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Microsoft Office Alternative - Open Office
Open Office 2.0 Kicks MS Office Around the Block
August 28, 2005


We asked our contributing writer David Johnston to do a full review of OpenOffice 2.0. He has been a longtime user of the product (and in fact an earlier version lost some of his important data.) In the meantime, we pointed to a review that PC Magazine did which is also comprehensive (see below), but for RealTechNews readers, please take a look at what David has to report, because this is no try it for a few days and write something up review. This is a complete hands-on review from someone who has used the product religiously for years. And I think you値l see why OpenOffice 2.0 truly Kicks MS Office around the block.
Open Office 2.0
By David Johnston
Contributing Writer, RealTechNews
I致e always been a fan of Open Source software, but I have to admit that frequently the quality of free and Open Source software leaves something to be desired when compared to their commercial counterparts. That said, nothing can beat these applications where price is concerned. I first tried OpenOffice years ago when it was still prior to version 1.0. I noticed immediately that the suite had a lot of potential. Up until then, I had been primarily using the Lotus suite at home because it came with our computer. In fact, I felt so comfortable using it that it quickly became my first choice of office applications. I never bought MS Office after Office XP ,and I rarely ever used that.

My primary use for OpenOffice has always been as a word processor and I believe this is an area where it excels (so to speak!). For anyone used to MS Office, the difference in the two interfaces is minimal. In fact, I find it easier to use OpenOffice痴 interface than MS Office痴 for various things such as inserting a header and footer. To create or change a header and footer in MS Office XP, you must go to the 砺iew menu. I知 not sure why something like a header or footer would be placed in the 砺iew menu before it is actually part of a document. OpenOffice placed these options in their 妬nsert menu預 placement that I believe makes much more intuitive sense. The OpenOffice word processor also has all of the font and text options one would expect placed in their own tool bars. OpenOffice also supports all of the major features of MS Office (and a few of its own) except for the grammar check. I知 personally fine with not having a grammar checker since it has given me the opportunity to actually learn the English language instead of relying on my word processor to make my sentences coherent.

Features and Benefits
One of OpenOffice痴 great traits is its ability to work with many other office suite file formats. You can save your documents as MS Word (or many other) documents and they will open up just as you intended in Word. One nifty feature of OpenOffice that I致e found myself using repeatedly in college has been the 摘xport Directly as PDF button. Located next to the print button on the toolbar, this button acts just like a normal save button, but it saves your document as an Adobe PDF file. This comes in very handy for making sure that your professor and classmates are going to be seeing your work exactly as you want them to, no matter what operating system or office suite they use. That brings me to another nice feature of OpenOffice; it痴 cross-platform compatible. This means that you can use OpenOffice on practically any computer running any OS. The list of supported OS痴 includes Windows, OS X, Linux, and even Solaris and BSD. Microsoft Office can稚 match OpenOffice for cross-platform compatibility.

Another nice thing about OpenOffice is that it is actually a complete office suite. You池e not just getting a word processor. OpenOffice includes a its own equivalents to Powerpoint and Excel in 1.1.4. In the 2.0 Beta, OpenOffice has added a program to compete with Access called Base as well as a few others like Math which allows you to write out mathematical equations in a word processor-like environment and Draw which is a drawing program. I致e personally never used these new programs seriously, but from the looks of it they could all be useful except for Draw. I haven稚 yet been able to discern what exactly you池e supposed to be able to do with it that warrants its existence.

PowerPoint Wins

My experiences with OpenOffice痴 Impress (equivalent to PowerPoint) and Calc (equivalent to Excel) are more limited and more mixed. I don稚 usually make PowerPoint presentations, but when I have been required to make them for school, I致e always just used PowerPoint instead of OpenOffice. Up until recently with the 2.0 Beta release of OpenOffice, PowerPoint痴 user interface has been superior to OpenOffice痴 for throwing together a presentation. Additionally, the backgrounds and clip art selection have made the choice a no-brainer. Powerpoint won, hands down. However, with the recent 2.0 beta, Impress has improved dramatically (due in large part to copying PowerPoint痴 interface). One problem I have noticed is that presentations created with version 1.1.4 and saved as a PowerPoint file become hard to edit with the new 2.0 version. Luckily, however, this doesn稚 exist with files originally created in PowerPoint.

As far as compatibility goes otherwise, I haven稚 noticed any difference in the look of my slides as I switch between PowerPoint and Impress. The only thing that is keeping the new 2.0 version of Impress from matching PowerPoint is the lack of slide backgrounds and clip art that really are essential to making a good presentation. Background designs and clip art used to make a PowerPoint slideshow do, however, open in Impress without problems. That said, I still prefer PowerPoint for making professional-looking presentations because of all the predefined design backgrounds and clip art.

Calc is the other OpenOffice program that I致e gotten mixed results with. It works perfectly by itself, but I致e had multiple problems in the past with compatibility between it and Excel that have led me to generally stay away from it. The main compatibility problems I致e encountered with Calc lie in Excel graphs and charts. They have a tendency to be moved where they aren稚 supposed to be or become garbled in the conversion. That said, as long as you don稚 have to move back and forth between Excel and Calc you shouldn稚 have any problems with it.

Bottom Line:
Overall, I致e found OpenOffice to be a fine MS Office replacement for my needs. OpenOffice痴 word processor is more than ready for prime time. As for the other components, I generally wouldn稚 recommend using them in an environment where it was important to maintain compatibility with Microsoft products. Granted, most of my experience with OpenOffice痴 compatibility is from 1.0-1.1.4, it has shaken me enough to be wary of relying on it for any serious work with Excel. Impress is the one place where OpenOffice could use the most improvement. I would highly recommend you stick with Excel unless you don稚 need MS痴 built-in clip art or their well-made design backgrounds. When it comes down to it, OpenOffice is worth looking at. If most of what you do is word processing, I think you値l be very pleasantly surprised and you can稚 beat the price. OpenOffice is the ideal office suite for students like me on a tight budget. My school even offers students copies of MS Office for $25 and I never bothered to get one since, for me, it would just be a waste of $25. Note: This review was written using OpenOffice.

Alice Adds: For those bashing David, let痴 keep in mind he is not saying this is an enterprise solution. I think he went over the pros and cons for all audiences, but for the average PC buyer - especially as we had into back to school sales and promotions, trying OpenOffice may be a better use of your $400 or so instead of springing for MS Office.

PC Mag痴 verdict:
的f you can remember the name of, you can remember where to download it for no charge. If you tried the previous 1.1.4 version, the 2.0 beta version currently available will be a pleasant surprise. Unlike the slow, ugly, and underpowered earlier version, 2.0 is swift, smooth, and highly compatible with Office documents. Even better, it has plenty of features that you can稚 find in MS Office itself.

鄭nyone who doesn稚 want to pay Microsoft痴 premium prices for rarely used features may prefer this free suite. It does most everything that typical users need it to do, and does some things better than MS Office. Source: Read the complete review at PC Mag Online
Bottom Bottom Line: We told you so!
the gardener

I recently downloaded this as my gifted computer did not have MS office but an in house suite that was password protected. I've been using the notepad program for all of my word processing and, of course, it is too limited for many subjects.

kudos to this FREE office suite of programs-I'm looking forward to their "Draw" program. Forum Index -> Must have software
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