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OpenOffice Review

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August 21, 2010 – Comments (8)

I are a bit of a cheapskate and when I wanted more features than I get with the Works spreadsheet on the home computer, I decided to try the OpenOffice.org Productivity Suite.  OO has a distinct price advantage (free) over competing products.

I've only been running it a few weeks, but am happy so far.

I've mostly used Calc, the spreadsheet.  Commands, buttons, and features are very similar to Excel and I haven't had any trouble reading or saving to .xls format.  The OpenOffice spreadsheet has a macro language, but the documentation says it isn't directly compatible with Microsoft's VBA because the object structure is different although the basic code language is supposed to be very similar.  I haven't tried writing any macros or importing any from files at work, so can't comment on the differences.  If the OpenOffice documentation is correct, importing an Excel macro would simply (or maybe not so simply) require rewrite of the object references.  It's been years since I've written VBA code, so not too worried about the compatibility.

I did try Writer and when I opened an MS Word document, not all the formating came through, but, like the spreadsheet, the user interface and features looked very similar to Microsoft products.  Since I have Word on the home machine, I doubt I'll use OO's word processor much.

I haven't tried Impress, Draw or Base (the presentation, drawing and database apps) yet, so can't comment on how thy work.

If you're considering upgrading or buying MS Office or another suite, recommend trying OpenOffice first. 

[Obligatory investment related reference for CAPS]
Money saved on software spends just as well as money earned in the stock market.

Any one else have experience with OpenOffice they'd like to share?

 

8 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On August 21, 2010 at 1:11 PM, binve (< 20) wrote:

Hey rd80,

>>The OpenOffice spreadsheet has a macro language, but the documentation says it isn't directly compatible with Microsoft's VBA because the object structure is different although the basic code language is supposed to be very similar. 

This is precisely what I haven't migrated. I write a lot of VBA scripts. I checked out OO years ago when it first came out and had no scripting support. Then I checked it out maybe a year or so ago and found in underwhelming.

I like OO in concept, but at least in the engineering world, MS has has a stranglehold for a long time :(  Which stinks because I would love some decent competition.

Thanks!

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#2) On August 21, 2010 at 1:47 PM, rd80 (98.28) wrote:

Hi binve,

 

I think OO will be fine for me at home, but we would need full compatibility with MS' VBA to even consider changing over at work.  Just too many critical script tools in use to risk trying a change over unless we were sure they would work as expected.

According to the help files, the latest version of OO does have scripting support, but isn't fully compatible with VBA.

A couple relevant quotes from the help files: 

You can assign custom scripts (macros) to menu items, icons, dialog controls, and events in OpenOffice.org.

OpenOffice.org internally supports the following scripting languages:

OpenOffice.org Basic

JavaScript

BeanShell

Python (not included with all distributions)

In addition, developers can use high-level languages, for example Java programming language, to control OpenOffice.org externally. See the API project at OpenOffice.org.

 and, 

With a few exceptions, Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org cannot run the same macro code. Microsoft Office uses VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) code, and OpenOffice.org uses Basic code based on the OpenOffice.org API (Application Program Interface) environment. Although the programming language is the same, the objects and methods are different.

The most recent versions of OpenOffice.org can run some Excel Visual Basic scripts if you enable this feature at Tools - Options - Load/Save - VBA Properties.

If you use macros in one of the applications and want to use the same functionality in the other application, you must edit the macros. OpenOffice.org can load the macros that are contained within Microsoft Office files and you can then view and edit the macro code in the OpenOffice.org Basic IDE editor.

 

 

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#3) On August 21, 2010 at 4:41 PM, angusthermopylae (38.74) wrote:

I've done IT support for some local government offices, and, whenever possible, I recommended that they install OO.

The local Veterans Service Office did it, and they've been very happy.  They have a custom database system for handling VA paperwork, so all they really needed was something to write up proposals, inter-office memos, and some flyers for publication--OO filled the bill at no cost.

Funny enough, the county engineer's office didn't go with that recommendation.  The fact that they had to lay out a ton of dough (because the previous IT guy was a little too "free" with his installations of MS Office) never made a difference to them.

