back to article OpenOffice 3.1 ready to lick Microsoft's suite?

OpenOffice.org remains the most popular open source answer to Microsoft's ubiquitous Office suite, and in these recessionary times, the appeal of "free" software is stronger than ever. Many individuals are already heeding the call of online suites from Google or Zoho, which offer most of the important features found in their …

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Joke

Call me a prude but . .

I'm not particularly interested in licking anything from Microsoft . . . .

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Alert

OpenOffice now features antialiasing and is now less slow

What's to stop it from taking on MS Office now? Antialiasing, take that! Not-quite-as-slow as we were before, that that, Microsoft! Too bad it's open source. Imagine what a marketing dept. could achieve with such a message!

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Happy

Compatability

To be honest I am less interested in speed and new features than I am in compatibility.

It's a lot cheaper than MS Office ( :) ), so I don't expect it to be faster or to have additional features. What I DO want is to be able to open a .DOC file and have the bullets in the correct places and in the correct size and shape and the graphics correctly positioned on the page as the original author intended.

Without that, I will probably have to shell out for the Microsoft product.

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Anonymous Coward

Converters, converters, converters

All that really matters is making the converters ever more perfect, so that OO integrates with MS-Office users. Till it does that perfectly, we can't use it. Unfair, but there you go...

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Flame

Antialiased graphics!!!!

The 1990's called, they want their football, it's stuck in the tree at the back of your garden. They also mentioned that you suck, thinking that in 2009 AA graphics is a big deal.

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Already moving clients across

Since the ribbon and new format in Office we have been moving clients away to OO. The only weakness with openoffice has been the merge facility. Hope its been improved and made easier.

Certainly a damn lot cheaper than Small Business Edition and it has toolbars.

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Boffin

Size of spreadsheets?

One big failing (the biggest IMO) of OOo vs MS Office is the number of rows/columns allowed in calc vs excel.

Calc is still stuck at 64K rows whereas Excel 2007 can do ~1M. In the scientific community this is a real problem and OOo need to fix this now as many people are having to use Excel as there is no alternative.

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Go

OS X and Ubuntu..

Hmm.. I'd like to think OO has the grunt to take on M$O, but using M$O on my Mac just seems to be slicker and easier. In fact, my Mac version seems more accessible than the version on my works pc, so I can't see me swapping over on my main computer in the foreseeable.

I use OO on my Acer Aspire One, though and I think it's great. Perfect for my requirements and in-line with the whole open-source ethos. Perhaps it's just stigma, but I feel more comfortable working with software I've paid for. Maybe a little more time with OO on the 'One will change my mind...

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much-improved graphics handling ?

Minor pedantry but that's probably meant to mean

"much-improved BITMAP graphics handling"

I've always found it's vector graphics handling just fine..

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Linux

upgrading OOo

"For Linux users, though, it's probably not worth the effort to upgrade ahead of your distro."

Unless, of course, the OOo upgrade is in your distro's one-click repository

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Bronze badge

Sticking Point

One of the *major* sticking point for me when I last tried Open Office was the fact the damn thing seems stuck in what MS-Word calls "Print Layout" mode. Which is fine for those who deal with small individual items which need to be laid out correctly as soon as possible. I, on the other hand, generally work in MS-Word's "Normal" mode to do the bulk of my writing (and layout) and *then* switch to "Print Layout" to finalise the look-and-feel. Never found that switch/control in OOo and finding the constant page-format layout (and visual page-breaks) annoying to work with. Give me a continuous workspace, dammit.

The other peeve is not as major, but just as frustrating - trying to switch from MS-Word to OOo and having the devil's own finding the various options/controls I need. Now, I don't want OOo to have *the same* controls as Word (would be nice for *me*, won't press for it), but an easily-found comparison table (such as that found in Word's "Help->Wordperfect Help" menu item) would be nice. And I'm not talking about something on a web-page - half the time, I work off-line.

Mind you, it's been a while since I poked around OOo's menu structure, so they may have remedied all that since I last looked.

And I *am* trying to move off MS-Word. Just not finding it easy after using MS-Word for so long.

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There is one specific reason I like OOo best..

.. the OOo team doesn't suffer from the compulsion to throw away the current user interface.

I have used the MS Office suite extensively over the last years, but even without Vista slowing it down the 2007 version has been an expensive drain on my time because EVERY little thing has been relocated because some designer thought it was best for me. My opinion of the result is not suitable for publication.

No, I don't want to shave microseconds off my day because SOME commands are now "easier" to find (and I'd dispute that anyway) - moving everything around without an option to go back to the old (read: familiar) structure has costed me more time that I will ever be able to recover by accepting this stupidity (hello KDE team - this may sound familiar?).

So, in the end I gave up. I prep most work in OOo where everything is where it always was, and then export it to that inferior standard called MS Office format. My master docs, however, remain in ODF, with the sole exception of Scribus docs..

