choosing, installing and an initial review of the office package – openoffice.org

Ever since the early days of this project, I had seen the openoffice.org suite, and decided that it was good enough for us in almost every way.  In fact, I took this decision on the basis of 1 presentation from the guys at openadvantage.org and a couple of minutes surfing of reviews.

 Today, I dediced to download the latest version, and set the defaults on my PC to run all my word processing, spreadsheet and presentation requirements from now on using open office.  My motivation in doing this was to trial the installation myself, and get a couple of months hands on experience with using the suite before the other 20 staff at Mercian Labels are asked to run it – lead from the front and all that!

First of all, I checked out the alternatives using this review at wikipedia, prompted because I saw a BBC video clip on the Bristol city Council IT dept moving the entire organisation to open source, saving over £1M GBP in fees.  However, they were using start office, and to be honest, I couldn’t see any reason for an SME not needing serious suport to commit to anything other than the openoffice.org suite.  There were issues over java licensing for some of the higher level functions, but with the sun announcment for making java open source at some stage, I dont see it as a threat to small users.  If something goes wrong, then we can change very quickly.

 So, I downloaded the latest release today, openoffice 2.2 from here and installed it on my laptop running XP pro.  I committed to opening and using all existing docs in openoffice rather than microsoft software to show good intent!

First impressions are:

  • its good, very good
  • its better than MS word for everything we do in an SME
  • it runs quicker than MS  WORD and EXCEL
  • the WRITE user interface is so similar to MS WORD that you dont need much, if any retraining
  • It includes a very fast “save as PDF ” function which is excellent
  • existing word documents open perfectly well in oo.o and save fine too
  • importing custom dictionaries is a bit of a pain, but under 5 mins to learn, and under a minute to repeat when you know how.
  • I cannt see any features missing that I would regularly use, with 1 major exception.  I havent tried the BASE program yet, but I know that it dosnt support VBA scripts well, if at all.  As this is our major software at present, this is a seriouls problem, and why we are writing our entire CRM in PHP on a web platform.

Overall, I like it.  I wrote my PhD thesis in WORD in 2000, and I would have doubts about trying to make a massive document with complex formatting and breaks in oo.o, but I#m probably just being paranoid.

OO.o looks excellent, and a credit to the developers over many years.  I will comment any bugs I find in the coming weeks here on this blog.

  • Hi there,

    I consult for for a company who has moved to Open Office and has been using it since the early beta of the 2.0 code base, at the time 1.9.94 and up, with good sucess. There were issues along the way of cource but most of them turned out to be, how do I do this task now, where do I find this option now. We had our finance departments very complex spread sheets over by the IT departmant just to be on the safe side and we have never had an issues yet. This is a very large public fund so it’s not like they don’t have the money but saw the value in saving it’s members money and the licensing freedom that Open Source brings.

    On a side note we are also migrating all the workstation to Linux as well so we had to make sure all the tools on the Linux side had Windows equivalents. We us Firefox Thunderbird, Gaim, GNUprogect and as many web based apps as we can to make the transition as smooth as possible.

    As each up date is released of OO2.X it just keeps getting better and better. The baries are continuoing to drop. Al thougt I will admit that the mail merge function is a bit of a bear and has been the largest thorn in our sides on the move.

    On you access issues, There are a few tools you can get to migrate from Access to Mysql, see http://www.mysql.com/products/tools/migration-toolkit/ but I imagen that the big issues is the front end used to access that database. You may look at realbasic which will allow you to build and run VB like code on Linux windows and Mac’s. Not sure if that tool may have something that can be used to help port your app but it may be worth looking into. I think in the end you would be better to write a web front end or a java front end to make cross platform access a non issue in the long run.

    In a pinch you could run access under wine or the commercial Crossover Office Plugin until you can get everything ported.

    Hope this helps.

    Thanks

    Rich

  • Julian Robbins

    Hi Adrian

    We migrated to Open Office on Windows at our company a few weeks ago. I had been tracking OOo for a about 2.5 years in terms of how it would work for us, and so far, the migration has been very smooth.

    I would disagree about the speed; Office 2000 is faster than OOo, but OOo is getting faster all the time and Sun are totally aware of the issues and spending time and money on resolving it.

    Very recent builds DO have some capabilities to run some VBA macros in Calc, but so far it hasn’t worked too well for us. We will probably have to rewrite our Excel macros to OOo Basic or even Python which can work with OOo, but as yet, we have to wait for the much wanted new chart infrastructure which is being currently developed for OOo Calc.

    You need to train your staff in what formats to use to send docs in however. Emailing .odt files to customers is liable to result in a lot of confusion !! We settled on saving all our files in the Open Document file format, as you can get issues saving OOo files in the MS formats sometimes. At least the send doc as PDF via email function is particularly good !!

    Good luck