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OpenOffice Gets a Toe-Hold in The Netherlands 84

ChristW writes "Several sources in The Netherlands report that the city of Groningen will invest 160.000 euros yearly to switch its 3650 computers to OpenOffice. They are saving 330.000 euros per year by making this switch. The other 170.000 euros will be saved up to use for new Microsoft Office licences if it becomes necessary to renew them. The city plans to renew software every 5 years, as opposed to Microsoft, who 'forces' an upgrade cycle of 3 years. Switching from Windows to Linux is not seen as an option at this point in time, so those licenses will be renewed."
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OpenOffice Gets a Toe-Hold in The Netherlands

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  • Good Alternative (Score:3, Informative)

    by D4rk Fx ( 862399 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:02AM (#15750446) Homepage
    I've always found OpenOffice to be a fairly good alternative to the Microsoft Office Suite. The biggest problem I've run into with it is the fact that OO 1 cannot open documents that were saved in OO 2 format. This was originally an issue here at my university because they took quite a while to migrate to OO 2. All the documents I tried transfering one day to print off in the labs had to be converted back to a format that would open on OO 1, which was a PITA to run on several dozen documents.

    As for compatability with Office Documents, I've had some problems when the documents have strange formatting, but it seems to only occur when you try to print out the documents.
    • Re:Good Alternative (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Adelbert ( 873575 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:06AM (#15750483) Journal
      OO 1 cannot open documents that were saved in OO 2 format

      This is far better than with Office, where not only is it impossible to open later Office documents in earlier versions, but some documents saved in earlier versions cannot be opened in later versions. Also, since the old .doc format is proprietary and closed, it is nigh-on impossible to open old documents without that same old version of Office.

      The Netherlands were right to make this move. OOo is an open format. They will be able to read their documents forevermore, no matter what changes there are in technology and software. And that can only be a good thing.

      • OOo is an open format.

        No, OOo is a piece of software. ODF is the format. The two are related, but not exclusively intertwined.

    • Re:Good Alternative (Score:5, Informative)

      by McDutchie ( 151611 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:07AM (#15750493) Homepage
      The biggest problem I've run into with it is the fact that OO 1 cannot open documents that were saved in OO 2 format.

      OOo 1.1.5 can do this.

  • Good. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:06AM (#15750476)
    I think I speak for every user on Slashdot when I state that I don't care how shitty OpenOffice.org is, as long as it's not made by Microsoft.
    • Awesome. Dogma instead of practicality for end users. Just what we need more of.
    • Then why not use WordPerfect or another proprietary system, also not made by Microsoft?
      • tisk word Perfect? it might just work, you need microsoft works, completely and utterly useless except of course if you want to be a rebel and don't intend to send your documents to any of your cool (rich) friends with MS office.
    • Yeah, except for the Slashdot users who have to communicate with people without Slashdot accounts.

    • I suspect I speak for more than a few users on Slashdot when I state that I don't care how cheap OpenOffice is, as long as it's nowhere near as good as MS Office.

      We've had this discussion a thousand times under past articles, and there are a few things that ring true every time. One is that the entirely objective list of bugs in OpenOffice is not trivial, and likewise for major functionality gaps compared to the Microsoft incumbent. Another is that the cost of switch is not zero, because of the retraining

      • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

        Actually Microsoft has the worst help system I've had to deal with, and it seems to be getting worse rather than better. I don't know what sort of users they are targeting, but the usability was better in Office 97 than 2000, and Office XP just totally sucks. I feel I'm wasting time, since I can google answers that are actually relevant.

        • Could you please name any product which offers better online help than Microsoft's?

