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Open Office - What's the Downside? 312

Posted by Cliff
from the a-dissenting-opinion dept.
cclangi asks: "I'm a current Microsoft Office user, and I run a small business as a consultant (mining). I've read about Open Office and all the good things about it, but what about the downside? As a small business owner and semi-literate in things computer-ese (as a user, not as a developer or administrator), what support limitations are there for Open Office. I'm particularly interested in/concerned with compatibility of software for reports, spreadsheets and database apps that I might need to send to/receive from clients. As I've said, I've read the good stuff, and 'how easy it is', but what are things I need to be aware of before considering switching completely to Open Office? Comments and experiences would be welcomed." A couple of months ago, OpenOffice advocates had space to sound of on the reasons to switch to OpenOffice. Now, it only seems fair to give the dissenters a place to voice their own reasons. What are the reasons keeping you away from OpenOffice and on your current office suite?
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Open Office - What's the Downside?

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  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 24, 2007 @02:26PM (#18472073)
    It's Microsoft Office compatability isn't perfect, and the other companies I work with send documents created with MS Office.
    • Re:Simple (Score:5, Informative)

      by Fyre2012 (762907) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @02:30PM (#18472119) Homepage Journal
      The Java runtime has to load also, which makes a _significant_ difference in startup time.

      As much as I don't like M$, when you click a .doc file and open it with Word, usually it's up within 3-5 seconds.
      Oo.o takes upwards of 30 cuz it has to load the Java libraries, etc, displaying the splash screen of doom in the meantime.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy (595695)
        MS Office also is always running in the background, just incase you open up a document. You could do the same with just about any application. Keep it running in the background, and then poof, it starts. Of course, if you rarely used the application, you'd just be wasting memory, but hey, the app looks like it starts fast.
        • by abigor (540274)
          Word running under Wine starts much more quickly than OpenOffice Write does, so your argument is neither here nor there.
        • Re:Simple (Score:5, Informative)

          by GIL_Dude (850471) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @04:00PM (#18472855) Homepage
          Older versions of office did do that; they were always have a "quick launcher" run, but the last three versions (Office XP, Office 2003, and Office 2007) do not do that.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          MS Office also is always running in the background, just incase you open up a document. You could do the same with just about any application. Keep it running in the background, and then poof, it starts. Of course, if you rarely used the application, you'd just be wasting memory, but hey, the app looks like it starts fast.

          Wrong, wrong, wrong.

          Especially if you disable the Microsoft Office entry in the startup folder. With said shortcut disabled, Word is still orders of magnitude faster than java OO to startu

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by rawtatoor (560209)

        It's easy to disable java. I never use it and haven't missed it yet. Startup and load times are very reasonable too.

      • Java runtime? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by StarKruzr (74642)
        The Java runtime has to load also

        Wait, this is still true? I thought that OO.org hasn't been Java-based since before v1.1.
      • Re:Simple (Score:4, Informative)

        by opkool (231966) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:39AM (#18477811) Homepage
        It is posible to disable the loading of Java libraries. If you don't need advanced stuff (90% of users), disabling loading of Java speeds up the load time of OpenOffice.org

        Also, modifying OpenOffice.org's memory settings also help. A quick search at google turns out:

        * http://element14.wordpress.com/2006/11/01/speed-up -start-time-for-openofficeorg/ [wordpress.com]
        * http://ubuntuforums.org/archive/index.php/t-9925.h tml [ubuntuforums.org]

        You can easily go from 30 to 8 seconds of load time.

        Peace!
    • by iSeal (854481)
      Other reasons:
      123. May not work that well on old machines. I have OO.org installed on my 300MHz laptop, but it's very unresponsive compared to Word 2003.

      124. Has different notation for advanced functions in Calc than Excel. If you're used to it, however, it's not much of a downer. It also lacks some specialty functions with respect to Excel.

      As you can see, there's not much bad to say of OO.org. It's one of those few products that's equivalent to, if not outright superior to, the closed-source counte
      • Re:Simple (Score:4, Informative)

        by rtb61 (674572) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @12:05AM (#18475893) Homepage
        Well that is the point if you are happy with your current office suite why swap. However once you are forced to swap when you don't want too, whether it be by a data compatibility forced upgrade or you need additional licences due to expansion.

        Then conduct a review, bearing in mind that you will be paying for the M$ version every two years whether you want to or not, and pay for retraining costs as well as data conversion costs.

        So swap to open office once or keep getting forced to swap M$ office every two years at a cost of thousands of dollars a time per desktop, especially when you add in M$ free bug testing program, the program they never stops making M$'s customer pay for their ill informed decisions.

