Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

OpenOffice a Strong Competitor

Filed under
Reviews

It's weird how things can come back to bite you. Microsoft Corp. killed off the competition for office software suites and became a de facto monopoly in the area, with what result? The competition is back and, this time, it's free!

The latest version of the free OpenOffice suite promises to be a strong competitor to Microsoft Office. It's still in the "beta," or unfinished, stage, but it's already a good alternative for people who aren't heavy users. And you can't argue with the price.

OpenOffice is the fruit of a collaboration between Sun Microsystems and volunteer programmers around the world. Sun bought a German company in 1999 to get office software to bundle with its computers but figured that it wasn't going to make big bucks selling the software to a wider market because of Microsoft's grip. So it released portions of the code to the public. It probably didn't hurt that archrival Microsoft loathes the idea of free software.

The first version of OpenOffice, released in 2002, attempted to imitate Office as closely as possible but fell short. It didn't open all Word documents properly, its spreadsheets could not be as big as Excel's and it completely lacked a database program to match Access. It wasn't a success.

The beta of version 2 fixes many of those problems. It opens Word, WordPerfect and Excel files flawlessly. Saved files open fine on Microsoft programs. It also adds a database program that's similar to Access.

Another new and nifty feature, not found in Office, gives you the option of saving a file as a PDF, the ubiquitous document format. To do the same in Office, you need to install Adobe Acrobat or one of its knockoffs.

Just as in the previous version, most controls will be familiar to those who have used Office. An example: the menu headings in Write, OpenOffice's word processor, are identical to those in Word except that "Tools" and "Table," which are next to one another, have switched places. Open the programs side by side and you will be hard pressed to tell which is which.

OpenOffice also contains an analog to Microsoft's PowerPoint presentation application, a drawing program and an app for writing mathematical formulas.

The chief drawback of OpenOffice is that it still lacks an equivalent to Microsoft's excellent Outlook e-mail and calendar program. This need not be a fatal flaw.

If you're fine with a simple e-mail program, you can download the free Thunderbird program from www.mozilla.org. If you need more features, just buy Microsoft Outlook for $109. That's still a lot cheaper than buying the entire Standard Edition Office suite for $399. (Of course, the Office edition for students and teachers costs $149, and no one's checking IDs).

My colleagues and I encountered some other problems with OpenOffice. Installation was difficult on some machines because OpenOffice relies on Sun's Java software, which does not come pre-installed on all Windows PCs (it's available for free from http:java.sun.com).

Write crashed a few times while saving documents, but we were able to recover the files. Hopefully, this is an issue that will be solved in the final version.

OpenOffice was also slower in opening and saving documents. For example, a large spreadsheet took 4 seconds to open in Calc but only 2 seconds in Excel. That's not much, but the difference can be magnified if your computer is old.

Base, the database program, has a confusing interface but Access isn't much better in this regard. The "help" files for the entire suite are not as thorough as those for Office.

Still, if you have a new home computer or are setting up a small office, I suggest giving OpenOffice a try. It may well meet your needs, and if it doesn't, you haven't lost much.

The beta version is available for Windows 98 or later versions and for the Solaris and Linux operating systems. There is no beta for Macintosh computers but the older version of OpenOffice is available for Macs running OS X.

The program requires at least 128 megabytes of computer memory - we ran it with far more.

PETER SVENSSON
AP Technology Writer

More in Tux Machines

Linux Foundation on Value of GNU/Linux Skills

  • Jobs Report: Rapid Growth in Demand for Open-Source Tech Talent
    The need for open-source technology skills are on the rise and companies and organizations continue to increase their recruitment of open-source technology talent, while offering additional training and certification opportunities for existing staff in order to fill skills gaps, according to the 2018 Open Source Jobs Report, released today by The Linux Foundation and Dice. 87% of hiring managers report difficulty finding open-source talent, and nearly half (48%) report their organizations have begun to support open-source projects with code or other resources for the explicit reason of recruiting individuals with those software skills. After a hiatus, Linux skills are back on top as the most sought after skill with 80% of hiring managers looking for tech professionals with Linux expertise. 55% of employers are now also offering to pay for employee certifications, up from 47% in 2017 and only 34% in 2016.
  • Market value of open source skills on the up
    The demand for open source technology skills is soaring, however, 87% of hiring managers report difficulty finding open source talent, according to the 2018 Open Source Jobs Report which was released this week.
  • SD Times news digest: Linux Foundation releases open-source jobs report, Android Studio 3.2 beta and Rust 1.27
    The Linux Foundation in collaboration with Dice.com has revealed the 2018 Open Source Jobs Report. The report is designed to examine trends in open-source careers as well as find out which skills are the most in demand. Key findings included 83 percent of hiring managers believes hiring open source talent is a priority and Linux is the most in-demand open-source skill. In addition, 57 percent of hiring managers are looking for people with container skills and many organizations are starting to get more involved in open-source in order to attract developers.

