controlled domain every client gets their own copy of Outlook automatically. I do try to save them money on software so I can charge more for service calls:)

  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Friday January 19, 2007 @07:58PM (#17689618)
    Star Office would be a more appropriate replacement because the PHB's would see that they could call up a company and have some support rather than posting something on a mailing list should the shit hit the fan. I use the latest version of Star Office and have no complaints other than it doesn't print presentation slides as nice as PowerPoint does. But then again, I'm a student, so I don't need the most powerful software out there. I know that once I'm out of the university and in the work force I'm going to have to rely on the intricacies of Excel to get any work done, so I'd also chalk that up for another "No" reason.
    • by darkuncle (4925) <darkuncle@noSpam.darkuncle.net> on Saturday January 20, 2007 @12:30AM (#17691768) Homepage
      I'm a sysadmin, and "where's the support contract?" is a common mantra among management. However ... when was the last time _anybody_ called Microsoft for support with MS Office? Can anybody even name a single instance of this? I know I can't (granted, I haven't been in desktop support for ages, but I don't think most companies even bother to purchase a "support contract" for MS Office - they just buy the software and move on).

      Anybody out there know of an instance of someone actually utilizing an MS Office (or any office software, for that matter) support contract? This argument strikes me as one that just doesn't hold water ...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pluther (647209)
        Anybody out there know of an instance of someone actually utilizing an MS Office (or any office software, for that matter) support contract?

        I did, a couple of times at my last job, for strange problems we couldn't figure out.

        Of course, it didn't help. Even after 3rd-tier escalation, one problem we eventually figured out ourselves, and another one I got a solution to a couple of weeks later from a ClearCase mailing list...

  • OO (Score:2, Informative)

    by JoshJ (1009085)
    If you don't use Word macros, yes. If you do use Word macros (or certain Excel functions that are designed for the european market), probably not.
    If all you need is a standard word processing program, spreadsheet, and presentation maker (which is true of almost everyone that uses Office) then OO is the way to go.
    • Which is very very handy indeed.

       
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Trelane (16124)
      How did this crap get modded "insightful"?! You can code macros in python, StarBASIC, BeanShell, and several others. Seriously, where did parent get this jewel of mis-information?
  • by kosmosik (654958) <kos@kosmosDEGASik.net minus painter> on Friday January 19, 2007 @08:06PM (#17689668) Homepage
    Face it - OpenOffice.org is not compatible with MSO (neither are different versions of MSO either). You cannot really mix them. What you need is to choose one.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by EvilRyry (1025309)
      Thats a good reason to switch though. OpenOffice has better interoperability between versions than Microsoft Office in my experience. I've had some old Word '97 documents (fairly complex) that won't open at all in 2003 but open just fine in OpenOffice. On the flip side, I've never had trouble with older openoffice formats.
  • And the policies therein.

    We mostly use open source software in our shop, but a number of us have Windows boxen - or dual boot Linux/Win boxen - so that we can use Microsoft Office.

    At home, a lot of us use Open Office - even on our Windows PCs.

    It really depends on how your work is organized. For a small shop, changing over is fine, if you're mostly just using DOC and XLS formats, but not coding for Access (MDB) or doing add-ons for Word and Excel. But if your DBMS is something like MySQL, and you just need t
  • Not happening (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PHPNerd (1039992)
    There is no way to move existing companies off of Microsoft Office (which is what they want). The main reason is that many people are scared to move to a new product, while others don't want to have to learn something new (Even if it's minimal). Comfort zone is everything.
    • Re:Not happening (Score:4, Insightful)

      by LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) on Friday January 19, 2007 @08:18PM (#17689808) Homepage

      The main reason is that many people are scared to move to a new product, while others don't want to have to learn something new (Even if it's minimal). Comfort zone is everything.
      Yes but that's the OP's point. Office 2007 is in many ways more different from previous versions than OO.org is, making it the perfect time to make the switch.
      • Yes but that's the OP's point. Office 2007 is in many ways more different from previous versions than OO.org is, making it the perfect time to make the switch.