        There might be bugs in open office but at least your not paying for them. The M$ anti virus program, Onecare (their profits), the only anti-virus software that guarantees not to find viruses, WTF?

  • macros (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bananatree3 (872975) * on Saturday March 24, 2007 @02:27PM (#18472083)
    Microsoft macro support in Open office is far from optimal. However, there are a whole slew of Open Office-centric macros to choose from [ooomacros.org] which could meet your needs.
    • Novell have done a pile of work in their own fork of OO (a whole argument in itself) adding support for VBA. Apparently it's getting pretty good now, and most documents with macros will open in OO. The only trouble is, I don't think any of this code has made its way into the mainstream OO codebase, so it probably won't for some time. Novell have released it all though, and it can be downloaded from Novell.
  • by Rellon (28691)
    I for one, had issues with what seemed to be glacially slow startup times. The later revisions seemed to have addressed quite a few of these issues and even the NeoOffice port has gotten to a decent, but still not really acceptable, startup speed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fyre2012 (762907)
      In my experience, NeoOffice is terrible at startup.

      The App is great once it loads, but because I'm impatient (as well as my bosses, I have 8, did you get the memo? :p ), I find myself actually using Google Docs for everything.
      The sharing features for GDocs are awesome, and it's a quick bookmark click to open up. It's not as smooth as NO once GD is running, but it's great for quick revisions and sharing to whomever else.
  • A few items.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dan East (318230) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @02:32PM (#18472133) Homepage Journal
    First, and probably foremost, is simply rendering differences between Writer and Word. I've got a parent handbook I just made in Word, and when opened in Writer (all fonts are available) the pagination is totally off. So I'm resigned to printing only from a machine with Word, or goof around with formatting (which will probably then break layout in Word).

    Next, there's just a lack of the robustness one expects with Office. Two quick examples:
    A couple days ago I needed to blow out a fax cover sheet. Tried creating a New document and there weren't any templates at all preinstalled.
    Nada clip art. If you're into searching, evaluating, downloading and installing as many 3rd party clip art galleries as you can find, you might be alright.

    Anyway, I'm really trying to give it a shot, and for most things it is fine. However I keep stubbing my toes on stupid little things along the way, and it is starting to aggravate me.

    Dan East
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by zappepcs (820751)
      I'm not trying to belittle your opinion here, but there are those of us out here that remember those very same toe stubbing situations with MS Word itself, from version to version, and of course when there were still other word processing packages on the market.

      It is inevitable that one software package will work slightly differently from a competing similar package. Add-ins, extras, templates will be different. What I like about OO is that you can make your own, and then share them with the world. - yes, s
      • by westlake (615356)
        What I like about OO is that you can make your own, and then share them with the world. The problem is that [people ]don't know there are any others besides MS. This means they don't have a chance to 'stub their toes' as it were. Fonts, formatting, templates give people trouble all the time, and if you stub your toes because OO isn't quite like MS Word, be happy because those things can be fixed. Until Wordperfect died, people who used MS Word went through the same thing.

        That was then and this is now.

        The

      • by rm999 (775449)
        "Currently, people just 'think' they don't know how to use MS Word."

        I have never met anyone who didn't know how to use MS Word (or admitted it, at the very least). One thing I have to give MSFT credit for is they made Word pretty damn easy to use. I haven't used the new Office, but I have heard good things. You are comparing Office to a theoretical competitor that never was, which is not fair.

        Who cares if Word was hard to use 10 years ago? MSFT Office became a defacto standard because they convinced people
        • Re:A few items.. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Ash-Fox (726320) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:28PM (#18474707)

          I have never met anyone who didn't know how to use MS Word (or admitted it, at the very least).
          I have met many people who claimed they knew how to use MS word, but when I saw their documents...
          • No page breaks, just a bunch of CRs to got the next page
          • Not setting the headers under the appropriate header style and then just customizing that... Instead they manually change the font, make it bigger, add bold, underline and type it in caps.
          • Don't let the application word-wrap, instead they hit enter when they get to the end of the line.
          • Just do something with some elements todo something like tables, but when you look at the document, they some how made it a picture...
          Do I think they can do the same crap on OpenOffice? Yes.
          Will they have a issue at first? Yes, because OOo Writer doesn't look and behave exactly like Microsoft Word.
          Will they complain they don't like it? Probably, because it's different and they prefer the behavior they know.

          TODAY, Microsoft office is probably the best office suite.
          I have to acknowledge the UI and behaviour of Microsoft Office is certainly superior to other office suits.

          However, that said -- I am not very impressed with the compatability Microsoft Office has with it's own documents between different computers and different versions of Office.

