OpenOffice versus Microsoft Office

Everybody who needs to work with computers will certainly stumble their into the Microsoft suite of application for office use.

They include a handy set of programs to deal with your needs for word processing, do your math calculations, make some handy presentations and even manage your email and contacts.

I must say that my "heavy" usage experience of Office has began in 2001, never liked much of Office 97 and always prefered alternative flavours like Works (which I was happily using since 1994 for school works and small stuff) and eventually was amazed with the power and ease of use of the newish Office that was called as "XP" at the time and later renewed as Office 2003.

It was in fact impressive. All the tools I could ever desire to make a crispid and professional looking presentation were there. I could use it for animations inside powerpoint and this has really helped to boost my productivity.

Even thought Office was not free - I remained as a very big defender of this application suite until mid 2007 - time was first confronted with a new version of OpenOffice which rocked over any other previous edition.

Being free and open source - the choice was clear and the timing seemed perfect as Office 2007 was extremely disappointing because of the usage of a non-backward compatible format (the infamous x-files .docx and .xlsx) and also because the new simplified UI on word made life not as simple as before and it was really hard to work with. (they say that new users who never worked with Office 2003 find this new UI easier to learn and manage...)

So I switched off to OpenOffice and following my shift I also started installing OpenOffice as default application suite on the local machines at my workplace - many people complained but taking one step at a time allowed for people to get used to this new set of applications and also learned how to use firefox instead of Internet Explorer to do their daily browsing tasks.

All good so far - at least I expected it to be this way..

But in truth I mention that there are a lot of things that I miss from Office 2003. The presentation manager inside OpenOffice is certainly no match for the Powerpoint app which is by far more evolved in terms of UI experience and available features. There is also no Outlook replacement capable of working efficiently inside Active Directory based Exchange servers which forces to use the internal webmail html page which is far from user friendly.

Another bad thing is the word conversion - some people argue (with reason) that MS Word documents won't open up properly inside OpenOffice and raise all sort of obstacles to adapt these word files to open office format.

Today, I need to do a diagram presentation and after spending a few hours doing a good looking work - I made a copy to the pendisk and took it over to another computer just to discover that all the images included inside the presentation were not included inside the powerpoint file, what is the result?

Install MS PowerPoint and start from scratch..

I like OpenOffice and will continue supporting their effort but sometimes it would be nice to have some of these features well estabilished and implemented to avoid annoying discoveries such as this one.

Well, enough of my rant - my recommendation is still the same - use OpenOffice as much as possible so that it becomes a world-class software one day such as Firefox managed to become far better than Internet Explorer.

Together we can make it happen.

-- Nuno Brito