          Let's ignore the annoying clippy/office assistant, he doesn't count.
          • If by "online help" you are referring to the fact that MS help now wants to show you www links which aren't relevant, this is part of the problem. If by "online" you mean locally online, then almost everything I've used has better help than the current MS help. I always click on Help, first, but it is just a waste of time. I can find answers that are relevant using google. In terms of decent help systems, Mathematica is excellent. Eclipse is fantastic. The octave info files are extraordinarily informa
    • You don't speak for me. I didn't remove Office 2000 from my Linux box until well after OOo 2.0 (well, beta 1.9.x builds at the time) became usable and stable (interestingly enough, I found Microsoft Office ran faster under wine than natively under Windows). If Microsoft were to release M$ Office for Linux, and not DRM it to death with Activation and not try to vendor-lock users to their formats, I would probably STILL buy it even though I like Open Office a LOT. I know VBA and the IDE for VBA is very simila
  • Well (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:07AM (#15750489)
    'OpenOffice Gets a Toe-Hold in The Netherlands'

    Its better than getting toed in the never reqions.
  • by scenestar ( 828656 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:16AM (#15750570) Homepage Journal
    Dutch people care very little about buzzwords and corporate promises.

    If something is cheaper and does the same thing our cultural cheapness kicks in and ditches the old crap.
    • by pe1chl ( 90186 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:33AM (#15750705)
      About 3 years ago, at work (a Dutch semi-government company) we decided to switch from MS Office to OpenOffice.
      Version 1.0.1 was installed on all workstations (before, only part of the workstations had MS Office because it was too expensive).

      It was used for about a year, but there were continuing complaints from people who "knew how to work with MS Office and had no time to learn OpenOffice".
      Those were often higher-paid employees and external consultants working in the company, and when their claims about lost hours were really true, one could argue that no money was ever saved by switching.

      It was decided to go back to MS Office and buy extra licenses for the remainder of the systems.
      OpenOffice is still installed, and sometimes it is useful (and used) for things like converting to PDF or repairing documents that make MS Office crash, but it no longer is the generally used package.

      This clearly shows the effectiviness of "student licenses" and other pricing schemes: by making sure that the average person "knows how to use Office" (I type it in quotes because I believe the average knowledge of Office features is only skin-deep, maybe "familiar with" is a better description) you can frustrate any attempt to switch to other packages.

      I guess the Groningen people will also meet this obstacle.
      • It was used for about a year, but there were continuing complaints from people who "knew how to work with MS Office and had no time to learn OpenOffice".
        Those were often higher-paid employees and external consultants working in the company, and when their claims about lost hours were really true, one could argue that no money was ever saved by switching.


        The ugly truth of a monopoly, yes. Specifically requiring OpenOffice knowledge would eliminate that problem, and especially with regards to consultants, it
        • The ugly truth of a monopoly, yes. Specifically requiring OpenOffice knowledge would eliminate that problem

          There isn't a high school, inner city public library, community college, university, labor union, or social services program within one hundred miles that doesn't offer courses in MS Office. Local employers continue to ssek out and hire workers trained in Office and with a huge, experienced, labor pool on which to draw, they have little incentive to switch.

      • It was used for about a year, but there were continuing complaints from people who "knew how to work with MS Office and had no time to learn OpenOffice".
        Those were often higher-paid employees and external consultants working in the company, and when their claims about lost hours were really true, one could argue that no money was ever saved by switching.


        It will be interesting how they rationalize Office 12's new interface (the Ribbon paradigm).
        • Most likely they will include a "look how easy it is to use the new office" video with each version of Office 12 like they did with Windows 95... or at least to OEMs, I remember we got them when we bought the OEM 5 packs of 95 and 98 back then.

          We (family) used to run a net cafe that sold and fixed computers on the side, and I do remember that CD being rather nice introducing people to windows, it even created a kind of sandboxed desktop where the user could do whatever they wanted while it ran and then reve
        • It will be interesting how they rationalize Office 12's new interface (the Ribbon paradigm).

          They don't. Thats just a regular upgrade and support is about to end bla bla...
          Now switching to Open-Office is major, i mean, it's not like the Open, Save and other much used functions are simply in the same place in a totally different application.