          I also find it a little obscure that people complain so loudly about slight formatting issues and things that occur on OpenOffice with documents from Microsoft Office when Microsoft Office itself can't get it right.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by zappepcs (820751)
            Thanks for adding that clarity. I've made way too much money helping people just understand MS Word. I try to teach them general principles and how Word handles those. The trouble is that they don't understand general document principles. When you show them what a page break is, their response is one of astonishment and relief: Oh, that's how to do that? Cool, thanks.

            The one thing that MS did to make Word and Office quite usable (that HARDLY EVER gets implemented) is shared templates. Yes, even in the compa
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Silver Sloth (770927)
      At the risk of a 'me too' posting I second everything you say. I really, really want to be an Oo user. I like the ethos and, where posible, I'm a open source fan, but, like you, I've got used to all the little extras which are missing and importing MS docs is far from 100% successful. But, in reply to the original poster, why not do as we've done, give it a try. After all, it's free, you can experiment all you like and make you're own mind up. I haven't de-installed it, and I sometimes still use it for cr
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rbochan (827946)
      I would also include lack of integrated mail/calendar/scheduling software. Yes you could go to another third party for that, but it would be nice for everything to be integrated and consistent for an "office suite". I use OOo under Linux, but I supplement it with Kmail/Kontact.

      • by Nasarius (593729)
        Well...why? What kind of integration are you looking for? Kontact/KOrganizer is pretty nifty already (and should be available for Windows later this year). What information would they share?
        • by tomhudson (43916)

          Well...why? What kind of integration are you looking for? Kontact/KOrganizer is pretty nifty already (and should be available for Windows later this year). What information would they share?

          Under Windows? Probably everything - your SSN, your documents, your spreadsheets, and anything else on your hard drive ... after all, if its going to work like a real Windows app, you should always be left wondering "Where did my files go today?" Won't someone think of the anti-virus vendors?

    • by nietsch (112711)
      You wrote a book in word? Man are you masogist or something? And then complain that the typesetting and layout are off in OOo? Word is a word processor, good for writing things in, but for layout and dtp it just sucks. You should not be suprised if your layout only works on the computer you made it on.
      I bet you also did not use styles for formatting too. Try it, prefeably in OOo, but MSword knows the concept too (but chooses to pull out your nails for entertainment instead).
      • You wrote a book in word? Man are you masogist or something?

        No, he's a "writer". Anyone who writes in a layout program is, well, swatting a fly with bottle of bug spray.

        I bet you also did not use styles for formatting too. Try it, prefeably in OOo, but MSword knows the concept too (but chooses to pull out your nails for entertainment instead).

        Styles have LONG been the hallmark of good word processing -- and OOo's styles are just as bad as Word's.

        The only thing I don't like about Word '07 is how they drank the cool-aid and made styles something fundamentally different from fonts in the UI... although they did give them a nice area all of their own, and added "style-sets" to make the concept work even better.

        As to the topic at hand -- an

    • Yeah, I stopped trying to use OO when I ran into its poor support for line numbering and more complex documents.
      Now I like the OO ethos and idea, but I have invested too much time into learning how to get Word to do what I want to throw all that away (why I fear Office Vista).

      All day long at work I need to create documents like this:
      Section 1: no line numbers, special header/footer
      Sections 2-6: line numbers every 5 lines, restarting at each page. And paragraph numbers (I use numbered lists), numbering cont
    • I get really tired of people who complain about pagination. If you need your pages to flow exactly in a certain way you need to put page breaks and other controls in there. Someone sometimes is doing to change the font slightly or add a few words. Neither should throw your entire document out of wack and make you redo the whole thing. Page breaks, especially odd and even breaks are there for you..
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tomhudson (43916)

        "get really tired of people who complain about pagination. If you need your pages to flow exactly in a certain way you need to put page breaks and other controls in there. Someone sometimes is doing to change the font slightly or add a few words. Neither should throw your entire document out of wack and make you redo the whole thing. Page breaks, especially odd and even breaks are there for you.."

        These are the same people who randomly push the ENTER key at the right-hand margin rather than let the words

  • Bloated (Score:5, Informative)

    by KermodeBear (738243) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @02:32PM (#18472137) Homepage
    Open Office is SLOW. Starting up, opening document, typing, saving, etc., it's all SLOW. Yes, even compared to MS Office, OO is a resource hog. If you don't have more than 512MB of RAM or so, you are asking for trouble.
  • by radarjd (931774) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @02:40PM (#18472199)
    I agree with many of the other posters -- formatting simply isn't spot on perfect when you open a document started in Word (or excel or powerpoint) with more complicated layouts. OO.org 2.1 is the best version yet as far as that goes, but I still open some documents, and have the formatting be off. I haven't tried any database work, so I can't comment on that.