        Unless OOo is better at reading and converting documents from previous versions of Office than MSO 2007, or at least not worse, which I doubt, it may be a better time to switch than anytime in the past, but most businesses still won't want to do it.

        OOo is never going to be a "closer upgrade" than the next iteration of MS Office in the ways that matter

  • by wild_quinine (998562) on Friday January 19, 2007 @08:07PM (#17689688) Homepage
    From a purely word processing standpoint, this is both the right and the wrong time for OpenOffice.org to challenge the MS crown. It's the right time because, hell, Word 2007 looks more different to Word 2003 than Writer does, on the surface of it. It's the wrong time because, finally, there is a worthy version of Word on the market. It has been ten years since the Office team released anything this decent and free of bloat. But for all those OSS nuts out there, yes, really, now is the time to push Open Office. A bit of serious market share for OSS is always a good thing.
    • The Office 2007 formats are designed to be easy to implement in other programs. I'll bet we'll see support soon in OOo.
      • I don't believe any part of MS handing the specs over for either the format or .docx formats over to open source guys. They just got slammed for not providing docs asked for in 2002 by investigators.

        I think at least one of the benefits they will get is the forced incompatibility of the new formats.
  • No, I don't have 'users' but I do have a family. So far, in my efforts to ween them from MS Windows and related products, I find that they ask the same damn questions they used to ask: How do you format the paragraph numbers? How can I insert a picture here? Can you change the colors on this heading? plus the typical spreadsheet questions, web browser questions, and why can't I download this file type questions. I can't tell the difference between them using MS products and F/OSS products.

    In fact, I really
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday January 19, 2007 @08:22PM (#17689858) Journal
    I am a big fan of OO and I use it even though our company has bulk license and unlimited installs. I have no problem doing good high quality presentations. I mail PDF attachments. Everything is good. Except Excel's charting and annotating is still far superior to OO. I have been meaning to download the SDK and implement the support I need myself. But after looking at my code for five days I just can do more hacking during weekends. I must be getting old. Further my forte is C++ for non graphical non user interface fast scientific code develepment. So my productivity in the new build environment would be low. Bur definitely I would encourage people to improve the charting support. Just use gnuplot as the engine and slap good UI on it. Someone. anyone.
    • by kosmosik (654958)
      I don't know about MSO 2007 (I've heard it has improved in this matter) but MSO produces awful charts - mainly my problem with them is that you cannot export them decently (actually I figured out that you can print such chart to a file and then get PS file and use it in some other program - there is no easy way to export chart in decent format from Excel).

      In my opinion (or maybe the business where I am at) charts in Excel are mostly used for marketing purposes - and (I am talking about MSO 2003 here) that w
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by flynt (248848)
      If you're a programmer, and even if you're not, use R [r-project.org] to plot from spreadsheet programs, databases, and flat files! I highly recommend the book "R Graphics" by Paul Murrell if you're interested in not being constrained to what Excel and others limit you to! Murrell's grid package for R can have you building publication quality plots from scratch, it's very powerful.
    • There's an improved version of Chart coming to OOo finally in the version 2.3, which should be released in September of this year. It should be good enough for most purposes it's currently not. It's been development for a long time, since the Chart module basically hasn't changed much since OOo 1.0.

      Hopefully they'll revamp the equation editor at some point too. It has good potential, but clearly it's another module that hasn't been touched for a long, long time.
  • by Merlynnus (209292) on Friday January 19, 2007 @08:30PM (#17689934)
    As much as anyone cringes, Excel is the best tool for accumulating, plotting, and exporting (to Word, e.g.) data and charts. Yes there are better tools, but they are not as easy to use and they are not as well integrated with the other tools of the trade. So, having said that, Calc in no way measures up to Excel.

    For one, charting (especially X-Y scatter plots) is very, very painful to use and doesn't have all the features that are required.

    Then there's the VBA macro issue, which judging by some of the comments may or may not be an issue.

