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Microsoft Software, MS Office 2003 Compared, Evaluated 665 writes "eWeek is running a relatively lengthy article comparing and Microsoft Office 2003, as part of an IT decision whether to migrate a 300-plus userbase office away from Office 97/2000. The not-so-surprising conclusion: OO.o can be a better deal for smaller companies that can't fully leverage Redmond's volume licensing. Hell, it'd be cheap at twice the price."
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  • by jargoone ( 166102 ) * on Monday April 26, 2004 @03:53PM (#8975592)
    I work for a not-for-profit company that qualifies Microsoft's charity licensing. I haven't ever seen the actual prices, but from what I hear, the per-seat costs for Office are less than even the highest-tiered volume licensing.

    Kinda hard for me to fulfill my conquest of moving our mail away from Exchange. :-(
  • by XaXXon ( 202882 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [noxxax]> on Monday April 26, 2004 @03:53PM (#8975595) Homepage
    If you go to the book store at your local college/university, you can pick up OOo at an educational discount.
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Monday April 26, 2004 @03:54PM (#8975599) Homepage Journal
    OpenOffice is Good Enough(TM). Things are sometimes in places you don't expect them thanks to MS Office training (e.g. Word Count is in document properties), but once you're used to it, you'll use it by default.

    Despite having Office X on my Mac, I use OpenOffice all the time now. It's amazing how much it grows on you despite the initially underwhelming first impressions.

    • by abischof ( 255 ) * <alex @ s p a m c o> on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:14PM (#8975850) Homepage

      Despite having Office X on my Mac, I use OpenOffice all the time now. It's amazing how much it grows on you despite the initially underwhelming first impressions.

      I like as much as the next guy, or maybe even more -- I've used OOo on my Windows box exclusively for about two years now. But, I just can't get used to OOo on my PowerBook. I really wanted to like it, but the OS X version left me wanting more. Really, it's hardly a port at all -- it's just the Unix version running under X11 for OS X. So, it has the Unix interface and it's lacking the usual Mac OS niceties such as the Aqua look and even the nifty Finder-ized open/save dialogs.

      At this point, I'm just torn between trying to find MS Office/Mac for cheap (perhaps an older version) or just waiting for the proper Aqua port of OOo (even though that could be a while []).

      • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:18PM (#8975910) Homepage Journal
        I agree that OOo on Mac is pretty painful. But for some odd reason, I keep using it instead of OfficeX. If it *really* bothers you that much, you can try one of the builds at: []

        It's semi-beta stuff, but it's supposed to be all of OpenOffice without X11.

        • from the site (Score:5, Informative)

          by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:50PM (#8976307)
          As this is still a prototyping project, it is merely a proof of concept intended for software engineers to examine the methods used and hopefully provide a springboard for focusing our discussions and thoughts on the final, and arguably most complex, stages of this port.

          This is hardly even "semi-beta stuff." It's "proof of concept." Which means it's great if you're a programmer and want to tinker, or you just want to see what Open Office for OSX will look like in a year or two, fine, but if you actually have to use Office to, I don't know, prepare documents or something, you're better off sticking with the X11 version. And if you want a real OSX interface, you're better off with MS Office. I don't like MS, but that's what I use, because it gets the job done.

          If you're interested in development releases of Office products, you might also check out AbiWord [] which has also just been released for OSX, but again, it's not ready for prime time.

          • by VValdo ( 10446 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @05:09PM (#8976537)
            it's great if you're a programmer and want to tinker, or you just want to see what Open Office for OSX will look like in a year or two, fine, but if you actually have to use Office to, I don't know, prepare documents or something, you're better off sticking with the X11 version.

            I know they have that disclaimer, but I've used Neooffice/J (the Java version) for work-related purposes for about three months now. The newest version [] is really stable and has a lot of Mac-specific bells and whistles including Mac fonts, traditional apple-key commands and shortcuts, the OS X mac print dialog, and much, much faster reaction time than the x11 version (in my experience).

            I'd recommend giving it a try. For actual use. Really.

    • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:16PM (#8975884)
      Thats because that while everyone moans and complains about how you can't live without office, its still just a word processor, spreadsheet ... to most people.

      I rebuilt a PC for my inlaws last year and when they asked about office, I said it would cost them about $300 (consumer version, no student discount .....), plus they are not willing to run an "unlicensed" version.