    Also, before sending something out to a customer that I've written in OO, I check it on a machine that has Word or Excel or Powerpoint (whatever is appropriate) to ensure the formatting remains the same.

    In prior versions, I noticed an issue with tracking changes, but I haven't looked at that recently, so I don't know if it still exists.

    • before sending something out to a customer that I've written in OO, I check it on a machine that has Word or Excel or Powerpoint (whatever is appropriate) to ensure the formatting remains the same.

      Why bother? Just convert it to PDF or print it to postscript. OO can render to both on any platform other than Windows. For Windows you need to install a generic PS printer driver for PS support. If you're sending documents to customers they generally don't need edit support. PDF allows for markup support

      • Why bother? Just convert it to PDF or print it to postscript.

        Unfortunately, there is a rather fundamental bug [openoffice.org] in OpenOffice Writer that means that a large class of professional grade fonts don't get used properly when saving as PDF. This has been well documented for several years, but the OO team show no great interest in fixing it; they laughably classify it as a feature rather than a bug, and it's scheduled for "OOo Later". Meanwhile, the first you know about it is when your carefully crafted report/f

  • spreadsheets (Score:4, Informative)

    by alphamugwump (918799) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @02:41PM (#18472205)
    Openoffice writer is mostly good, and works at least as well as word, if a bit slower.

    On the other hand, openoffice calc, the spreadsheet, has serious problems. It has nowhere near the functionality of excel for doing charts. As I recall, it doesn't have the ability to select arbitrary rows for your dataset. This is a killer for me. Sure, I could use a real plotting package, but that's more work than I want to go to.

    I've also heard reports that calc is missing functions that are present in excel. This isn't really a big deal -- mainly because excel doesn't have all that many functions either. But I suppose for an excel "pro" it could be irritating.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SECProto (790283)
      Exactly the issue I was going to bring up. When graphing data, it has difficulty/it is impossible to display the equation of a line of best fit, place several sets of data on the same graph, etc.
    • by bcrowell (177657)
      One problem I've encountered with Calc is that the curve fitting stuff is nowhere near as full-functioned or easy to use as Excel's. I teach physics, and in the lab classes, the students are often using Excel to make graphs. I have OOo installed on all the machines as well, but most of them are pretty reluctant to try it. The main barrier just seems to be "I know Excel, and I just want to get the job done," but it also doesn't help when I have to tell them the contortions they have to go through to fit a li
      • It's perfectly reasonable to make an open-source Office clone, but if it's a second-rate clone, then people are going to get the impression from it that OSS is always second-rate.

        Microsoft Word doesn't handle large documents well. I find Gnumeric does many things better than Microsoft Excel. For years I've seen Microsoft Windows users needing to reboot their machines a lot for things I don't think they should have to. In Microsoft Windows 2000, I saw an app running with non-admin privileges crash the O

  • by disturbedite (979015) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @02:44PM (#18472241)
    i made the switch over 2 years ago and i have to say... i have not found a single drawback. the java thing as a dependency is about the only thing i can think. i made the switch to linux permanently on the desktop (kubuntu) from winxp and i noticed that ooo wasn't that slow on windows (on a relatively older pc [2004]) and i've found that it is MEGA fast on linux. it loads up way faster than m$ office on windows or even, as i said before, ooo on windows. i have only once or twice ran into m$ --> ooo incompatibility afa formatting is concerned. i'm not trying to sound like an ooo fanboy, but i can't think of anything negative in regards to ooo.
    • Mmm, I'd not say that OpenOffice.org is MEGA fast, especially the 32-bit Linux binaries from OpenOffice.org's site. However, it is pretty snappy if you endure the multi-hour build time and compile it yourself, especially if you have a 64-bit machine. There's quite the speed difference there, especially when working with large data sets in Calc. Startup times are not an issue if you have 384 MB or more of RAM and use the Quickstarter.
  • In my office there's this AIA thing that people use to generate documents. It requires and integrates with MS Office. Not likely I could get the people behind that to switch over to OpenOffice... and the worst part still is the likelihood that its use will eventually push us into using Office 2007. I'm not happy about this.
  • I noticed when I do curve fitting, in a spreadsheet, that Open Office does the curve fitting, but does not bother to give the equation of the line it uses to fit onto the data which is braindead.