          It's all mindset, habit and above all fear of change.
          • it's not like the Open, Save and other much used functions are simply in the same place in a totally different application. :) Well thank God the trained monkeys won't get confused by something different in their title bar. I guess it's true what they say about the value of a college degree these days.
      • My response would be; "So you're saying you only have the mental capacity to handle one word processor? Says a lot about the quality of work I can expect from you, doesn't it?"

        Heh, a good shameing can do wonders.
      • This clearly shows the effectiviness of "student licenses" and other pricing schemes

        What it clearly shows is the ineffectiveness of the training those people received. We need to move away from teaching "Microsoft Word 101" and teach people how to use programs in a general sense. Throw them in an environment that randomizes the experience. One day they're using WordPerfect in Windows, the next day, Word in OSX, the next day AbiWord in Linux. By the time they finish the class, it shouldn't matter what pl
        • I fully agree with that. It also has always been my standpoint in this matter.
          I had no say in the original decision to go for OpenOffice, and I believed it was a bold move.
          The general state of "computer education for the end-user" is quite sad. Indeed, focus is so much on a single environment that people think they know a lot, while in fact they only learned a bag of tricks.

          However, after seeing how common this problem was in our organization, I think anyone trying to make this switch will be in for quite
    • Why am I reminded of those articles that seem to come up every year in the Netherlands about somebody who got trampled by bargain hunting shoppers?
  • Hmm? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fullphaser ( 939696 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:17AM (#15750575) Homepage
    Open office might actually be the first really usable alternative to the whole windows schema in the cooperate world, right now Thunderbird, Linux, and Firefox (along with big open source themed software) aren't quite compatible with the features that are used all to often in the cooperate world where plugins are developed only for MS products,

    With open office there aren't to many critical plugins that are required for every day use in the office (atleast not where I am from) so it might be the first Open Source product do to its ability to save documents and open them in the MS formats that really transitions well

    plus being free and until recently without even a whisper of a virus an excellent alternative to the all powerful (and always needed it seems) MS office suite. Now if the gimp could match photoshop in ease of use we might be there
    • Using semi-colons instead of commas in formulas isn't a good way for OO Calc to supplant Excel! Try and create a CSV file with a formula in and make it work in both apps. You can't, and have to create two distinct versions of the file. I don't think the brainiac coder behind that decision considered that companies still have to exchange documents with those still using MS Office. It's stupid things like this that hamper adoption attempts.
      • Well, thats the thing, Open Office is going to have to stop trying to different in any way from MS. their core functionality should be the entirety of the MS office suite functionality, if they truely want to be recognized it should not only be as good, but it should be better, it should match an MS office product toe for toe and then some, by programming in known issues and conflicts they only strengthen microsoft.
    • There actually are a lot of add-ins providing custom Office solutions out there, but the real deal breaker for most corporate customers remains the feature set. OpenOffice.org just lacks many of the more advanced features (and in some cases basic features) found in MS Office that certain business rely on. This is particularly true for spreadsheet software, with Excel still miles ahead of Calc in areas like available formulas, pivot tables and even performance.
      • Re:Hmm? (Score:3, Interesting)

        When I went back for my MBA I found that there were issues using Calc while the textbooks were all Excel based. Gnumeric, on the other hand, never once failed. (It also exports to LaTeX.) There were no financial nor statistical formulas that I found missing, and Gnumeric's solver kicked ass for optimizations. The python interface also kicks ass, as does the R interface if you ever get serious about statistics. Excel is certainly miles ahead in terms of secretary adoption, but I doubt any serious analys
    • Now if the gimp could match photoshop in ease of use we might be there
      Check out http://www.gimpshop.net/ [gimpshop.net]
  • Meanwhile, in Paris (Score:5, Interesting)

    by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:21AM (#15750612) Homepage Journal
    Meanwhile, Paris may put their deployment on hold because the French Ministry of Defense says [arstechnica.com] it falls short in the area of security. Specifically they can get malicious macro code to execute with no user warning. Microsoft Office, on the other hand, annoys you at every chance that a macro will run. Fortunately the lab is actually working with OpenOffice.org to have the issues resolved.
    • Good! That's excellent feedback! With big rollouts riding on items like this, that sort of feedback will spur the developers to build in whatever features are desired. And then the product gets more widely deployed and the rest of us get an even better suite.