      I installed openoffice and it worked like a charm. A couple of weeks getting used to it and then it was no trouble. The only extra help needed was instruction in importing and saving to office formats. I know the filters aren't perfect, but being that the machine was only being used for basic word processing and spreadsheets, it wasn't an issue.
    • by StacyKr ( 657832 ) <stacy&mailsnare,net> on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:16PM (#8975886)
      I love using Open Office! The only thing I miss is that it doesn't offer the Flescher-Kinkaid garde level scale in its word count feature - being a pre-service teacher, I often use it to determine if test items or other text written for kid's assignments is way to easy or dificult. OO is great - and I have never had any of these Power Point/Word compatibility problems, I am always sending and exchanging files with MS Office users.
  • by donnyspi ( 701349 ) <junk5.donnyspi@com> on Monday April 26, 2004 @03:54PM (#8975605) Homepage
    The only thing that matters to me is whether OO.o comes with Clippy or not!
  • by dicepackage ( 526497 ) * <dicepackage@gma i l . com> on Monday April 26, 2004 @03:54PM (#8975607) Homepage
    Open Office is free and you don't get anything good for free therefore if something costs more such as Windows or Office it must be better.
  • It seems obvious (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The_Mystic_For_Real ( 766020 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @03:54PM (#8975608)
    It seems obvious that something that is distributed for free will be cheaper than something that costs money. The true test comes when users are exposed to a new program for doing something everyday. I have known a few people who have had serious problems switching to Open Office after using MS Office for a long time. These were not computer illiterate people either.
    • by delcielo ( 217760 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:11PM (#8975794) Journal
      A transition doesn't have to be painless to be worthwhile. It certainly doesn't have to be painless to be cost-effective. Microsoft has gone a LONG way to make sure that any transition will result in a good dose of pain. Break it sooner or it only gets worse.

      You start by telling your employees that your switching. Explain why you're switching. Explain that you know it will be inconvenient or even a huge pain in the ass. Tell them you're counting on them to put out a lot of effort and come up to speed as quickly as possible on the new software. You're proud of you're employees, and you know they'll make you proud again.

      That won't eliminate any of the end-user frustration. It will, however, make the transition a success; because it lets the users know that the decision is made, and that there is an expectation for them to adjust to it.

      You don't want to ignore your employees by any means; but you sure don't want to give up significant cost savings (which by the way indirectly benefit them) just because they can't learn the new menus.

      After all, who's in charge?

      The true test is your ability to make good financial decisions and to make those decisions work.
  • by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @03:54PM (#8975610) Journal
    "Independent research analyst META Group found that Linux costs are not lower than Windows."

    Such conflicting views.
  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul ( 629286 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @03:55PM (#8975617) Journal
    Remember that StarOffice is supposed to be the "Stable" branch that is purchased in quantity for large corperations. Sun really doesn't want large coperations using the free version.
    • by jargoone ( 166102 ) * on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:07PM (#8975758)
      Sun really doesn't want large coperations using the free version.

      This isn't a worry for corporations. They don't care about open source, they don't care about cost. The name of the game is support. If there's no support, it's not going to fly.

      Sad, but true.
      • by koreth ( 409849 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @05:24PM (#8976714)
        Why is that sad? The name of the game is not, in fact, support. That's just an aspect of the real concern, which is predictability. If you know a piece of software -- open-source or otherwise -- will cost $X a month in support fees, and that in exchange you'll get any problems looked at ASAP so they cost your people a minimum of time, then you can do your budget numbers at the beginning of the year and be pretty sure you'll hit them. The definition of "ASAP" depends on how much you're willing to pay; it's a tradeoff. Even Microsoft will give you very snappy support if you're paying them enough for it.

        With no paid support contract (again, either open-source or closed) you're at the mercy of the developers' spare time. There is no guaranteed response time, no escalation procedure if you're not getting good results. In the case of open-source software, 95% of the time you'll get a bugfix faster than you would from a commercial vendor. But the remaining 5% of the time your problem won't interest the developer for whatever reason, and your organization may end up wasting more money due to the bug than it would have spent on support.

        If you're in a big organization whose budgeting process is complex, predictable-but-expensive can be a completely rational thing to choose over probably-cheap-but-maybe-not. You're buying reduced risk, and that can be worth various amounts of money depending on the context.

        I should point out that I use OOo for my business and it meets my needs 99% of the time -- but that's my situation, not a universal truth.

  • by Neil Blender ( 555885 ) <> on Monday April 26, 2004 @03:57PM (#8975640)
    I have been using OO for quite some time. I am using the most current version but it still fairly frequently mangles documents when passed back and forth between MS Office and OpenOffice. Same with Powerpoint. Even if your whole company migrates, you still have to deal with people who use Microsoft Office.
    • by mopslik ( 688435 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:13PM (#8975832)

      mangles documents when passed back and forth between MS Office and OpenOffice

      As someone who also has to transfer documents between the two applications, I can honestly say that most of the time, Office does far more mangling than OO.o does. Hell, Office often can't even properly read older versions of Office itself!