    Writer doesn't seem too limiting, and I haven't really used Impress too much, but without the functionality of Excel, it's a non-starter.

    • by Colin Smith (2679) on Friday January 19, 2007 @08:55PM (#17690158)
      God the problems I had trying to handle large datasets... Where "large" is bigger than say 64k... So what I really mean by large is small. Excel is just completely useless for anything non trivial.

      Yes as you mentioned, there are better tools for the job and frankly as hard as they might seem, they just work.
       
      • by Merlynnus (209292) on Friday January 19, 2007 @11:45PM (#17691398)
        Well, it really depends on what you're doing, doesn't it? If you're working with a couple dozen measurements (or even a few hundred) in a nice domain like time or temperature, it takes you a trivial amount of time to do this in Excel.

        Anyone trying perform data analysis on anything more than a few thousand data points in *any* spreadsheet deserves what they get. It's all about using the right tool for the job.

  • by eklitzke (873155) on Friday January 19, 2007 @08:32PM (#17689952) Homepage

    OpenOffice.org is, in my opinion, the weakest part of the free software desktop experience. It is huge and bloated. It takes 100 MB - 200 MB to install (depending on your operating system), which is way more than it should. It doesn't use any platform's native graphical toolkit. Fonts look like crap in it. Etc, etc.

    Honestly, I think that Abiword is orders of magnitude better -- not just in the obvious areas of size and memory footprint, but also in terms of the UI. It looks great in Gnome, and runs on Windows too (and it has a grammar checker!). I'm not a KDE user, but KWord also looks better than OO.o

    I don't understand the fixation that people have with Open Office. It's slow. It looks bad. It retains all the things you hated about MS Office. The only things that it has going for it is that it has the most faithful .doc import of any open source office tool, and that it has the best ODT support at the moment. But the day that OO.o dies will be a happy day in my book.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by YttriumOxide (837412)

      It doesn't use any platform's native graphical toolkit

      NeoOffice (OpenOffice port for MacOS X) uses Aqua and looks great - no need for X like the main OpenOffice.org. OpenOffice.org itself will be supporting Aqua in the not too distant future as well.
      You're right about OpenOffice looking a bit "off" due to the toolkit if you're looking at Windows though - I'd like to see this improved in future versions somehow.

      Honestly, I think that Abiword is orders of magnitude better -- not just in the obvious areas of size and memory footprint, but also in terms of the UI.

      The main problem with AbiWord is that it IS a very lightweight program and as such doesn't have too many features. As has been discussed elsewhere,

    • Well d'uh! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Frantactical Fruke (226841) <renekita@nOSPam.dlc.fi> on Saturday January 20, 2007 @04:48AM (#17693064) Homepage
      Faithful .doc import/export is the main thing I need as a translator. I get Word files and replace their contents with Finnish, English or German text. Happily, MS Word has been known to mangle documents, too, so I haven't yet been penalized for not paying the Microsoft tax: In the occasional cases when a document has its formatting messed up, the customers apparently just sigh and readjust, thinking that the translator doesn't know how to use Word properly.

      You see, that's the great thing about most Microsoft's users: They have built in fault tolerance.
  • by koreth (409849) on Friday January 19, 2007 @08:51PM (#17690114)
    I put OOO on my girlfriend's Windows laptop (replacing a pirated copy of MS Office) and it's been a mixed bag for her. Writer works fine for most of what she needs to do. Impress is okay but not great -- when she looks at other people's PowerPoint presentations, they are usually at least legible, but most often the formatting is messed up in some way or another. But Calc is a source of frustration. Last night she wanted to make a simple X-Y graph and it took us a solid 15 minutes of clicking around different dialog boxes to get what she wanted -- and even then I had to modify the spreadsheet to get it to work (it doesn't really like the Y axis values to be in the column before the X axis values, for example.) The default formatting was lousy; one of the columns was nothing but whole numbers yet Calc decided to put in grid lines for fractional values and display the numbers with three trailing decimal places. And so forth. All eventually fixable -- we got the graph -- but not fun.

