Open OfficeJuly 13, 2006
Here at home, I have both MS Office XP and Open Office installed.
At work, I have two machines I rely on. One is an XP machine hooked up to the network which I have no administrator privileges to install anything. But the other machine is a Win98 machine where I can install anything I want but it is not connected to the network. The Win98 foes not have any version of MS Office, so I use Open Office exclusively on that machine. It also happens to be the machine connected to the scanner and printer.
This creates some interesting challenges, sometimes. If someone sends me an email with an XP Office created form attached, I save it to a floppy and then take it to the 98 machine to open it using Open Office and then print it out. Predictably, there can often be some formatting differences which make my forms look different that anyone else’s. That is only slightly annoying.
More annoying is that is does take longer to open Open Office and then it does not automatically appear on the desktop, but sits in the taskbar waiting to be clicked on to open it. But it is simply slower.
A bigger annoyance for me is the Open Office equivalent to Excel (I think it’s called Calc or something). I go to Excel to create simple line graphs because I’m so familiar with it and it is faster. But Open Office does not render those graphs out the same way they come out on Excel, and the differences are not always minor. I don’t need much, just a nice, clean, simple line graph with data points lining up with the points on the X axis.
Open office wants to complicate things and include extra lines. And do you think I could get a simple black circle to mark my points? I might get some sort of 3-D textured button, but no black dots. And black points generated in Excel get changed to triangles in Open Office. That is a major annoyance. And I still haven’t figured out how to get a trend line in OO.
I like Open Office for word processing, only I wish it was faster. I need to spend more time with this to get more familiar with the program. Having it as the only thing connected to my printer at work has been helpful in forcing the issue for me. My coworkers have seen it and have tried it but are still unsure about it. The free price tag doesn’t hurt, definitely. If I ever finish my advanced degree, I won’t have much of a problem letting go of Office XP.
At some point, I wouldn’t mind getting sufficiently savvy with the open source stuff to begin educating other teachers on it. But I need to do a lot more with it to feel comfortable.
I actually did get some in-service on Excel in order to make my graphs, but as far as Power Point and Word, I’m entirely self-taught. So why does Open Office seem so much harder to learn? It just might be part of learning something that is more sophisticated.
Feeling good about Open Office is important, because this is THE flagship application for users advocating open source over proprietary software. Most Linux distros come with it and it has been hyped as the substitute for MS Office products. But if it seems awkward, unfamiliar and slower, it is not going to win anyone over. I am looking forward to the day where I don’t have to worry about calling in to authenticate my registration for Office XP. I’ll be happy when OO becomes the office application of choice. But it hasn’t quite happened, yet.