      OO.o isn't completely in the clear, but I find it's more consistent.

    • by yamla ( 136560 ) <> on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:41PM (#8976228)
      This is true. But note that MS Office also has a tendancy to mangle documents between versions or, and especially, when you transfer to and from the Mac version of Office. Granted, I have not yet tried this with Office for OS X but I had massive problems with earlier versions of Office for the Mac.

      So, yes, OpenOffice has problems from time to time with MS Office compatibility. However, it is also true that MS Office has problems from time to time with MS Office compatibility.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @03:57PM (#8975641)
    Here are the 3 things that will prevent OpenOffice from replacing MS Office massively:

    - Lack of good specialized dictionaries (in particular, a good medical dictionary)

    - .DOC compatibility

    - .DOC compatibility

    Oh, and did I mention .DOC compatibility?

    I mean, I know it's hard to be compatible with a format that never was disclosed by Microsoft, but there it is: I personally can testify that, while using OpenOffice internally would be roughly equivalent in functionalities to MS Office, exchanging files with the rest of the world is a total bitch.

    Microsoft's stranglehold on the Office suite market rests almost entirely on keeping its formats undisclosed, and on shifting them all the time to keep the target moving. I wish the OOo people could stop doing anything else but supporting at least one incarnation of .DOC almost 100%. Then they'd take over the market IMHO...
    • The answer is PDF (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:00PM (#8975674)
      For all the documents you absolutely must exchange with people, PDF fits the bill 99 times out of 100. How often do you email an EDITABLE document to someone, have them edit it, then send it back? OOo's "Export to PDF" fits this nicely. I have a 'stealth' OOo install here at work, most other people fear the fact that somehow I scored Adobe Acrobat. PDF simply rules.
      • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:06PM (#8975750)
        How often do you email an EDITABLE document to someone, have them edit it, then send it back?

        Well, I do often enough that it's a big problem for me. But that's not even the problem. The problem is the rest of the world insisting on .DOC, whether it's justified or not, just because they don't know any better. Last time I was looking for a job, most emailable job application required a resume in .DOC format. If you send PDFs instead, people will plain and simply dismiss your application immediately, as someone who don't want to follow the rules.
  • single best feature (Score:5, Informative)

    by mephinet ( 181586 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @03:58PM (#8975652)
    the single best feature of Openoffice, when compared to any other text program, is the direct export to pdf, that works flawlessly. Nothing new for us, but a great deal for the windows ppl 8)
  • by Philmeeh ( 189317 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @03:58PM (#8975659)
    I tried Openoffice for about 5 minutes before becoming completely lost.

    I was trying to write a letter and the lack of an animated paperclip popping up and offering to help meant that I couldn't complete it
  • by claar ( 126368 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @03:59PM (#8975661)
    At the university where I work, MS volume pricing is amazing compared to retail. We get the latest version of Office Pro for around $60, and Windows XP Pro for around $50.. not to mention that both come sans product activation.

    It's hard to justify going with something non-mainstream at those prices.. but of course all of the professors end up paying retail prices to get the same software on their home computer(s), so Microsoft still makes a bundle from it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 26, 2004 @03:59PM (#8975666)
    They are both very slow to load.

    They both feature plain white backgrounds.

    The comparison remains ultimately unresolved as the website cannot be found.
  • by wild_pointer ( 263802 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:00PM (#8975671)
    Okey... I'm home now and wanted to read few stories. Could everyone please not visit any articles for the next hour or so?

    Thanks in advance,
  • by therblig ( 543426 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:01PM (#8975686)
    It was a short review, but one problem I had with their comparison of PowerPoint/Impress was that Impress had a hard time working with a PowerPoint file that had a lot of imbedded Excel and Word information. Frankly, PowerPoint isn't nearly as good at handling those things as it ought to be either. Most of the testing was done to see how well an office could migrate from MS Office to OpenOffice, so the concern is a legitemate one, but I think that one will see that Impress will handle Writer and Calc files as well or better than PowerPoint will handle Word and Excel files.
  • Compatibility (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ryanw ( 131814 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:01PM (#8975688)
    The article appears slashdotted, but the biggest problem I have with OO isn't 'features' compared to MSOffice, but it's compatibility. I can typically open MSOffice files just fine, modify them in OO, save them, send them to people with MSOffice and they look HORRIBLE to the MSOffice people. The data is typically all there, but all garbled and derranged like I screwed it all up or didn't know how to format things to look nicely.

    Until OO is 100% comptible with MSOffice, it will not be likely a small business would switch to it. It puts them at a disadvantage when trying to look like a big company. Image is everything when you're a little guy playing with the big boys.