    Has this been fixed in the meantime?
  • Excel is far more powerful than Calc, and the ribbon interface in Office 2007 (if you've moved to that) knocks the socks off of anything in OOo or 2003. And of course 2003 or 2007 will give you much better compatibility with the rest of the world than OOo as long as you save in .doc. OOo has save to pdf, but you can get that in 2007 too.
  • Known issues (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @03:11PM (#18472475) Homepage

    • Microsoft Word import is still iffy. Some documents import fine, some import badly, and some don't import at all. It's better than it was in older versions of OpenOffice, but if formatting matters, you still can't freely interchange documents between OpenOffice and Word. I know, this really is a problem with Microsoft's obscure format. It's the biggest obstacle to widespread OpenOffice adoption, though.
    • The help system is terrible. Each help box needs to stand alone. Instead, help text often assumes context from previous help text. For example, search help for "print envelope" and you get "Letter Wizard, Page 3", which isn't helpful. In general, finding answers with the help system is hard, and when you've found them, there's a good chance they will be out of context. A bad help system is a significant barrier to adoption.
    • OpenOffice's answer to Clippy, the diamond-shaped popup thing, is even less useful than Microsoft's version.
    • Auto-completion of words is badly designed. In Word, if you don't accept what it's doing, auto-completion doesn't try again for a while. In Open Office, it gets in your face and keeps trying. This is obnoxious. In typical open-source style, there's some obscure configuration parameter you can change to fix this. Wrong answer.
    • "Draw" is reasonably good, better than what Microsoft Office used to have. But then Microsoft bought Visio and integrated it into Office, and Visio is better than Draw.
    • "Calc" is about as good as everybody else's spreadsheet.
    • "Impress" is OK for producing dumb presentations, but PowerPoint presentations tend to look better.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by R.Mo_Robert (737913)

      With regards to the look of OpenOffice.org Impress presentations, they do tend to look quite bad with the default templates. (Maybe including some good-looking ones would be a nice thing to do for the future.)

      However, you can download PowerPoint templates from Microsoft's site [microsoft.com] or even the program itself if you have it (even templates designed for PowerPoint 2007 if you use the Microsoft Office 2007 file format converter [microsoft.com] to convert to the older format) and import them into OpenOffice.org, then save them as

    • by pbhj (607776)
      >>> "Auto-completion of words is badly designed. In Word, if you don't accept what it's doing, auto-completion doesn't try again for a while. In Open Office, it gets in your face and keeps trying. This is obnoxious. In typical open-source style, there's some obscure configuration parameter you can change to fix this. Wrong answer."

      From what I can recall of Word it too did auto completion and had an obscure checkbox to turn it off, similarly obscure to the OOo one. But it's 2.5 years since I used MS
  • by jma05 (897351)
    Lack of an integrated Grammar checker. Startup speed does not both me when I use the QuickStart.
  • Writer works OK for me - it's a little slow, and sometimes image formatting differs from Word, but in general it works.

    Calc on the other hand is absolutely impossible to use for my job. Anything more than a few hundred rows of data and it becomes literally seconds to do anything, like scroll. I typically work with thousands of rows of data (once per second baby) and tens of thousands isn't unusual. Excel handles this fine. And others have already mentioned how poor the charting is. Finally, The Save
  • to AbiWord for all my document needs. I don't care for MS Office's feature bloat, and OpenOffice wasn't much better. I tried to use OO's spreadsheet to make a chart, but it's controls were too counterintuitive -- I simply couldn't find them. A couple of versions back, the help file was adequate -- before they were all but useless -- and now we're back to useless again. I may get better. I personally don't make presentations or use macros, so I don't care about those either way. But a small, tight, spr
  • The interface doesn't feel fast. You click and it's slow to react...both on Windows and Linux. Plus it messes up formatting and is slow as hell. I use gnumeric for simple sheets, and thank god I rarely have to use a Word processing program. I'd use Abiword. If it's not going to be 100% compatible with Office anyways, might as well use something fast.
    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      You click and it's slow to react...both on Windows and Linux.
      I do not suffer these issues on Windows or Linux. I do notice OOo takes a bit of time to start though.
  • Uninstalling Open Office on Windows requires you to keep the temporary files it creates when you install it. Unfortunately, it puts these files on the installing user (Administrator)'s desktop by default... so of course, being a person who hates a cluttered desktop, I deleted them.

    So, I can't use the OO.o uninstaller. Since I can't download OO.o 2.0.x from the official site any more, I now have to find somewhere to download it.

    Did I mention that this also prevents me from installing OO.o 2.1.0 because it
  • If you're worried if OpenOffice can fit yoru needs then just DOWNLOAD the thing and try it for awhile.

    It's not like it costs anything, or you have to uninstall MS Office to install OpenOffice or some other nonsense.