Oh, and there is, of course the advantage of being able to work on any platform I choose.

It's not *all* plain sailing, though: the handling of colour in "schemes" is, well, crap. Conditional formatting in OOo calc thus becomes a matter of defining some general formats before applying the conditionals - no way to define them on the spot. I must file that as a bug - it certainly ain't a feature..

So, overall both thumbs up for OpenOffice - again a quality job.

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Linux

Bin already in Portage

Took a while to download, but it was worth the wait.

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Sort it out

Why can't they pull their fingers out and sort out the Mac version for god's sake. Even the key modifiers for moving the cursor around in the text are wrong on the Mac. And have they fixed the broken mail merge yet? Until they get this sort of stuff sorted out then we're still going to keep having to pay ridiculous amounts of money to bloody Microsoft for Office licences.

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Linux

How to upgrade Ubuntu 9.04 / (8.04/8.10) to Openoffice 3.1

Here is the link for instructions to upgrade your installation to the latest:

http://news.softpedia.com/news/How-to-Install-OpenOffice-org-3-1-on-Ubuntu-9-04-111105.shtml

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Linux

Best of all...

It doesn't have the terrible interface of Office 2007.

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Anonymous Coward

@Gerry

If it's already in the repository you're not ahead of it, are you?

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Stop

until..

There is an open sauce equivalent to exchange and outlook (that has seamless tasks & calendar) then I wont be switching to open office. We get good discounts on office and the difference between outlook vs office pro isnt enough to warrant the major retraining costs.

shame as I personally like (and use) open office.

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Happy

Too tired for the OOO jihad anymore.

I used to be one of the zealots pushing OpenOffice way back when it was the StarOffice first offered for free in 1998 (lots of people forget it originated as proprietary tech). Even after Sun bought up Star Division I still kept installing it with my RedHat, working through the bugs and incompatibilities, and telling all and sundry that the next version would be the one that would really be a replacement for M$ Office. Nowadays, even with the painful shift to Office 2007 (change everything about the interface for the sake of change - who came up with that great idea?), I just can't be bothered with OOO anymore. I'll pay the M$ tax and take the product that does the job - Office 2003!

My fave quote regarding OOO was from one of our Sun reps, whom admitted that after Sun bought Star Division in order to avoid paying for thousands of M$ licences, he used to take his work home and finish it all off in Office on his home Windows PC, just so he could be certain it would actually be readable by his customers.

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Linux

From the netbook world

I'm just a wee bit wary. Here I am, on a netbook that would be a dazzling computer a decade ago, and works fine now (Eeebuntu NBR), and v2.4 is fine for what I do.(That's always the key test). But how will v3.1 work out? So v3.0 was slow? This is a little faster?

Your report doesn't seem much more useful to me than saying Windows 7 is faster than Vista. Some of us are in a different world.

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Dead Vulture

Important?

"OpenOffice 3.1 meets the most important criteria of any software upgrade: It's considerably snappier than its predecessor."

The most important? Surely bug fixes and basic stability would be the most important.

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Gates Horns

@Chris

If you're processing more than 64K rows, then you really ought to be using a proper tool for the job, not Excel with its plethora of known bugs and weaknesses...

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Stop

One question...

Can you insert columns into merged cells yet? If not, I'll have to stick with Excel in my VM :(

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Ian

No, it's not ready to lick Micrososft's suite.

Because it still uses the tired old interface that was designed 2 decades ago and is only that way because of the limitations of computing resources at the time.

Microsoft realised this with Office 2007 and whilst many luddites who fear change whine about the idea of a new interface, the reality is that it does offer massive productivity increases, partly due to the interface, partly due simply to innovative new ways of doing things.

What Microsoft did took guts because of the whines of those who fear change, but it was absolutely the right thing to do simply because it really does allow people to be more productive.

The fact is the open office team need to accept that they too need to consider a change to their application's UI, in 20 years technology has increased massively, and UI research has moved along well, yet we still have the likes of Open Office (and even some of Microsoft's apps) using these age old interfaces.

Many will say the good old saying of if it aint broke don't fix it, but the reality is that it is broken, we can do things so much better and faster than these old interfaces allow us to and if the only excuse for not creating such improvements is "Well it's easier to code the old style interfaces than think up something new and better" then that product is doomed to get left behind.

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Unhappy

Two things that stop me putting it into clients...

Export to PDF does not support OpenType fonts with Postscript outlines.

Pasting into an HTML editing application, Dream Weaver or FrontPage, pastes in an extra HTML and BODY tag.

Both these things lead to - support calls - "Steve, why does this look different" and both are faults that seem always to have been there. My small band of users are not interested in "work a rounds" or for that matter computers, things should just work, they don't.