    • Re:Compatibility (Score:4, Informative)

      by Joey Patterson ( 547891 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:20PM (#8975933)
      Until OO is 100% comptible with MSOffice, it will not be likely a small business would switch to it.

      But there's the problem -- because MS Office file formats are proprietary and can change at any time, OpenOffice (and other third-party apps for that matter) will probably never be "100% compatible" with MS Office. This is why we need open standards.

      See here [] for the outline of a talk that one of my college professors gave a couple years back regarding this.
  • Well, nearly... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Xerp ( 768138 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:02PM (#8975702) Journal
    Open Office is obviously the better choice for most small to medium sized companies. The problem is that people are resistant to change. The Office zealots will steadfast refuse to change, regardless of cost. People are also scared of change full stop; they feel it would somehow threaten their jobs. They've had a hard enough time getting Microsoft Word to work, having only just figured out how to turn off all the auto-"correction". Now you want them to use Open what? People love their computers AND applications. ;-)

    Another problem is the integration of Microsoft Outlook into the Microsoft Office suite, which is turn has its hooks into Microsoft Exchange. Without the "full monty" people aren't going to change.
  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <> on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:03PM (#8975713) Homepage Journal
    How can they possibly say it's a potential good fit for smaller companies? From the article:

    - It doesn't work for advanced Excel (read: The Finance Department).
    - Support options are limited (read: DIY in a small company with limited/nonexistent IT resources to begin with).
    - It takes as much as 10 seconds longer to open big docs sent in Office format (read: anything sent to you most people outside the company).

    And, let's overlook Outlook in the comparison. (Evolution, Thunderbird, et. al. do not offer the same functionality)

    Oh, and feel free to mod me into oblivion for taking a controversial (for /.'ers) stance.

    • by ejdmoo ( 193585 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:19PM (#8975926)
      I was also pissed that they didn't include Outlook in the comparison. Anyone who's worked with Outlook 2003 will know what I mean. It's by far the biggest upgrade to Office since 97. I can't stand Outlook 2002, no less 2000! To say it's a fair comparison, then leave a competitor's strongest asset, is totally bogus. And, just in case you're wondering, no you can't buy Office without Outlook. The lightest weight version (retail) still has Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook. proof []
    • by doktorstop ( 725614 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:21PM (#8975948) Homepage Journal
      Totally agree
      I have a small company and really TRIED to switch to OO. That's why I gave up:
      - lack of comprehensible, user-friendly database. Sure, you can hire a MySQL expert, but it is cheaper to buy MSAccess. And for any business, it's not wordprocessing that counts, it's databases!
      - presentations one can create are quite nice, if not for one thing.... I would NEVER show then to any client. ONE world-lack of antialising makes any drawing/schema look totally unprofessional and amateurish. I'd rather show them a sequence of JPGs instead. - any post-creation work on a document is a mess. Notes are just supersmall yellow rectangles that you can't see when you review something, and the whole logic of reviewing is in its infancy.
      Do not misunderstand me, both OO and StarOffice are great products. But for businesses where efficiency is the key and the OS you run is quite irrelevant, every single piece of functionality is a very valuable asset.
    • by Ogerman ( 136333 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:28PM (#8976026)
      How can they possibly say it's a potential good fit for smaller companies?

      Small companies are able to adapt quickly, so they are the first candidates for cost-saving tools. Large companies, in comparision, cannot adapt as quickly, but *can* invest in making improvements to Open Source software that is almost but not quite useful to them (such as to save money by removing the need for the proprietary standbys)

      - It doesn't work for advanced Excel (read: The Finance Department).

      So have everybody else use OpenOffice and let the finance people keep their existing Excel. There's also Gnumeric, but I'm not sure what the comparison is as of late..

      And of course, finance data should be kept in a database anyways, not in spreadsheets. C'mon, this is 2004, not the 80's. But that's another discussion..

      - Support options are limited (read: DIY in a small company with limited/nonexistent IT resources to begin with).

      How often do people need "support resources" for an office suite? And since when does MS Office come with amazing support resources for small customers?

      - It takes as much as 10 seconds longer to open big docs sent in Office format (read: anything sent to you most people outside the company).

      This is so trivial it's not even worth mentioning.

      And, let's overlook Outlook in the comparison. (Evolution, Thunderbird, et. al. do not offer the same functionality)

      I assume you refer to Exchange, not just Outlook itself. There are plenty of alternatives to using Exchange/Outlook such as OpenGroupware and Kontact. And beyond that, Web-based groupware solutions are superior anyhow in most cases.

      Oh, and feel free to mod me into oblivion for taking a controversial (for /.'ers) stance.