      Macro warnings should be a trivial fix, after all, and it /is/ a useful security flag for many users.
    • From the same article:

      Lt. Col. Filiol notes that the problems are conceptual, rather than due to sloppy coding. "We did not exploit security holes," he said.

      Unfortunately the report is classified, so all we know are rumors regarding the allegations. It appears that

      In some instances, malevolent macros were considered to be secure by the open-source package, and as a result, users were not informed when they were executed.

      Does this relate to trusting a URL? Or all the macros in a directory, perhaps?

    • by Trelane ( 16124 )
      A related link: OpenOffice's response [openoffice.org]
    • Because I know you're waiting with bated breath for updates, here's more info, this time from someone directly involved, with more information. Blog posting from a Sun employee [sun.com]
  • Good converter (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:34AM (#15750710)
    OpenOffice can be used as a great converter.
    For instance, by creating the appropriate routines with your favorite 3G language, one can generate/manipulate existing OpenOffice documents (a set of XML files archived in common ZIP format) to generate reports. Then, using the UNO API, create a simple application that controls an OpenOffice process running in the background, feed it with the manipulated documents and tell it to save in the desired format (MS Word, MS Excel, PDF, depending on the type of report). Totally custom, a developer's dream.

    Sure, it still needs a bit of improvement. Namely concerning CPU and memory usage, but try to do the above using M$ Products...
    • I think we can expect to be seeing this on The Daily WTF in two or three years. "When Jeff was assigned to maintain a system that produced Excel reports from a database, he never imagined..."
    • I'm not that big a fan of OpenOffice, mostly because it's big and slow, but I keep it around because it can open MS Office files that have suffered some kind of corruption and generally save them again in an uncorrupted form without much if any loss of data. If nothing else, it's worth having around for that alone, especially if you're in an environment using Office 97, which is particularly prone to this kind of problem.
  • by amliebsch ( 724858 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @12:19PM (#15751060) Journal
    Maybe I missed it, but I don't see how Microsoft can "force" someone to upgrade after three years. Just because they come out with a new version doesn't mean you have to run out and buy it. If you only want to buy every five years, just buy every five years and ignore the release cycle. Is there something I'm missing?
    • Ever tried to Open a MS Office 2003 document with MS Office 2003 features embedded in it in MS office 2000?
      • Yes, and unsurprisingly the Office-2003-specific features don't work. But if my office is using Office 2000, is that such a huge concern? And how is this any different than with OO.o? Can you open OO.o version 2 documents in OO.o version 1 and still use all the version 2 features? Or at all, for that matter?
        • Yes but it doesn't work like that in the cooperate world, they get a new feature to play with, and they play with it, and you better have the equivilant software to read it or else you won't be seeing what you were sent. It is because if one company buys it, in order to read what that company sends, all the companies out there have to buy it, because that first company is going to being to send out its documents with all kinds of fancy features
          • So is the advantage of OpenOffice.org here that it's not going to have any new features?
            • I think it's more that, because it's free and open source/open format, it costs (hundreds of dollars per seat) less to upgrade to the latest version and there's a much greater chance that someone will produce a latest-version-compatible import utility for older versions of OO.o.

              For example, I believe OO.o 1.1.5 opens OO.o 2 files, but have you tried opening Office 2003 files in Office 2000? And since it's closed-source, you can't even scratch your own itch.
        • Can you open OO.o version 2 documents in OO.o version 1 and still use all the version 2 features? Or at all, for that matter?