I like OO, I dont like client calls, there is no competition!

Steve

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Ben
Flame

@Critics

For those moaning about compatibility, maybe you should ask Microsoft for fully documented file formats that allow interoperability with 3rd parties.....*now* do you see the real problem? I mean, how many of you can honestly say that the formatting hasn't been borked every time MS changed the .doc format over the last few decades. Did any of you moan to anybody? No, you just dealt with it like I did.

At least now you have a choice. Pay to keep up with MS's latest features, or do a bit of reformatting and use a free office suit from now on. No one is forcing you to do anything. You can choose.

And as for the MAC critics, have any of you actually bothered to file a bug report to fix the things you see as broken? I for one couldn't give a toss about the OSX version, as I doubt I'll ever use it (Again, my choice). So don't expect me or anyone like me to come to your aid unless you ask for help in a constructive way. That's how FOSS works. That's how you PAY for your software. YOU contribute in any way you can.

So, thank you Sun & the OOo community. You have created a fine office suite that is more than good enough for 80% of my company's users. Maybe by version 4 you'll get to the other 20%!

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Anonymous Coward

I find it funny...

That MS with early Word was allowed to get away with having a WordPerfect controls mode, which allowed people to switch more easily. I bet if OOO tried to have an MS compat controls panel, they would be up the court faster than you can say "Steve please put the chair down?"

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Re: No, it's not ready to lick Micrososft's .

>What Microsoft did took guts because of the whines of those who fear change, but it was

>absolutely the right thing to do simply because it really does allow people to be more productive.

No no no no no

What MS did took stupidity. We have lots of people who see the Office 2007 eye candy walking round PC World or the like and then come in a demand that they get this great up-to-date software. We give it to them, and say "You had better save the spreadsheet your working on in a different name, just to be sure. Use SaveAs".

... and we wait. It takes approximately 5 minutes until they realize that all their long remembered menu commands are not there anymore. Then they want Office 2003 back because, at the end of the day, they are paid to do work - no to figure out where the heck their software has gone to.

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@Ian and @Danny

What were the retraining and loss-of-productivity costs of upgrading to MS Office 2007?

When it first rolled out, IT had to send out specific instructions to find the Print function!

I *still* cannot find half the stuff I used to use.

I spent ten minutes yesterday looking for the Crop tool for embedded images - I found it once, but I have no idea where it was and can't find it now.

That's just the latest example of the myriad of productivity hits caused by changing the interface.

There are apparently real improvements between MS Office 2003 and 2007, but other than Excel row count they're so well hidden by the new interface that they may as well not exist.

Not to mention the total disregard for a consistent interface. Have a look in Outlook 2007 - where's the ribbon? In email editors, but NOT in the main app.

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Oh, and @Ian

Never, ever forget The Law Of Least Surprise.

This is Rule One in user interface design, and always has been. Some researchers phrase it differently, but the key tenet is that the UI should respond the way the user expects.

For example, if something is clickable, it should *look* clickable.

If you radically rearrange stuff then you *surprise the user*, because it's not where they expect it to be. And thus they hate you for it.

Yes, menus are old. WIMP is old - but users expect it. They're used to it.

I've been racking my brains for months now, and the *only* benefit of the Ribbon interface is that it works better than standard menus on a touchscreen, because the hotspots are bigger. That's it.

Open Office understands that for users to truly accept something *new* and *different*, it has to look *pretty much the same as the old one*.

And the people who have thus far rejected OO, have rejected it on the basis that Writer *isn't similar enough* to MS Word 2003. (etc)

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Happy

@AC: 06:37 GMT

First real LOL of the day. Thanks, mate !

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@Ian

Take a little look at what your fingers are poised over - that layout is technology that was designed about 13 decades ago (I am assuming that you have QWERTY - if not make that 7 decades ;). It is known to be broken - it was designed to slow typists down.

Not all that is broken REQUIRES fixing, particularly when it comes to user interfaces. Hell, even the UI for cars is far from optimum, but personally I doubt any manufacturer has the cojones to fix that.

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Anonymous Coward

Poor choice of graphics

Irrespective of the "improvements" in OO....

1. Pie-charts are a poor way of representing data, the human eye is very poor at measuring and comparing angles or radians.

2. 3D-graphics should be reserved _only_ for when you have data with three co-ordinates. They add nothing to this figure other than distort the information that is trying to be conveyed.

See Tufte E (2001) "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information"

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@Anonymous 10.10

Good call, I was thinking distro upgrade

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But

Does it *natively* support printing multiple pages per sheet like ..... oh, dunno, just about every other application? Or do I still have to print my document to a file, and then run this through KPrinter?

It's not a total showstopper, because there's KPrinter (and even if there wasn't, I know enough about PostScript to do it the hard way); but it's still just non-obvious enough to get in the way of the non-hardcore user.