      What are you talking about? Controversial stances, regardless how stupid they are, get modded up on /. these days. I call your karma whoring. (-:
    • by StarTux ( 230379 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @05:47PM (#8977013) Journal
      "- It doesn't work for advanced Excel (read: The Finance Department). "

      A small company with a Finance Department? Do they have marketing departments too?

      Seriously though, what constitutes a small company? To me its too small to have any real departmental structures, finance is done by the owner as is a sundry of other tasks...

      "- Support options are limited (read: DIY in a small company with limited/nonexistent IT resources to begin with)."

      Yes and they don't want to call MSFT either for the dollars they charge, or have to rely on 3rd party to come out that often.

      "- It takes as much as 10 seconds longer to open big docs sent in Office format (read: anything sent to you most people outside the company). "

      That could be a nailbiting problem, 10 seconds can easily seem like an eternity.

      "And, let's overlook Outlook in the comparison. (Evolution, Thunderbird, et. al. do not offer the same functionality)"

      Evolution is not part of OpenOffice, nor any of the other ones. Again though small businesses have different demands tend to be much *smaller* than medium to large businesses and may not need all those bells and whistles that Outlook can offer.

      "Oh, and feel free to mod me into oblivion for taking a controversial (for /.'ers) stance."

      Nah, nice arguments. Although pointed out my experience in small businesses. Biggest reason MSFT will not port Office to Linux is because people will have much more of a reason to switch, unless the port is botched :). Apple are a little more expensive and don't directly threaten MS like Linux does.
  • Large Corporations? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:04PM (#8975727) Homepage Journal

    I'd agree that small businesses, shoestring budgets, home, school, charity, underdeveloped nations would be better off going OO.o.

    At large corporations, smooth 2-way compatibility with MS Office is a must have and OO.o is not there yet.

    It's ironic, though. If a few of the larger MS Office licensees were to pool their resources they could contract out to improve OO.o so that it would be sufficiently compatible.

    But there's the tragedy of the commons: even though many would benefit from lower costs, etc., everyone hopes "George will do it" I'll just wait until its good enough for me and meanwhile I'll shell out for MS Office.

    But the more small time users lap over the barrier, the more it wears down.

    A day will come when a Fortune 500 company makes the jump. It will look impressive, but it will just be the culmination of years of work by others on OO.o

    • by Chordonblue ( 585047 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:25PM (#8975986) Journal
      Uh.. I hate to tell you folk this but let me let you in on a little secret... .DOC documents have incompatibilities with varying versions of MS OFFICE! :O The HORROR!

      Geez, people treat .DOC as if it's some sort of Mecca of compatibility. Truth: It SUCKS and it's BROKEN. I mean, everything's cool, as long as you don't go back too many versions, or use the wrong copy of Works, right? Well... In light of this, how can it be said that OOo is any less compatible only being 3 years old?!

      You know, not every .org can afford to keep up with General Electic's IT budget. Smaller schools such as ours can't just plunk down this kind of money every two years to insure compatibility with MS's latest fashions.

      With OOo's XML I do look forward to being able to see my documents 20 years from now just as they are today (hopefully on a flat screen the size of my house of course).

      Seriously. When I arrived at this school we had students using different versions of Works and Office at home and in the dorms (not to mention Wordperfect and even Wordpad!) Then you had international issues with MS Office, which I understand most of these are resolved now in 2003. Still...

      Open/StarOffice let us completely standardize our documentation here. It allowed me to offer a free copy of the software to every student, parent, and teacher. It's not perfect, but then neither is MS Office.

  • by SCSi ( 17797 ) <corvus.vadept@com> on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:04PM (#8975728) Homepage
    The only real pain in the ass is the inital conversion.. So you go through hell for a week, maybe 2 depending on how well OO converts the existing documents.
    After that, its all gravy.. No need to worry about the MS licensing fees, support, license goon squads. Everyone uses OO's native format, and everything else thats not in-office (docs, etc) get exported to PDF's..
    The only complaint ive heard is from the tard^H^H^H^Hpeople who spent money to get that "Microsoft Office Expert Guru thingym" license..
    Of course we dont do anything really fancy with MS Office/OO either, just your plain office spreadsheets.. So your milage will vary..
  • Our experience (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dtfinch ( 661405 ) * on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:06PM (#8975747) Journal
    OpenOffice loads most of our documents perfectly. It supports a wide variety of file formats. Its default compressed xml format produces files that are a tiny fraction of the size of equivelant Office documents. My bosses especially like the fact that it's free of charge, and we install it on every new pc we get.