    Download it, keep MS Office around for awhile as a backup, and start using OpenOffice. Try using it exclusively for a week, or month, or however long until you feel comfortable that it can do all you need it to do. Them, and only then, should you give MS the boot.

    It would be absolutely retarded from a business perspective to proceed any other way - based on anyones advice, no matter how much of an "expert" they claim to be. Just try for yourself - if it fits your needs, great. If it doesn't, you still have MS Office installed, so there is no risk of it hurting your business.

    No one knows your business better than you do. Maybe you have special needs OpenOffice can't meet. Maybe you don't. You won't know until you try it out.

    • It's not like it costs anything, or you have to uninstall MS Office to install OpenOffice or some other nonsense.

      Oh? The time for a user to become familiar with a new interface costs nothing? The time to create new templates for routine reports costs nothing? The time to convert commonly used forms costs nothing?

      It would be absolutely retarded from a business perspective to proceed any other way - based on anyones advice, no matter how much of an "expert" they claim to be. Just try for y

      • This is total nonsense FUD and you know it. Of course there is a learning curve - but that's why I said KEEP OFFICE INSTALLED.

        You and I and everyone else knows that 99% of what a business uses office for is not time critical tasks. It is opening .doc files attached to emails, commenting on a report, viewing a chart, adding 1-2 cells to a spreadsheet. The amount of time you design some giant new report or huge Excel 10 workbook large spreadsheet is minimal - you do those things maybe once, twice a month.

  • by belmolis (702863) <billposerNO@SPAMalum.mit.edu> on Saturday March 24, 2007 @05:48PM (#18473615) Homepage

    I'm curious why so many people are concerned with the ability of calc to do statistics. Is this just a carryover from the MS Windows world where Excel seems to be used for all sorts of things it isn't well suited for? Why not do your stats in R [r-project.org], which is much more powerful than Calc or Excel?

  • I mostly use openoffice to generate PDFs from formats that I don't have better tools for (like doc and ppt). I call openoffice on the commandline thusly: ooffice2 -p foo.ppt and, since I've set the default printer to be a PDF converter in the same directory, it creates a PDF in the current directory for me.

    Here are my complaints:

    1. openoffice won't start, even in this filter mode, unless it has an X display that it's allowed to use. This is retarded since as a filter, it should never even start the GUI. To
    • by cgreuter (82182)

      openoffice won't start, even in this filter mode, unless it has an X display that it's allowed to use.

      I haven't tried this myself, but there's a dummy X server called Xvfb that comes with the standard X distribution. It accepts client connection but doesn't ever actually display things on a screen. I've read that it gets used a lot for this sort of thing.

      (Actually, I just looked at the OO online help. It says that if you run it with the option "-headless", it will start without a display. YMMV, thou

  • by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:35PM (#18474765) Homepage
    What's hot:

    Definately the drawing portionm of open office is a real hot item that MS Office certianly lacks. Ii is like what those old Apple User liked about Appleworks, a nice drawing tool, but better on OOo with snap to object lines that make charting easy. Also lines with auto measurement (you know drawing lines like || ) also nice object Transparency and stuff like that.

    The database looks like it is something great too but I haven't used it (shame on me). But as it's cross-platform it puts it light years ahead of Access in my book.

    Can convert a lot more then MS can

    Document conversion convert over Word Perfect and other files to Word that MS Word can't read.

    What's not:

    The presentation program is slow (some of the whizes in games dev should go in there and work on the rendering. It is functinally good, but is dog slow when it is presenting.

    Not that I use Macros, but some documents (more so spreadsheets than Word documents) contain macros that OOo can't handle. Then again, some of those very documents not even Mac Office 2004 can handle either as the embedded code relies on Active X technologies (and the next version of Mac Office won't have VBA support either).

    Font management is a noticeable bottleneck (at least on the Linux version, mac seems to work transparently, probably also in Windows), OOo maintins a seperate Font library, which means if you are installing Linuxc and OOo on a bunch of computers you have to install fonts twice, once in Linux and then again into OOo. (the fonts included are really good - and largely compatible to the MS basics, but I have a lot of ones I like beyond that too).

    As for anyhting else I have been very happy, I don't do obsessivley huge spreadhseets and Writer handles styles and sauch in large documents quite fine to my liking. I probably use Writer and Draw the most and those are great apps.
  • I'm a writing teacher, and I like to grade electronically. I've been using OpenOffice.org for all my own writing projects for years (since build 643C, back in the pre-1.0 days), but I can't use it for grading my students' papers. Although it is possible to make and read comments using OpenOffice, the UI for doing so is atrocious.

