22 October 2005

OpenOffice.org 2.0

I recently installed and tried out OpenOffice.org 2.0. OpenOffice is one of the oldest and most successful open source projects, along with the heavyweights of Linux and MySQL. I tried Star Office 5 many, many years ago when it was still free and before it was branched out to become OpenOffice.org. Long story short, I went back to Microsoft Office and never gave OpenOffice.org a serious look until today.

Their latest version, 2.0, has been widely hyped as the Microsoft Office killer. And after using it briefly, I will say it has a very strong fighting chance, but their Powerpoint replacement is a big thorn in the toe. Here's a quick review of the things I like and hate about OO.org 2.0:

  • Small size: Installation package is only 75Mb. After installation, it takes up much less space compared to MS Office, although some novelty items like clipart are missing.
  • Startup time: Slightly slower than MS Office equivalents. But this may have something to do with the fact that Microsoft built Windows after all.
  • OO.org Writer: Their Word replacement. It really gives Word a run for its money. Almost all the main features I'm used to using are still there, and the shortcuts still work. Have noticed a few minor differences, but is not a big problem

  • OO.org Impress: A very unimpressive Powerpoint replacement. Maybe it was because I opened a Powerpoint file inside it, but its conversion capabilities is laughable. Animations don't come out correctly, font rendering sucks big time, and the slide show hangs for 3-4 seconds after every slide. I might give it another go by using their built-in types.

  • OO.org Calc: I'm not an expert in Excel, but Calc's look-and-feel is familiar enough I suppose. Didn't dwelve into its chart and function abilities, because I don't use spreadsheets often enough anyway.

  • OO.org Draw: It's a 'basic' vector drawing program. Unfortunately, I felt there was no need to make it a separate application because from what I can see, I can already draw all these shapes in Word. Similarly, it should have been integrated into Writer (or maybe it has?). Either way, I will explore some of the more advanced functions to see if it really is worth its own interface.

  • OO.org Math: This software allows the creation of mathematical equations and symbols. I like it because it is pretty simple to use. But I have not tried Microsoft Expressions, its Office equivalent. And I didn't test its integration power with existing Writer documents.

  • OO.org Base: The star of OO.org 2.0, this is a database application designed to take on Access. The interface is pretty good, and in some cases is better than Access. I'm exploring it further, but my main concern is how my programs will be able to access Base files. I did not see any apparent connection driver installed, but I will check it out further. In testing out Base, I realized I've forgotten all my SQL :-(

  • PDF Export: All documents can be exported to Adobe PDF format without the use of special printers. This is quite a convenience.

  • File format: The main obstacle preventing me from jumping into OO.org is their XML-based file format. It is a very open format but the problem is, it cannot be opened by MS Office. OO.org claims that not all settings can be exported perfectly into MS Office formats, and that is a real concern. What if the meticulous document I created did not open well in Office? Exporting to PDF is not a real solution. Until an almost-flawless filter is made for Office (an unlikely event), I won't use OO.org for any serious work.

After all I wrote, I really admire the work that has gone into OpenOffice.org. I generally respect all open-source projects as they give me a lot of places to steal code from :P OK, OK, learn code from. I will keep OpenOffice.org in my laptop for some time and then see how it performs as my main office productivity suite for the next two months.

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