    The main issues I have with it are its slowness and high memory usage under Windows compared to Office. I also miss having an equivelant to the Excel solver utility, which can optimize hundreds of variables at once to minimize/maximize a result. My first use of it involved stock prediction. It performed quite well at optimizing a set of over a hundred weights to predict a stock based on years of past data, if only to prove to me that numerically predicting a single day into a stock's with a profitable level of accuracy is almost impossible. I'll be using NN's in my next attempt. Did I mention I have ADD?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:08PM (#8975767)
    By Jason Brooks
    April 26, 2004

    In recent years, open-source alternatives to Office have matured to the point where IT managers are beginning to investigate the viability of moving from the Microsoft Corp. suite to a license-free alternative. So when eWEEK Corporate Partner Ed Benincasa shared his desire to perform a user-based comparison between the project's suite and Microsoft's Office 2003, we saw a perfect opportunity to compare the suites under real-world conditions.

    Click here to see how we tested.

    Click here to learn why we think open-source office suites are a better fit in small shops.

    Benincasa is vice president of MIS at precision machining manufacturer FN Manufacturing Inc., in Columbia, S.C. Microsoft Office 97 and Office 2000 are deployed to the 300-plus users at the site, and Benincasa is evaluating whether to move to Microsoft's latest suite, Office 2003, or the open-source 1.1.1.

    Benincasa is looking to upgrade because Microsoft has discontinued distribution of new licenses for Office 2000 and Office 97. Benincasa is exploring his office application suite options because he is concerned about the high cost of an upgrade to Office 2003. He also wants to prevent Microsoft's product release and support road map from dictating FN Manufacturing's upgrade timetable.

    "I'm not an anti-Microsoft person, and I think Office is a good product," said Benincasa. "However, we are cautious with our IT budget, and I'd prefer to spend money that directly relates to our business, like investing in things like hardware. Office 97 does everything we want it to do, and we would stay on that suite if we could. It pains me to have to spend money for features and functions most of my end users won't even begin to need."

    eWEEK Labs traveled to FN Manufacturing to put the two office suites to the test. We worked with Benincasa and members of his IT staff, as well as several representatives of the user population at FN Manufacturing and its related companies--Browning Arms Co., in Ogden, Utah, and parent company Fabrique Nationale (National Weapons Factory), in Herstal, Belgium.

    Also participating in the testing were Corporate Partner Kevin Wilson, product line manager of desktop hardware at Duke Energy Corp., in Charlotte, N.C., and Jeff Worboys, Duke's product line manager of desktop productivity applications.

    For a complete list of eVal participants, click here.

    We worked with three groups of users, all of whom currently use Office 97 or 2000 for productivity tasks. We tested and Office 2003 with sample documents provided by eWEEK Labs and with the testers' own files. We concentrated our tests on the applications' capability and compatibility, as well as on user training requirements.

    During tests, most users had little or no trouble moving from their current suite to However, for more advanced users--especially advanced users of did not fare as well.

    "The advanced users already push Microsoft Office to the limits and are constantly looking for more functionality, which OpenOffice. org may not be able to provide," said Tina Sanzone, application analyst at Browning. "For other users, however, we can easily customize to make it look pretty close to what they already have."

    Users who tested Office 2003 found the suite more polished and easy to use than Office 97 and 2000. However, only a few testers--again, mostly advanced users of Excel--said an upgrade to Office 2003 would provide them significantly more useful functionality.

    Benincasa said that he has rolled out on shop-floor computers for basic document viewing and that the application works well there.

    Those who participated in this eVal seemed, for the most part, receptive to a move to, but it's important to keep in mind that they volunteered for the test and, therefore, may be more open to a move than the bulk of
  • some typical FUD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by happyfrogcow ( 708359 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:13PM (#8975821)
    CON: ...
    Lack of traditional support Office suites typically do not require much vendor support, but the fact that is an open-source project means software support must come from the community, generally spread out across various Web sites and newsgroups.

    Ok, so tell me again why the guy was thinking about switching from MS to OO? Oh yeah, "Benincasa is looking to upgrade because Microsoft has discontinued distribution of new licenses for Office 2000 and Office 97"

    So MS won't support what they deem "old" products at all, and that isn't listed as a "Con" for them. Yet distributed, widely available support is a "Con" for OO?

    And in the "Con" for MS high licensing costs, it doesn't mention that these will be recurring costs, at the whim of Microsoft and their End of Life policies.

  • No PDA support (Score:5, Informative)

    by cexshun ( 770970 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:13PM (#8975826) Homepage

    Sadly, OpenOffice is not supported using Documents to Go for palmOS. Even when I save the document as an excel spreadsheet and try to transfer it over, Documents to Go throws a hissy fit and spits out an error. Documents to Go claims no plans to support native OO format, either.