    In Word, when I comment on something, I select the phrase that I want, and insert a new comment. The phrase I've commented on is given a different background color, the ends are
  • I looked at converting an Access application to Base, but it simply isn't up to it. It is OK if you have a few tables and have a few simple forms with 1 to 1 form-DB field correspondence. But any real logic is going to be very hairy. Programming in general under OOo needs to be easier and MUCH better documented.

  • Surprisingly OO.o cannot copy & paste OLE embedded pictures in Linux as pure bitmaps. So create a Word document with pictures by copy & paste, open the document up in OO.o on Linux and you can see the pictures but you cannot edit them, copy them to edit in GIMP, or paste from GIMP into a Word document. OO.o on Windows doesn't have this restriction as it appears to use the native OLE engine.

    The copy & paste restriction is confusing to users as if you are editing a OO.o document you can paste i

  • by darkonc (47285) <(moc.neergcb) (ta) (leumas_nehpets)> on Saturday March 24, 2007 @11:35PM (#18475759) Homepage Journal
    Open Office is free. Why not just download a copy and see how it works for your specific workload?

    For many people (maybe even for you), Open Office is more than good enough for what they do.

    For others (maybe even for you), the fact that Open<->MS office translations not being perfect can ruin your day -- but whether or not that's the case, is going to be something that you're gonna have to figure out on your own.

    Things that I can suggest (in no particular order):

    • If you mostly generate and use documents internally then OO is likely to be just fine for you.
    • If you have a boatload of specialized (VB) macros that are critical to your workload, you might have to have to (at the least) hire someone for a bit to do the translation for you. This may also be a reason to use the Novell extensions.
    • If you have really precise needs for formatting and spacing, and do your document formatting in the 'dumb' way (hard-code line ends, and page ends, and use spaces where you should be using tab stops, etc., etc., etc., then moving to OO might hurt your brain.
    • If your documents are done relatively sanely, and you're not going to have a fit if one page has 3 words that spill over to the next page in OO where it didn't in MSO then OO is probably a great fit for you.
    • Convincing your normal correspondents to install a copy of OO, rather than always bouncing back and forth between OO and MSO formats will make your life easier.
    • For the previous point, you might want to burn yourself a handful (or a crate full, depending on the size of your business) of OO install CDs.
      ... While you're at it, you might also want to includes copies of things like Gimp [gimp.org] and Firefox [getfirefox.com], and any other Free software you'd like to see other people use.
    • Given that OO is more OS agnostic than it's MS alternate, and it's easier to get mission critical fixes done (i.e. you can hire someone to do them for you) you might find that OO is your better choice in the long term, even if you determine that you could have some short-term problems with it.
  • just more limited (Score:3, Informative)

    by jilles (20976) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @07:16AM (#18477467) Homepage
    The downside is simply that openoffice is a lot more limited than MS office in many respects. For many people that is not an issue because all they do is write 2 page memos. At home I have it installed because it is cheap (free) and does a reasonable job of opening the occasional simple word file I need to read. I don't actually do much else with it at home since I do all of my office work at the office.

    There, I am a poweruser of MS word and MS powerpoint. Don't get me wrong, these are applications with a lot of flaws but I can get my work done with them despite that. Particularly ms word has a lot of strange bugs, layout problems, etc. But on the other hand it has nice grammar checking and spelling checking features and I know how to work around its more annoying bugs (thanks to years of exposure to them). Word also has nice features for collaborative editing, change reviewing, etc. Overall, it's a very nice word processor that is pretty much unchallenged in terms of features & usability by any other product.

    Important for me is the cross reference feature which allows me to refer to sections and references or list items by number. This feature is not properly supported in open office. It has a cross reference insert dialog but it has serious limitations, including the inability to actually list numbered paragraphs and insert a cross reference to one in the document. The number of things you can actually reference is very limited (outline numbered stuff and figure captions) and also the way to configure how to reference is very limited. I've filed the bug before 1.0 and verified that it wasn't fixed for 1.1, 2.0, 2.1 and is currently being considered for 3.0. Basically, the ooo developers agree with me that the current dialog is too limited and also a usability nightmare.

    The lack of this feature guarantees I will never use it for any serious writing and is also the single reason I wrote my Ph. D. thesis in framemaker instead of open office (word being just to unstable for such a long, structured document). I can live with the many other limitations but not the lack of cross references. Framemaker is a very lousy wordprocessor of course but great for working with long structured documents like a Ph D thesis with hundreds of cross references to images, tables, (sub) sections, figures, pages etc. Sadly it never really recovered from being bought by Adobe and recent versions did not really improve it much over version 5.x.

