Mailbag: OpenOffice.org Thoughts, More
Doug recently asked readers about their thoughts
, which just released version 3. Most of you had positive
things to say:
I have been using OpenOffice since its inception (actually, before that
with StarOffice) and I like it. I use Microsoft Office 2007 in the workplace
as that is the business standard, and I use OpenOffice 3 at home as it can
do everything I need and more. Your beef that it's big, complex and not exactly
fun may be true, but when has an Office suite been fun? Free, useable and
does 90 percent of what MS Office does sounds very, very good to me.
I have used it for years in an effort to decrease spending in our IT
department. So far, everyone has adjusted well for their needs. I would like
to see more VBA or macro support. I give it two thumbs up!
I've recommended OpenOffice for both home and office use with good results.
My only caveat is "it's better than Office, but it ain't Office."
If you require total compliance with a bit of VBA code thrown in, then pony
up for Office. If you're interested in getting the job done and don't have
the compatibility worries, OO is more than capable.
A number of years ago, when I had retired from Microsoft, I took a serious
look at the desktop Linux efforts and OpenOffice. What bugged me in general
about them was that they were so busy trying to emulate Windows and Office
that they weren't doing anything innovative. Their value proposition is "You
don't have to pay Microsoft a licensing fee," and that's about it. And
note that I didn't say they were free or even cheaper, since training, compatibility
and other cost of ownership issues far outweigh licensing costs. From my perspective,
they just totally blew the opportunity.
So what is the opportunity? It was to create completely different and
more compelling experiences than what Microsoft had done. Where was the new
thinking in UI? Where was a new paradigm for information work? Basically,
the open source community shows a complete lack of imagination and innovation
on the desktop. The world doesn't need cheaper software -- it needs revolutionary
With each release, OpenOffice has grown and matured and got better. OK,
so it doesn't have all the features of MS Office, but the features it does
have generally work as you expect. It doesn't have as many dedicated books
as Office 2007 (but, hey, I don't need a book to use it). Office 2007 has
thousands of features...but once I can type text, insert images, put in a
table of contents and print out labels for my Christmas cards, I'm happy.
If it can open my late 1980s files, it's good (newer versions of Word forgot
the backward-compatibility thing). If it can do a PDF, better (and I have
a utility for that, anyway). If I can open a 60-page .DOC, put comments on
it, e-mail back to the sender, I'm delighted (with 3.0, commenting works more
like Word 03 so that box is now ticked).
The negatives: PowerPoint import can be tempramental (for me, this is
not an issue but I can see how it will affect some). ODF is not fully supported
at work (so I save as PDF/DOC). Sometimes -- and far less than before -- complex
DOC formatting is a bit messy. There's still an expectation in business that
DOC/XLS files will be exchanged and businesses may pay for the security of
knowing MSO will open/close these 100 percent of the time.
For me, it's a simple choice. In my company I use Microsoft OS products
to run critical applications -- but we are not wed. I'm grateful to the Microsoft
market for generating work for me. I run a virtual or real Windows OS (or
two) to support some critical products (mostly Adobe) and run Linux and Mac
OS X for everything else.
With that as context, I don't find the features offered by MS Office
worth the license fee. Looking forward, I prefer the product that will do
what I need and save documents in a format that conforms to an open standard.
I'm really tired of the format lockdown game. My impression is that Microsoft
adopts standards only after every means to thwart them are exhausted.
One reader thinks not enough has been said about the price of Microsoft Office:
Hmm...for some who regularly gripes about the price of a Mac, I am surprised
you have not commented on the price of Office. Oh, that's right, you probably
got someone else to pay, so it did not occur to you that the rest of us have
to actually buy it.
I have to admit, I've never actually paid for it either, as I have always
managed to wrangle a copy from my employer, and did experience sticker shock
when I saw the price. At a suggested retail of $400, that's almost half the
price of an "overpriced" Macbook.
Speaking of "overpriced" Macbooks, this reader thinks that as long
as people keep buying, Apple shouldn't change a thing:
I think Apple has one of the smartest marketing strategies in the free
enterprise system! It is no wonder that all Apple users are thrilled with
their platform. Why wouldn't they be when, for less money, they can switch
to the alternative? That pretty well ensures that all Apple users will be
happy, loyal customers. How many other companies wish they could be in that
As long as Apple is meeting its profit goals and, at the same time, ensuring
a base of 100 percent-satisfied customers, why should it change? Cadillacs
are just Chevys in fancy clothes, but Chevys take heat all the time. When
was the last time you heard anyone complaining about a Cadillac?
More reader letters coming tomorrow! In the meantime, leave us your thoughts
by writing a comment below or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Doug Barney on October 22, 2008 at 11:52 AM