Wednesday, June 08, 2005

OpenOffice, is it any good?

As you may know OpenOffice is a free open source alternative to Microsoft Office. You might also know that version 2 should be coming out soon (as it's currently in beta). My question is though, is OpenOffice (in it's current form) a viable alternative or just something you use if you have no other choice?

If you have ever used OpenOffice 1.1 then you will know that it's a great piece of software but it does have it's short comings. The biggest problem would have to be the support for Word documents, where it has more than a few issues displaying them correctly (mostly due to tables). The menus are also quite confusing at first if you have come from Microsoft Office Office, although that might not be a bad thing(?). It's also lacking a database like Access, and the load up times leave a lot to be desired (from my experience). These all sound like big issues, but are they?

The fact is that I'm using OpenOffice 1.1.4 right now to draft this post and that's because it's stable and it works as it was intended to. OpenOffice isn't all about compatibility with other software, it's about creating and editing documents and I do that in the recommend OpenOffice format so I can view and edit them later. If I need to share a document with others not using OpenOffice I'll use the fantastic export as PDF feature. That way anyone will be able to view the file and see it as I intended it to look, but you can always save as word document format if you have to (which works fine). I also feel like I have more power over how the program works, with options to enable and disable everything that I find frustrating and annoying (auto correct, help, complete, etc...).

OpenOffice is a great piece of software in it's own right, it might not have everything that Microsoft Office does now but it's still early days. One thing I would recommend is asking yourself this question, is Microsoft Office worth AUD$220+ more than OpenOffice?

Note: If you plan to use OpenOffice and still need to view Word documents I would recommend installing the Word Document viewer from Microsoft found here.

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