GNU/Linux Servers as Buzzwords: "Cloud" and "IaaS"

  • Linux: The new frontier of enterprise in the cloud
    Well obviously, like you mentioned, we've been a Linux company for a long time. We've really seen Linux expand along the lines of a lot of the things that are happening in the enterprise. We're seeing more and more enterprise infrastructure become software centric or software defined. Red Hat's expanded their portfolio in storage, in automation with the Ansible platform. And then the really big trend lately with Linux has been Linux containers and technologies like [Google] Cooper Netties. So, we're seeing enterprises want to build new applications. We're seeing the infrastructure be more software defined. Linux ends up becoming the foundation for a lot of the things going on in enterprise IT these days.
  • Why next-generation IaaS is likely to be open source
    This is partly down to Kubernetes, which has done much to popularise container technology, helped by its association with Docker and others, which has ushered in a period of explosive innovation in the ‘container platform’ space. This is where Kubernetes stands out, and today it could hold the key to the future of IaaS.

Ubuntu: Snapcraft, Intel, AMD Patches, and Telemetry

  • SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: Snapcraft
    Canonical, the company behind operating system and Linux distribution Ubuntu, is looking to help developers package, distribute and update apps for Linux and IoT with its open-source project Snapcraft. According to Evan Dandrea, engineering manager at Canonical, Snapcraft “is a platform for publishing applications to an audience of millions of Linux users.” The project was initially created in 2014, but recently underwent rebranding efforts.
  • Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Now Certified on Select Intel NUC Mini PCs and Boards for IoT Development, LibreOffice 6.0.5 Now Available, Git 2.8 Released and More
    Canonical yesterday announced that Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is certified on select Intel NUC Mini PCs and boards for IoT development. According to the Ubuntu blog post, this pairing "provides benefits to device manufacturers at every stage of their development journey and accelerates time to market." You can download the certified image from here. In other Canonical news, yesterday the company released a microcode firmware update for Ubuntu users with AMD processors to address the Spectre vulnerability, Softpedia reports. The updated amd64-microcode packages for AMD CPUs are available for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver), Ubuntu 17.10 (Artful Aardvark), Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus), and Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr), "all AMD users are urged to update their systems."
  • Canonical issues Spectre v2 fix for all Ubuntu systems with AMD chips
    JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT YOU'D HEARD THE END of Spectre, Canonical has released a microcode update for all Ubuntu users that have AMD processors in a bid to rid of the vulnerability. The Spectre microprocessor side-channel vulnerabilities were made public at the beginning of this year, affecting literally billions of devices that had been made in the past two decades.
  • A first look at desktop metrics
    We first announced our intention to ask users to provide basic, not-personally-identifiable system data back in February. Since then we have built the Ubuntu Report tool and integrated it in to the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS initial setup tool. You can see an example of the data being collected on the Ubuntu Report Github page.

Most secure Linux distros in 2018

Think of a Linux distribution as a bundle of software delivered together, based on the Linux kernel - a kernel being the core of a system that connects software to hardware and vice versa – with a GNU operating system and a desktop environment, giving the user a visual way to operate the system via a graphical user interface. Linux has a reputation as being more secure than Windows and Mac OS due to a combination of factors – not all of them about the software. Firstly, although desktop Linux users are on the up, Linux environments are far less common in the grand scheme of things than Windows devices on personal computers. The Linux community also tends to be more technical. There are technical reasons too, including fundamental differences in the way the distribution architecture tends to be structured. Nevertheless over the last decade security-focused distributions started to appear, which will appeal to the privacy-conscious user who wants to avoid the worldwide state-sanctioned internet spying that the west has pioneered and where it continues to innovate. Of course, none of these will guarantee your privacy, but they're a good start. Here we list some of them. It is worth noting that security best practices are often about process rather than the technology, avoiding careless mistakes like missing patches and updates, and using your common sense about which websites you visit, what you download, and what you plug into your computer. Read more