    If this company utilizes pda's, then OO is not the way to go.

  • People Didn't Notice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sigemund ( 122744 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:18PM (#8975913)
    I work at a school -- We don't license MS Office for the students, but this year is the first that we have put MS Office on every faculty machine (about 60). I also put OpenOffice on every machine. We have been 100% Wordperfect until this year, but the new president "likes MS Office", so he's slowly forcing everything that direction. When I rolled out this year's install image, I had made a bit of a mistake (completely unintentionally). When someone double-clicks on a MS Office document, it opens in OpenOffice instead of MSOffice. This has basically "forced" everyone to use OpenOffice.

    And HARDLY ANYONE has noticed. Only two or three of the faculty (those who call themselves the Techno-elite . . . yeah right) have switched it back to MS. Most people don't realize they're not using MSOffice. I'm of the opinion that I could COMPLETELY remove MSOffice, rename all the OpenOffice icons to the MS equivalent, and we'd be in business.
  • by .com b4 .storm ( 581701 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:33PM (#8976092)

    One of the main problems with OpenOffice on the Mac is that it does not yet use Aqua for its user interface, and a side effect of this is you cannot use the different international input modes in OS X to type in OO. So I can't just switch to Chinese and start typing in OO, as it does not know how to handle it. Without that, half my use for a word processor goes out the window.

    There may be a way to rig the X11 environment or OpenOffice itself to allow Chinese input in another fashion, but it's just one more usability knock against the program when run on Mac OS X. Ugly UI, incosistencies with the Mac's interface conventions, international input kludges, etc. Not to mention the performance issues, and missing niceties like AppleScript automation (which can be done on ANY native OS X app, even if it's not designed for it), non-crappy file dialogs, etc.

    Microsoft Word may have its share of problems, but at least it can start in less than 45-60 seconds, and it follows most of the Apple UI conventions. So while OpenOffice is nice, it definitely is not a decent substitute for Office X at this stage.

  • by Forgery ( 613737 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:33PM (#8976101)
    Unless I missed it, the article fails to mention anything about Office 2003's Sharepoint portal. Although sold as a separate product, this is the next step in the evolution of office products. From what I can tell, OpenOffice is still competing with 1998-2000 era products for base functionality. For small-medium offices, Sharepoint can become an entire document management system and workflow all integrated very tightly with Office 2003.

    Say I'm creating an Outlook 2003 group appointment. With 2 clicks (inside Outlook), I can create a portal site for the meeting which includes a discussion list, document/picture library, agenda, surveys, etc. No programming and very easy for the average user to accomplish.

    Say I'm in Word working on a document and I'd like to get my attorney to look at it. With 2 clicks (inside Word), I can create a portal site to allow him to review the document. We can discuss it using the discussion features, and he can create different versions. Using the web folders functionality, this entire process is seemless (no downloading the file locally, editing it, and uploading...just hit save and it saves automatically back to the portal).

    • by Spoing ( 152917 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @05:32PM (#8976832) Homepage
      (cut and paste from email)

      Microsoft SharePoint is Microsoft's take on a Wiki.

      Search google for "wikiwiki"/"wiki wiki" for details.

      Important: If you haven't delt with wikis before, I suggest taking some time to look at them. Very very interesting stuff. Very practical as an information collaboration and storage/search system.

      The differences in Microsoft's approach are basically;

      * Document-centric -- specifically MS Office document suite from Word through PowerPoint with very tight integration with the FrontPage way of page design.

      * Good for checking or logging existing documents into the system.

      * Good for people who basically want a filing cabnet for Microsoft Office documents.

      These good points cause problems that are not usually an issue with other Wikis;

      * SharePoint is not easy or practical to use if the primary tasks involve;

      + Colaboration in general.
      + Searching existing data.
      + Editing/creating links and subdocuments.
      + Auditing.

      IF you deal with folks where Microsoft lock-in is perfectly fine (as SharePoint inceases lock-in), and the negitive parts of the software are also not concerns, go for it. Otherwise, treat it like any other Wiki and decide from the list of available ones not just this one brand.
  • by cenonce ( 597067 ) <anthony_t@ma[ ]om ['c.c' in gap]> on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:37PM (#8976145)

    I have put OpenOffice on three machines in our office, but mostly for the ability to open and use Excel and PowerPoint files. I have used Writer in place of Word and it was pretty quick to learn and I wouldn't complain about some of the problems with it when it is free and very full featured.

    But, in our field (legal), we need Word or Word Perfect. So, we've been buying copies of Works 2003 which contains Word XP/2002 at 40 bucks a pop on eBay. We just don't need Excel or PowerPoint to pony up for MS Office, and can use when we need those programs.