    I just fired up Excel to compare the experience, and I had the same graph in under a minute with no after-the-fact fussing around with properties panels. Its defaults were what I wanted and it let me put my columns in any order (though the UI for specifying column ranges needs a little help IMO).

    This was the first time I'd used Excel in maybe a year, and the first time I'd made a graph in Excel in... well, I can't remember the previous time. Whereas I use OOO pretty frequently. So I am no MS fanboy -- but OOO does have some catching up to do in places.

    Notice, by the way, that the above example has nothing to do with file formats or proprietary languages. I'm willing to cut OOO some slack when it has trouble rendering a document that uses some obscure undocumented formatting feature of MS Word, but that wasn't the case here.

    • Want some fun? Fire up writer, type in a several paragraphs of random stuff. Use various heading levels to keep things organized. Now then: generate a table of contents. For extra fun, only allow one or two heading levels in the TOC. Then try making the TOC entries be hyperlinks to the material. Throw in some google searches (but not right away! that'd be cheating) and you're in a fun afternoon.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by flyingfsck (986395)
      I prefer Gnumeric to Calc. Gnumeric is almost 100% compatible with Excel.
    • It's funny, but just this afternoon I tried to help someone make a simple graph with Excel and can say most of the things you did about Open Office. The graph defaults sucked and while I remembered every one of the tweaks to fix it, it was irksome to have to. Calc is not that much better but Gnumeric is. It requires substantially less modification to have something that looks good. The long and short of it is that everything takes time to learn, you might as well learn the one that's free and improving.

  • by jkloosterman (1017270) <yemenim@gmai l . com> on Friday January 19, 2007 @08:54PM (#17690138)
    The state of the Openoffice.org project reminds me of how the Mozilla Project was about four or five years ago. It has all the features imaginable (e.g. database connectivity, vector graphic support, full-featured spreadsheet), and is compatible with everything under the sun. However, non o matter how modern or fast a system, it runs like a sloth. I would suggest that it is time for a new Openoffice, much more like what Mozilla has done with Firefox and Thunderbird; spinning one huge piece of bloat into several smaller tools that do their job effectively.

    Nobody used Mozilla, because it was big and slow and looked a lot like something from five years before (Netscape Communicator 4.7); people running GNU/Linux systems used it because it was all they generally had (not trying to throw flamebait). If Openoffice and its developers (mostly Sun) learned from Mozilla, we could see a great, useful, usable, and popular product come out of what Openoffice is today.
    • Have you tried AbiWord and Gnumeric? All you then need to use OO.o for is presentation (which can kind of be hacked inelegantly with Inkscape and Evince), which makes it a lot less painful, especially if you rarely need to do a presentation.

      Bias: I'm an AbiWord dev because I like it a lot.
    • by vga_init (589198)
      Actually, I've been using Seamonkey from time to time on my workstations. I actually can't perceive a speed difference between it and Firefox.
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday January 19, 2007 @08:54PM (#17690142) Homepage

    If you use OpenOffice 2 Writer and nothing else, you're fine. But interchange with .doc files still doesn't work all that well. Something readable usually makes it through the conversion, but it won't look quite right.

    Impress and OpenOffice Draw are OK, but, realistically, PowerPoint and Visio are better. PowerPoint has all those provided templates and graphical items which make it possible for suits to make up elaborate-looking presentations without much effort. With Impress, you start with a blank page and a few basic layouts. This is fine if you have the graphic design skills to start with a blank page, but that scares most people.

    The help system for OpenOffice is still terrible. The typical help page describes how to do something, but doesn't tell you under what menu item or button to find the indicated command. The help system is a manual chopped up into bits, not a coherent help system.

    OpenOffice's little star popup thing, their answer to Clippy, is just as annoying as Microsoft's, but dumber about figuring out what you're doing.

    It's classic open source. The essential stuff works, and everything else is kind of half done. It's far better than OpenOffice 1.0, but it still has a ways to go.

