OpenOffice.org has just released the latest version of their office software suite, OpenOffice 1.1.1. This version is mostly a bug fix release, and if you are already a user of OpenOffice, you probably want to upgrade soon. If you don’t know about OpenOffice, read on to see why you may want to check it out.
OpenOffice is an open-source office productivity suite, with a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation graphics program, drawing program, and database tools. No one makes the claim that it matches all the features of Microsoft Office. But if you narrow down the features of Microsoft Office to those that people use all the time, then you may have close to a 100 percent match. OpenOffice is also cross-platform — there are Windows, Mac, and Linux versions.
The big advantage of OpenOffice is that it is open-source. Go to their website and you can download it for free. The only thing it will cost you is the time it takes to download, but that can be substantial. The latest version checks in at 65 MB in size. If you are fortunate enough to have a fast broadband connection (like me) the download will take under three minutes. If you are stuck with a dial-up connection, there are ways to order the program on CD at low cost. (Or look for a friend with broadband and a CD burner.)
If you don’t exchange files with others, you don’t need to worry about file compatibility. However, if you do need to work with people who live in a Microsoft world, know that OpenOffice can both import and export Microsoft Office files. Tests that I did with earlier versions of the software showed almost no problems with simple Word or Excel documents. You should be able to exchange those with MS Office users with no problems. However, if you need to exchange complex, highly formatted documents, there were some occasional glitches. I plan on repeating those tests soon at the BugBlog with the newest version of OpenOffice. You can also export directly to a PDF file (without the need for other software).
An earlier complaint with the software was that there wasn’t a lot of documentation for the programs. The online help files tended to be written by computer geeks for computer geeks. However, a fast check of Amazon.com (see below) shows that there are now a number of how-to books from publishers, including a Dummies book.
If you don’t have an unlimited budget for software (remember, you can’t buy one copy of Microsoft Office and then install it on all the computers in your office) you should at least take a look at OpenOffice. It has a free trial period, after all, that lasts forever.Powered by Sidelines