          No, but on the other hand, OOo does not set one back $400-$500 per seat either, and you're not forced to use OOo, you can choose koffice, wordperfect office, etc. instead.
    • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @01:02PM (#15751346)
      Corporate site licenses expire and need to be renewed.
    • by slackmaster2000 ( 820067 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @01:17PM (#15751442)
      Yes, it's called "Software Assurance." It is not possible to get upgrade pricing with Microsoft open licensing. You are either required to purchase SA with your licenses, or buy future licenses at full price. This keeps you locked in. Sometimes you save money if the next version comes out before your SA expires and your company decides it wants the new features. Sometimes you don't save money if you decide that you don't need the next version, or there's a lovely four year gap between versions and your SA is only good for 2 years.

      It works because if you *could* have saved a lot of money but chose not to, then you're going to look like a serious idiot. If you don't save money but pretty much break even, you stay off the CFO's radar. So you might as well purchase SA, with the one serious drawback being that you're stuck with MS Office because you've not only paid for it, but you've prepaid for the next version. Bonk.

      This doesn't affect individual users. It also doesn't affect companies that are quite content using very old versions of MS Office.
      • You don't have to buy SA, though. Many companies don't (although one of the articles says that they're not renewing a "running contract with Microsoft", none of the linked articles directly say "forced renewal after 3 years").

        They do say that they're spending 160k on OO instead of 330k on Office, thus saving 170k. They also each say that "we're not going to move to Linux" as well...

        330k is about 90 Euro a desktop. Anyone care to comment whether 90 Euro is about right for Office at this volume after haggl
  • Could somebody please post english translations of the articles? Thanks.
    • Re:English Please (Score:2, Informative)

      by mikevdg ( 579538 )
      Sure. The Telegraaf article:

      Groningen migrates to OpenOffice

      The Groningen city council is the first large city council to start making use of OpenOffice. In this way, a savings of 330,000 Euro are expected that would otherwise be used to pay license costs. The councillers decided yesterday evening that the contract with Microsoft for the Microsoft Office software suite that has expired in the last month would not be extended.

      The contract with Microsoft for the operating system Windows will however be extend
  • Especially since their URL starts with /Exe/ZyNET.exe/00000N0J.txt?Z....
  • by AlXtreme ( 223728 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @05:37PM (#15753237) Homepage Journal
    Translated from the Televaag [telegraaf.nl], sorry for any grammar errors:

    The municipality of Groningen is going to be the first major municipality in the Netherlands to use OpenOffice. This way 330.000 euros will be saved on licencing costs. The council of Groningen agreed yesterdayevening to let the contract with Microsoft for Microsoft Office expire.

    The contract with Microsoft for the operatingsystem Windows will be renewed. Groningen counts about 181.000 inhabitants and the municipality itself has about 3650 pc's internally. In Groningen people started investigating the possibilities of using Open Standards and Open Source Software after requests from the council. The reason of this investigation was that they wanted to break the monopoly of large software suppliers and that they didn't want to depend on them for changes to their software.

    No switch to Linux

    OpenOffice will be installed under Windows in Groningen. From the investigation it became clear that a total switch to an Open platform like Linux currently isn't a viable choice. The municipality does say to strive that workstations in Groningen will run as much software as possible that runs on both Windows and Linux. At a later point in time the switch to Linux would then be easier.

    Because they want to avoid the risk of having to ask for general municipality funds if the switch backfires and they want to switch back to Microsoft Office, a large portion (170.000 euros) of the funds will be saved in a "Microsoftlicences" account.

    The remainder of the funds (78.450 euros) will be used to form a migrationteam that will start with the preperations of switching to operating-system independent workstations.

  • july 20th 2006, 14:04 - The city of Groningen wednesday agreed to a proposal to switch from Microsoft Office to the free OpenOffice suite.

    by not renewing the current contract with Microsoft for the use of Office, the city safes 330.000 euro a year. This is based on licences for the 3650 PCs the city was using three years ago when the contract was signed.

    Groningen wants to gradually move to open-sourcesoftware. The contract with Microsoft for the use of Windows will be renewed, because a switch to Linux woul

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