  • My experience with Open Office 2.1 is that users are not aware of any difference between that and Microsoft Office. They only want to type a letter, and don't focus at all on software issues. I presume that most businesses have very minimal needs: Click File/ New/. Type stuff. Click File/ Save/. Click File/ Print/. Perhaps 1 user out of 20 has any interest in complicated formatting. For all others, there is Open Office. Price-less.

    --
    U.S. government violence has stopped the centuries-long violence in Iraq
  • by Arceliar (895609) on Friday January 19, 2007 @09:23PM (#17690390)
    Even if you try OO in a large setting, and find it doesn't work, there's not a lot lost. Just reopen and save your stuff again in a M$ Office native format and switch back. OO may lack some of the 'features' of other office suites, but that doesn't mean said other suites can't open OOs exported files with little to no loss. And as always...pointing out the whole "it's free" thing can go a long way.
    • by kosmosik (654958)
      > OO may lack some of the 'features' of other office suites,

      Features are not important - OOO does not lack any significant fature. But it is quirky. F.e. in MSO you can set entire document language (that your spellchecker will use right dictionary) or just one paragraph using menu (it is in quite obvious place). In OOO if you need to change language you need to go (it took me 10 minutes googling) into *character* properties. That is right - to change language, you need to change *character* properties. O
    • Scrooge: 'Bah! Humbug! It's Free... So stop yer yammering, or I'll subtract the cost of MS Office from yer next pay check...'
  • by MickDownUnder (627418) on Friday January 19, 2007 @09:23PM (#17690392)
    Microsoft no longer sees Office as it's cashcow.

    Sharepoint is the new cashcow.

    Microsft Sharepoint is an all in one company intranet, document management, CRM and internet portal system for medium to large companies that has been gaining significant market in recent years. Sharepoint entrenches a company in Microsoft technology far more than Office ever could or ever will.

    Much of the killer features on offer in Office 2007 are features leveraging Sharepoint.

    If your company has already invested in Sharepoint or is thinking about using it, the choice of Open Office versus Office 2007 is a no brainer. Choosing Sharepoint and then Open Office instead of Office 2007 would rate as a category 5 blunder.

    If Open Office supporters want to see it thrive they better keep their eyes on the ball and not the man because MS Office has passed the ball to Sharepoint [redmondmag.com] some time back now.
  • by eck011219 (851729) on Friday January 19, 2007 @09:27PM (#17690424)
    ... that it's worth STICKING with Office. Office 2007 is by far the easiest to use so far (in my opinion) of the Microsoft Office family, and the new interface makes old Office and OpenOffice feel downright antique.

    There are licensing issues and business practices and so forth that everyone around here gets all in a lather about, but from a purely user-experience standpoint I think it's pretty great.

    Either way, things are at a crossroads. The Open Document Format (ODF) is what OpenOffice uses, and Office 2007 uses Microsoft's own more proprietary version of this, OpenXML. Instead of things getting closer together, it's getting harder and harder (really, due to the minor differences more than the major ones) to transfer documents back and forth between OOo and Office. And since most interaction with the outside world requires Microsoft-specific file formats, I think you may as well stick with Office. Purely from a practicality standpoint -- not ethics, not right vs. wrong, just what's going to cost you the least number of hours over the long haul. I'm sure converters will start to come out, but for pure ease of use and reliable translation, Word to Word is always going to work better than OpenOffice to Word.

    I run both and like them both for various things -- still, I think I'll probably be using Office 2007 more than anything else as time goes on. I don't have much call for a word processor or spreadsheet app, but what little I do with these is easier in Office. Just is.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zCyl (14362)

      The Open Document Format (ODF) is what OpenOffice uses, and Office 2007 uses Microsoft's own more proprietary version of this, OpenXML.

      Err, this seems wrong somehow. If OpenOffice switches to a new file format and calls it MS_XML, do you think Microsoft would mind?

      it's getting harder and harder (really, due to the minor differences more than the major ones) to transfer documents back and forth between OOo and Office

      I would actually say compatibility has significantly increased as time has progressed. I do

  • I just installed it, set it to use Word & Excel Format by default and hung around while my un-super user colleague asked me a few questions and moaned about the toolbars a bit but after a week the questions stopped and that was that, never a problem.
  • by justanyone (308934) on Friday January 19, 2007 @10:42PM (#17690988) Homepage Journal

    I'd love to replace Office with OpenOffice. Unfortunately, Microsoft has bundled this stuff so tightly it's difficult to displace.

    Visio has no viable competition.

    Yes, I've tried Dia, and frankly it's nowhere near as usable as Visio. I wish there was competition here, but there isn't.

    Usually I just need the features found in the version of Visio from about 1996. Then, it was just coming out and not owned by MS yet. it worked fine. it allowed me to do the simple flowcharts and connectors that moved nicely. I mostly do
    • data flow diagrams
    • systems schematics, or
    • database schemas
    . This is pretty simple functionality but Dia doesn't do it yet. Yuck. I want arrows with different size arrowheads, lines that stay attached to objects as you move them, and the ability to make them curved / bendy or straight. That's it.

    Likewise, MS Office has Outlook which has an integrated calendar function that invites me to and reminds me of meetings. If Thunderbird did that, I'd switch quite quickly. I use Tbird at home and love it.

    That's the functionality I need. I'm sure I'm not the first one to mention it, but I hope that Sun or IBM or Redhat or Novell is listening. This functionality can't be that hard to develop, and they'd get much more users for their products if they did that. It can't cost more than $20 million to field a product with that minimal level of functionality - that's 20 developers for 2 years plus infrastructre, management, and QA. Put it in OpenOffice at $free instead of $400/seat MS Office and their market segment would be... HUGE (the planet).

  • I remember similar question popping up maybe a year or so ago, sadly the answer is still no, at least in legal vertical.

    Why?
    Integration with various "Office Helpers" - document management systems (keeping track of client/matter), contact management (keeping track of mailing addresses, fax numbers, etc.), cost recovery/time docketing....All these third-party apps are written using Office API and show as buttons in Word, Excel and other Office apps.

    Until vendors start writing plug-ins for OpenOffice apps, I w
  • I've been using Open Office for a while now and I'm very happy with it. My wife uses MS Office 2003 and she is very happy with it. We share files back and forth regularly with absolutely no problems. The biggest issue I see is that Open Office apps are significantly slower in opening closing and the same for opening or saving actual files. I can say for certain that the law firm users I used to support would HATE Open Office based on that fact alone. Another issue might be a lack of an acceptable subst
  • Tried and failed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pvera (250260) <pedro.vera@gmail.com> on Saturday January 20, 2007 @10:32AM (#17694234) Homepage Journal
    At my previous job I tried it, the problem is all 15 desktops were OS X, and all users had MS Office v.X or 2004 already installed. The users were too lazy to even consider switching to OOo, plus there was no cost advantage, those licenses would last at least the life of each individual workstation (not a hell of a lot of pressure to upgrade from v.X to 2004 or higher when available).

    The sad thing is that the year I tried to do this I participated in National Novel Writing Month [nanowrimo.org] for the second time, this time I did all my work from OOo in OS X. Except some minor learning issues with the way styles are defined and applied, my experience was overwhelmingly positive. Still, it was not enough to impress my users into even trying OOo.

    If you want to see a book written and typeset in OOo, you can download mine here [veraperez.com]. It is licensed under Creative Commons, feel free to pass it around.

    Now with NeoOffice we don't even have to keep X11 running, and eventually the main OOo branch will be offering a X11-free version for OS X.

    One thing I know for sure: it's going to be one cold day in hell before I purchase another MSO:mac license for any of my personal macs. There is no reason for a home user to be shelling out for MSO:mac just to write letters and make spreadsheets when both OOo and NeoOffice are completely capable, easy to use and completely free.

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