Open Office

By Deane Barker on November 21, 2002

I’m on one of my “shiny object” tangents lately. The latest thing is non-Microsoft software. I don’t know why, but I suddenly feel the need to be all counter-culture-ish and find alternatives to the standbys.

I’ve been browsing with Mozilla all week, and I don’t think I’ll go back to IE anytime soon. Mozilla is just a better browser. Sorry, but it’s true.

And tonight, I discovered the beauty that is OpenOffice. This is the open-source Word Processor, etc. system (MS Office replacement) that Sun markets as Star Office. It was a 50MB download, but it installed beautifully — an even smoother and more professional-looking installation than any Microsoft product I’ve ever seen.

It comes with Writer (equivalent of Word), Calc (Excel), Impress (Power Point), Draw (Visio, I think), Math (some kind of algrebraic equation editor), and an HTML Editor (FrontPage, sort of). All I really looked at was Writer and the HTML Editor, but I was fairly well impressed. I looked through some old files and found the most complicated Word document I could, then opened it in OpenOffice. It was perfect — all formatting and everything. Very impressive.

The HTML Editor is good as a WYSIWYG replacement, but annoyed me in a lot of instances. It re-writes HTML, and even changed a BODY style selector to P, which is a major infraction in my book. FrontPage doesn’t even do that. I’m too hooked on Dreamweaver and Edit Plus anyway.

Microsoft Office replacements come and go, will this one stick? The roadblock is completely cultural — there’s no doubt that products like OpenOffice, Star Office, Corel WordPerfect Office and others have the features and interface to rival Word. So, what’s stopping these from getting traction? OpenOffice is 100%, totally FREE. Small business owners, why are you paying hundreds of dollars to Microsoft for each copy of Office?

Microsoft better hope that they keep the advantage here. Based on a recent article I read, Microsoft is doomed if the profits from Office go away, given that their profit margin is a tidy 78 percent.

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