(I believe that, in this time of tight budgets, they may be regretting that decision.)

I also wrote an Electronic Medical Records system for a doctor's office that used OO documents as the output.  The software to automatically fill data fields was also free, so all she had to do was pay me for my time.

As for the issues with MS compatibility, you're absolutely correct.  I would say that about 90-95% of the time it's immaterial (doesn't show or can easily be corrected), but it's that last 5-10% that one should decide if $400+ per copy is worth it.

For me, it's always been "no."

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#4) On August 21, 2010 at 9:01 PM, portefeuille (99.60) wrote:

and started by a German, hehe ...

--------------

Oracle Open Office — known before 2010 as StarOffice — is Oracle's proprietary office suite software package. It was originally developed by StarDivision and acquired by Sun Microsystems in August 1999. The source code of the suite was released in July 2000, creating a free, open source office suite called OpenOffice.org; subsequent versions of StarOffice have been based upon OpenOffice.org, with additional proprietary components.

...

The German company StarDivision in Lüneburg (founded by 16-year-old Marco Börries in 1984) wrote the original components of StarOffice. StarDivision developed the first version of StarWriter for the Zilog Z80 home-computer system, the Amstrad CPC (marketed by Schneider in Germany) under CP/M, and later for the Commodore 64 under Microsoft BASIC, which was later ported to the 8086-based Amstrad PC-1512, running under MS-DOS 3.2. Later the integration of the other individual programs followed as the development progressed to an Office Suite for DOS, IBM'S OS/2 Warp, and for the Microsoft Windows operating-system. From this time onwards StarDivision marketed its suite under the name "StarOffice."

Until version 4.2, StarDivision based StarOffice on the cross-platform C++ class library StarView. In 1998 StarDivision began offering StarOffice for free.

Sun Microsystems acquired the company, copyright and trademark of StarOffice in 1999 for US$73.5 million. Sun wanted to compete with Microsoft Office, and also wanted to save money on licenses for Microsoft Office and Windows:

The number one reason why Sun bought StarDivision in 1999 was because, at the time, Sun had something approaching forty-two thousand employees. Pretty much every one of them had to have both a Unix workstation and a Windows laptop. And it was cheaper to go buy a company that could make a Solaris and Linux desktop productivity suite than it was to buy forty-two thousand licenses from Microsoft.

--------------

(from here)

 

openoffice is great. The back office of my "fund" is me and one large openoffice spreadsheet (see comment #151 here). The front office is also me ...

a chart produced using openoffice calc and openoffice draw.



enlarge

(from here)

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#5) On August 21, 2010 at 9:05 PM, miteycasey (30.47) wrote:

I've used it since 1.0.1 days as I use a Linux workstation.

For light word processing and spreadsheet use it's great. If you are an Office power user then it's probably not for you.

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#6) On August 21, 2010 at 9:11 PM, portefeuille (99.60) wrote:

If you want decent looking documents, especially ones containing "mathematical expressions", you should consider using TeX (best to use it on a linux system, I guess ...).

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#7) On August 23, 2010 at 9:37 AM, Manutius (< 20) wrote:

I'm a retired software professional.  Too cheap to spend big bucks on Microsoft Word for a lot of features I'd never use so I "invested" in Microsoft Works instead -- and had tremendous problems exchanging/importing/exporting docs to friends via email attachments.  Open Office solved that problem straightaway.

An interesting note: my bridge partner (retired assistent CFO for Textron) was complaining to me about Word -- I suggested that he try Office and he flat-out refused, on the grounds that since it was free, it must be crappy.  I tried to explain to him how "open software" works but the idea of "not maintained for profit" software was so foreign to his mindset that the concept just couldn't live inside his "for profit" mentality.

 I'm not a power user by any stretch -- but Office does simple things simply (which Word and Works do not).  I like that.  I'm completely unqualified to comment on spreadsheet features, though.

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#8) On August 23, 2010 at 3:41 PM, ikkyu2 (99.14) wrote:

I had an install on a linux box, lo these many years ago.  Probably over a decade.

I use Google Docs now.  Fairly feature complete and the added bonus that I can access it anywhere I have a device, no installs.

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