By Deane Barker on November 23, 2012
German city says OpenOffice shortcomings are forcing it back to Microsoft: A city in Germany tried to switch to OpenOffice for the last five years, and is now switching back to Microsoft Office.
Freiburg has been using OpenOffice and Microsoft Office 2000 side-by-side since 2007 and has been very restrictive issuing licenses of new Microsoft Office suites.
[…] on Friday, German open source developers reacted angrily, saying that the city uses outdated software and did not consider upgrading to a current version of LibreOffice or OpenOffice.org.
To be fair, it seems like a lot of their problems resolve around running them both side-by-side, rather than running just one.
But, this brings me to a cold, hard fact: commercial software is often just better than open-source software.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I love GPL software. I was a big LAMP dev for a long time.
But when you don’t have license fees coming in, and you don’t have a massive community of developers (a la Drupal), then you are limited on what you can do. License fees pay developers. Developers write software.
Before you accusing me of violating the open-source ethos, let me reiterate: I love open-source software, and I think there are a great many open-source software packages and systems out there. But without a critical mass community developing on it, most open-source software is going to be the cheap option – the poorer substitute for the real thing.
I have used Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, and Google Docs extensively. I’m sorry, but Microsoft Office is simply better than the alternatives. They each have strengths and weaknesses – for heavy collaboration, Google Docs can’t be beat, for instance – but in sum, Microsoft Office just runs away with it.
Yes, it’s big. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, you could say it’s bloated. But it also has a feature set that dwarfs the competition. License fees allow you to do stuff like that.
Pretending that things like OpenOffice and Google Docs (admittedly not open-source, but still an alternative) are feature-comparable with Microsoft Office is really just a little silly.
(And, even if one could say that OpenOffice was comparable, a recent version of OpenOffice I used was, frankly, just a direct lift of an older version of Microsoft Office, down to almost every interface and dialog box. This raises the question of what “better” even means when something is simply a knock-off of the original.)