OpenOffice, substitute for MS Office

3 11 2007

Imagine one day your computer registry messes up, you format your PC only to find that you don’t have MS Powerpoint to prepare your presentations. Most of us would scream, curse Microsoft for making MS Office so unaffordable (especially for us students) and search frantically for someone with the software (or download a cracked version). What if you couldn’t find that someone? This was my situation until I found OpenOffice.

You can say OpenOffice is a “free” version of MS Office with softwares that substitute the whole package. E.g: OpenOffice Impress vs MS Powerpoint, OpenOffice Writer vs MS Word, OpenOffice Calc vs MS Excel. Before I go into the features of the software, let me tell you the BIGGEST plus point for any user of OpenOffice. You can open your MS Office-produced files in OpenOffice, edit them, and save them back in the original MS Office versions.

Friend sends you MS Powerpoint doc, you open with OpenOffice Impress, edit edit edit, save as MS Powerpoint format, send back to friend. Voila!

If you’re worried about runs in formatting and alignment, I haven’t experienced any so far when opening the files edited in MS Office. However, I did find some very negligible alignment runs when I opened some MS Powerpoint files in Impress.

I’m going to take a different approach to talking about the features this time; the simple and fast Q&A approach.

1. What if my computer freezes half way as I’m working on a file?
– No worries, Open Office has the file recovery function as well. πŸ˜‰

2. Are OpenOffice Impress slide templates nice?
– To tell you the truth, they are SUPER ugly! BUT, you can always find numerous templates made specially for OpenOffice on the web. You can even use MS Powerpoint templates or design your own slides. πŸ™‚

Some slides I made for a class presentation! Template downloaded online.

3. Does it have bugs? Will the bugs drive me nuts?
So far I have not encountered any problems with OpenOffice Writer/Calc (Word/Excel) other than the fonts looking a bit weird sometimes. To fix this, you just scroll up/down and everything will be back to normal. By the way, this screen refresh problem happens occasionally in MS Office as well.

OpenOffice Impress (Powerpoint) on the other hand have a few bugs which require a bit of creativity to overcome. These bugs are those pertaining to the textboxes used in slides. Sometimes when you resize the textbox (e.g: Lessen its width), the text paragraphing doesn’t change accordingly to fit into the new size. Also, if you have a resized image in your slide, sometimes during the slideshow the image will be shown as “un-resized”. However, it only took me a few minutes to find a way to go around these bugs. The textbox problem can be fixed by drawing a new resizable textbox. As for the slideshow, all you have to do is go to the previous slide and come back to the current slide.

And no, the bugs won’t drive you nuts!

4. What about features? Are they similar?? Will I be able to find them?
Yes, using OpenOffice is VERY similar to MS Office. I’d say its an almost seamless transtion. The control panel, tool bars, placement of functions and shortcut keys are very alike. In fact, my friend borrowed my laptop for his presentation and didn’t even realize it was not MS Powerpoint.
Some of us will like the additional functions they added to the tool bar and menus for ease of navigation.

5. Will I be able to live without MS Office?
Of course! I’ve been using it to write proposals, essays, prepare presentations and spreadsheets for almost a month. None of my teammates or professors know that I didn’t prepare them in MS Office. ^_~

6. The conclusion?
The bugs are negligible. The functionality is there. It is reliable and stable. If you’re tired of expensive MS Office packages, get OpenOffice. πŸ™‚

As OpenOffice is open source, I’m looking forward to helping them fix the bugs I encountered one of these days, probably when my programming skills are good enough hah! I’m starting to appreciate Open Source Software(OSS) more as I begin to discover new substitutes for expensive, commercialized programs.

I will always love Adobe though! The day OSS will match them is still far to come. πŸ™‚

Open Office Official website – Largest database of open source software
Open Source Initiative – More about the Open Source Community




19 responses

3 11 2007

Yay! Just another living proof. I’ve been on OO.o for years now. πŸ™‚

Just 1 thing irks me, the different behaviour of Ctrl+Backspace from other Windows or even Linux applications. I use that a lot. Other than that, I’m proud to be using something that’s open.

I’m still waiting for the day when we don’t distribute our documents in the proprietary .doc, .xls or .ppt any longer.

3 11 2007

I’ve been using OO for awhile as well, simply because I didn’t think it worthwhile spending money on MS Office. OO is not as robust as MS Office, but handles all my daily tasks pretty smoothly.

If you’re a heavy-duty MS Office user though, you might find OO very lacking.

3 11 2007

@Dinu: Thanks for bringing this up! Its something I’d probably never discover as I only use it for usual simple, daily tasks like writing reports, creating spreadsheets for budgets and presentations.

@uzyn: You have your answer! Unless OO can provide the full heavy-duty functionalities which enterprises use in MS Office, that day will never come. However, even if OO does achieve that in the future, I doubt enterprises will make the shift as they place quite a huge emphasis on having a call center which they can contact immediately for their questions and problems. This is something that OSS will not be able to provide.

4 11 2007

I have been using OO as well since the computers in the clusters here don’t come with MS Office. Pretty decent softwares.

4 11 2007

One thing we cannot do with it is we cant open DOCX files, we have a converter – that needs money

4 11 2007

Argh, I forgot about that. What a shame. Thanks for bringing it up!

I just did a quick search online and on Wikipedia, it says that OpenOffice is already working on implementing MS Office 2007 support for their next release. Lets hope it comes out soon πŸ™‚

Wikipedia link

23 11 2007

OO has problems importing Excel spreadsheets though. My CAP calculator doesn’t work in it.

2 01 2008

I have found that importing PPoint files into OO Impress donot work satisfactorily in a Slide Show. Do anyone know how to fix this?

15 01 2008

Hey Craig!
I did try importing some Powerpoint files into OO Impress and they didn’t appear exactly the same in OO Impress. The alignements were out and there was quite a bit of trouble editing the imported ppt files. However, if you view the slides in a slideshow, it works just like how it would in PPoint (at least for my case). Hope this helps!

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