As for migration, sod compatibility. The simple fact is that most of your old, archived documents will only ever need to be viewed, not edited. So just get the PostScript printer driver for Windows from Adobe, and print all your documents to PostScript files on the Windows / Office side. Now you have a reference rendering (and under Linux, this can even be compressed using bzip2 -- your document viewing application will sort out decompressing it all by itself). If you do ever need to edit a pig of a document using OO.org, it's probably going to be as quick to retype from scratch.

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Coat

@Chris

Fearful luddites are we? Surely it's not a case that we've used teh same interface for over a decade and to change it so dramatically has cost business everywhere fortunes in retraining and has sapped years off my life as a techie having our user base fill up the call logging system with "where's this button?" and "how do i do something i've been able to for years until now?" calls??

I'm all up for change but for not change' sake, the only arguement which can be used to defend the new Office layout is that is far more easy and intuitive for someone who's never seen MS Office before but as those folks are so rare it's pretty much an epic fail

Mine's the one the bottle of Yager in the pocket...

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OO Way behind

The functionality you mention is typically the functionality that occasional users of Office applications are impressed by - woooooo graphs ! Sadly OO calc is woefully behind Office on more fundamental functions, in particualr pivot tables which are the mainstay of a lot of analysis, and which in OO are practically steam-driven. Sorry

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Anonymous Coward

Long term

If you want to consider migrating away from Microsoft at some point you have to decide to move people off MS Office. You can't just switch OS without first going OS-neutral on the major office applications. The question is when do you bite the bullet? Is OO good enough now? At least you can install and run OO in parallel with Windows so things can work in both.

My intuition is that for smaller businesses at least, now might be a good time to making the first steps away from the MS lock-in.

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Gates Halo

When you sort...

...data by rows in Calc does it still refuse to move the cell formatting with the data? Yes, I do want the row with that data highlighted red no matter where it's ordered.

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Anonymous Coward

@Pinky

"Take a little look at what your fingers are poised over - that layout is technology that was designed about 13 decades ago (I am assuming that you have QWERTY - if not make that 7 decades ;). It is known to be broken - it was designed to slow typists down."

No, it wasn't!

QWERTY was designed to help prevent manual typewriters from jamming by spreading out certian key combinations. Nothing to do with slowing typing down.

Then, when computers and electronic typewriters came along the same layout was kept so that there would be minimal retraining required.

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Auto update...

Looks like the update notification from 3.0.1 isn't working...

All it keeps telling me is that there is an update to the French dictionary... Why I would want that in the UK I don't know...

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Re: Poor choice of graphics

"1. Pie-charts are a poor way of representing data, the human eye is very poor at measuring and comparing angles or radians."

"2. 3D-graphics should be reserved _only_ for when you have data with three co-ordinates. They add nothing to this figure other than distort the information that is trying to be conveyed."

Both of the above are the exact reason people like to use them, don't tell me you've never had to hide some bad news.

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Anonymous Coward

Open Source Model Inferior

Why does everyone think the open source model for development is so great. There has been a bug in OpenOffice (Issue 53184) that was first reported in 2004 and they can't get it fixed. If open source is so great, why does it take 5+ years to get a bug fixed?

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Boffin

MSO 2007

I actually like the new ribbon thing in Office 2007 - once you get used to it it is faster to work with. I realize it's the "getting used to" part that's the problem, people are stuck in their habits and their workflows - which is good and bad.

I'd like to see a comparison between Powerpoint and Impress. Impress hadn't done so last time I saw it - slow as continental drift, buggy and generally no fun. And of course, there is Access.

As a Word replacement OOo is very good, and the price can't be beat. It's OK for light Excel usage too.

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@Size of spreadsheets?

OMG! Scientific computing using Excel and 1 million rows/column ... I fear for the world.

Also, have to agree with the other Richard .. first rule of UI design is definitely do not surprise the user (learnt that whilst doing a PhD in UI design tools 20 years ago and it has not changed since then 8-).

Personally I hate Word and Powerpoint ... Word because it has taken the simple process of page markup and bastardised it with overloaded functions and Powerpoint because ... well ... I've suffered too much of "death by powerpoint" and wish it would die die die.

I'll stick with the Google Docs spreadsheet app and notepad 8-) on Windows and vi (vee eye) and LaTeX on Real (tm) operating systems [*BSD (the one true Unix) and by extension OSX].

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@Ben - Office File Formats

Sounds like some anti-MS FUD you've got going on there. The file formats are documented in excruciating detail already.

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc313118.aspx

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J
Alert

@Compatability (sic)

Well, if even MS Office can't be fully compatible with itself, it's hard to criticize others for not being... My boss runs XP and Office 2003. Other researchers in the lab run Macs, also with Office 2003. I run Linux with OOo. