Open Office

July 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.




One comment

  1. Hello, Dick

    You have a great page here that I couldnt stop reading once I had found it. I, too, am an XP user interested in the philosophy behind Linux and open-source software. I have tried a few of the popular distro’s via live cd and spent a good anount of time researching different ‘flavors’ of the OS to find something to fit my needs.

    In summary, my opinion at this stage is that Windows is in its rightful place at the top of the OS heap. Its not free to own or manipulate, but it WORKS. When you pay for a Windows platform you are pretty much assured that 99% of the hardware and software out there will be compatible, easily installed and easily executed. Alot of enthusiasts claim that Linux is ‘faster’ (whatever that means) and ‘more secure’. I dont see how one operating system can perform any faster than the next as speed would have more to do with your hardware spec, network connection and the application specific to the job. Linux can be perceived, maybe correctly so, to be more secure than Windows, but those statistics harbor many variables. For instance, when Joe Public waltzes into a retail computer outlet and gets totally ripped off paying for what he gets for his money, he gets a machine with Windows pre-installed. This becomes the OS that 100% of people who know nothing at all about computers, computer maintenence or security are involved with. They buy the latest Norton package and download loads of dodgy software trying to get rid of pop-ups and spyware problems and end up corrupting their registry, slowing their machines eventually to a halt and then next thing, they cant boot into windows. They are instructed by the atrocious ‘tech-support team’ from the retail outlet where they bought their machine to just use the restore cd that came with their pc, which means losing all their data, thus ‘I HATE WINDOWS’ syndrom sets in. Eventually they learn to make back ups or, better yet, dont even keep any sensitive data what-so-ever on your active partition. A seperate hard drive being better than that.. having a good, solid image routine in place, even better still.

    Dont get me wrong, I totally subscribe to the idea of free software and beyond my OS, usually obtain good software for free. Its out there.

    I built my new machine at the beggining of the year and XP is still flying right along. I use mozilla browser and have a good antiv in place, and a decent hardware firewall in my Netgear wireless router. Most of the problems people experience with Windows are actually problems with dodgy software, like Norton. Norton Antiv will eat your system alive setting dependancies and in some cases, flat-out lying to you about an infection to appear that its ‘doing its job well’, so youll continue to pay for updates and the next release.

    When I was in school, we had a little p2p network set up on its own domain, not connected to the rest of the college or to the outside world at all. These machines were frequently formatted, partitioned, installed with OS’s from 95 to Server 03, so they were clean and not infected. We put Norton 05 on 5 of the machines… it wasnt long before virus and trojan alerts started to surface, conflicts with resources and software began and sharing resources between the machines went a bit mad. Lesson learned.. proprietary software will lie to you. Norton is also a very clingy, annoying application, constatly reminding you, ‘Im here! see?!! Im working.. See?!!’

    Enough about Norton, back to Linux. The thing that bothers me most about Linux is support for wireless connectivity. After realising what it would take for me to use the drivers for my NIC, I got a taste of what installing new devices and even software is like in Linux.. me no likey.

    When I put the Vista Beta next to XP and Mandriva Linux on my drive, Vista detected all my config and drivers.. the drivers it couldnt find, it went online (with no configuring or set up what-so-ever from me) and found the drivers, installed them, and my system worked. Proof to me that at this point in time that while you do pay for MS, you get so much more than Linux will offer. It just seems like any Linux distro ive tried turns out to be half an operating system, sitting their waiting for you to ‘command’ it into shape.. force it to be usable.

    Yes, Im probably a bit less knowledgable about building kernels and making drivers than the Linux community. To be honest, whats the point in an OS being faster if you have to spend so long getting it to do what you need it to do? It kind of evens out I think. I dont want to do those kinds of things on a machine. I want my pc to work, so I can get on with mine.

    Im only sharing this with you because for the longest time now Ive been on a relentless search for the perfect Linux version and so keen on making ‘the switch’ that I lost track of whats really important to my digital life. Also, from a moral stand point, I know now that I shouldnt feel like some Corporate Whore being oppressed by the Evil Empire… Microsoft make a good operating system that I am happy to know and use well. Im willing to pay for it because IT WORKS. Lifes too short for Linux.

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