    I would love to go to OpenOffice in its entirety, but the problem is that many popular and specialized programs in the legal field support Word or WordPerfect and will never support something like (heck, our scheduling program doesn't support the main file being on a Linux server, which would have saved us some money for getting additional licenses for WinNT).

    Our scheduling program (Amicus Attorney []) supports creating documents through its scheduler/address book only though Word or WordPerfect.

    Until figures out a way to interact with specialized programs in specialized fields (legal, medicine, engineering, etc), I think it will be hard for many companies to make a switch.

  • by Decaff ( 42676 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @04:41PM (#8976217)
    The article misses the most important reason to consider Open (or Star) Office - portability. Its a well-established (but unfortunately often forgotten) good business principle to never tie yourself in to one supplier.

    Until a couple of years ago there was no 'good enough for most purposes' alternative to MS Office. Now there is, and companies finally have freedom to choose their desktop systems.

    Switch to Open Office and you can migrate gradually to Unix or Linux desktops using the same Office system throughout. The mere possibility of doing this should be more than enough justification for most businesses evaluating Open Office.
  • by McSmiley ( 769028 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @05:06PM (#8976496) Homepage Journal
    Newsforge reports on why OpenOffice will never catch up to Microsoft Office []. Worth a read!
  • Poisoned (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Trinition ( 114758 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @05:07PM (#8976505) Homepage
    I feel like I've been poisoned. I used MS Word )and the other Office programs) for years. I recently dumped it in favor of OO. Mind you, I never used Word heavily, nor do I use OO heavily now.

    But I still can'y (read: not patient enough to) figure out how to do some of the things I could easily do in Word. The arrangement of the menus and toolbars just feel foreign after growing accustomed to Microsoft's.

    This isn't necessarily MIcrosoft's fault (I could just as easily have been addicted to an alternative program, just less likely due to Microsoft's dominance.) And it's not OO's faultm either. They shouldn't make their toolbars and menus look just like Microsoft's and limit their "innovation" (I hope MS hasn't trademarked that word!)

    Nonetheless, my mind is poisoned and its taking some time (instead of effort) to purge myself.
  • by Goglu ( 774689 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @05:15PM (#8976594)
    I deployed OpenOffice to our call-center agents, in order to facilitate communication with them. This choice was mainly driven by cost: we couldn't afford the implementation of applications like SharePoint portal and didn't want to invest in license fees for the agents. Although most agents are not power users, they were very familiar with the MsOffice suite. Furthermore, they are allergic to change and don't do any effort to understand what could be the cause of that change, and how it can improve their work. Our biggest worries were that 1) our templates would have to be reworked, 2) the agents would lose all productivity while fighting with this new application, and 3) the application would stop working. These worries were not justified. 1) We had one template to rework, but it was already an approximation of a PDF document that was delivered without source by our supplier. The corporate templates were not used by the agents and they were mostly 'receivers' of the documents. Even if the memos became misaligned, they were still readable and agents didn't complain. 2) The agents required no training at all! As I said, they are light users and seldom produce documents. When they do, they use mostly the tools on the standard toolbar. The only issue was that we had to show them how to 'Save as...' when they had to share their documents with the back office. 3) The application was very stable. We were running it on Windows NT4.0 workstations (the ACD client runs only on NT...) and appart from a slow startup, the agents had no problem. In conclusion, I can recommend using OpenOffice for a targeted group, that doesn't produce many documents and communicates the documents internally.
  • by Uggy ( 99326 ) on Monday April 26, 2004 @05:41PM (#8976940) Homepage
    Even though style can be used in Microsoft Word, I find that in OO it's a sort of mandated policy. OO encourages you to, out of the box, use styles to define everything. It goes along with CSS web standards. Structure your data first, then style it up. OO forces you do that.

    I find that when I get people using the stylelist they are more effective presenters, writers, motivators, can sell their ideas better, and waste less time reusing old documents for new purposes. They sat down and took the time to structure their thoughts.

    If they want extra space around all Paragraphcs, bullets, headers (level1-levelx), fonts, backgrounds, anything you can think of, they just click it in their style dialog.

    Makes re-using proposals a breeze. Change some content, one click, update table of contents, and bam - new proposal made specifically for that special client.

    I find MS Word aids you in being sloppy in the short run. You want a heading, click "bold" change text size, etc. A lot of important documents are rendered un-reusable via this method. I've watched people literally spend all afternoon, changing font sizes, indents, bullets, just because the boss wanted a different look.

    Get people on OO and they'll be more effective. It's a no-brainer.

The absent ones are always at fault.