    I could have used latex of course but I consider the whole concept of compiling & debugging a text just wrong + interoperability with everything else just sucks big time (and no pdf is not interoperable since it is basically a read only format).

    My ideal word processor has yet to be invented. It would probably be a mix of the rigid structure provided by framemaker along with its flexibility for formatting and ms word's human friendly approach to actually inputting the text. I can't really think of anything that open office does well in this context except perhaps its drawing tools.
  • by rfc1394 (155777) <Paul@paul-robinson.us> on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:22AM (#18477707) Homepage Journal

    I have some problems with Open Office(.org) ("OOO") that appear to be the same problems that I have had with Microsoft Word. (Word 97 versus Word Perfect Version 7 and Word Perfect 8; I've never upgraded because WP8 works fine for everything I'm doing). I've gotten full (non-upgrade) copies of Word Perfect 8 - at retail, off the shelf - for as low as $15.00, and in one case I purchased a second copy for $39.00 because it was the Professional version and included the Paradox database, so it was worth trying. I think when I first bought Word Perfect 8 it was around $100; I forget what I paid for WP7. I've been a heavy user of Word Perfect for over 20 years, going back to DOS version 4.1, simply because I have yet to have a formatting feature in Word Perfect I wanted that I couldn't get it to do.

    I have often had problems with both Microsoft Word and OOO to do formatting that I want to work the way I want to. I have sometimes exported files from Word Perfect using RTF (Rich Text Format) and found that Word will damage the formatting when trying to import the file. (I think I did that because it wouldn't import .WPD files correctly or something, so I think that's when I tried RTF.)

    I'm not a word processing bigot, I'd use Microsoft Word - or possibly something else - if it worked as good or better than Word Perfect. In fact, one time when Word imported one of the books I'm writing, it mangled the format of the header, and I liked the way it changed it better. I could not figure out how it had done it or how to duplicate it, but I went into Word Perfect, clicked on help, and looked it up, and in about 30 seconds I duplicated the functionality that Microsoft Word gave me by accident, which if I hadn't liked it, would have been an error.

    I'll give you an example of one thing I can do in Word Perfect that I can't do in Microsoft Word. Changing headers on new chapters. I have a book (actually it's the second one I'm writing), it's over 500 pages, and one of the features of the formatting is that the left (even page) header has my name and the name of the book, and the right (odd page) header has the name of the chapter. The left header stays the same, the right one changes at the beginning of the chapter.

    Now, in some rare cases there is a chapter that is only one page long, and is on a left page, so that's not an issue. It's when a chapter is at least two pages, the chapter header should change to the name of the new chapter. When I view the file after it's been converted to Microsoft Word / RTF format, sometimes the chapter header doesn't change or it changes in strange ways. And this misbehavior seems to resurface in OOO, too.

    Come to think of it, I have a resume I do in Word Perfect that also gets mangled because of header or footer problems in Word/OOO

    Also, I don't see - or I'm not sure - how to 'view codes' in Microsoft Word (or OOO) which I can see the internal formatting of a document and know what the program is doing (and even delete some codes, such as if I have an area that is incorrectly italic or bold).

    Maybe I'll try copying the file over again and see how it looks, or I could try examining OOO's XML output and see what I get. One thing I do like with OOO is the PDF output feature, I'd like to be able to use it. Plus OOO's scripting is in Basic rather than the relatively esoteric Perfect Script, which the only other program I've seen that uses it is Novell's Groupwise e-mail program.

    Another poster here mentioned submitting a bug report, and I think I'll do that (I hadn't thought of it). Of course, it might be that the behavior is wrong in Word, in which case it might not be considered a bug!

    My Blog [paul-robinson.us]
  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @01:42PM (#18479947)
    I'm posting this too far down the thread, and I'm surprised it hasn't been said earlier:

    If we encourage migration to an office suite, we cannot get away from lock-in. It should be the sort of thing we will not be switching away from in four years when it's clearly not the best office suite. And nobody who's looked at the issue can seriously think that OOo is going to make any dramatic progress in the next four years. It's a mess of spaghetti code, and the whole monstrosity is held together with duct tape and bailing wire. It may work OK now, but modernizing it for the needs of even the near future is not something that anyone can do.

    Consider even the issue of startup times: Even Microsoft streamlined the code for fast startup in Office 97. For OOo this would be hopeless. It is hopeless. And it will remain hopeless. This is not the sort of ship we should board.

    We'd be much wiser to jump onto something with a future, even if in the present, it is missing one or two features we might like. I personally am rooting for the KDE4 version of KOffice, since it will be so damn portable, progress is incredibly fast (even with a small staff of coders), and the code and plugin system is incredibly clean and future-proof.

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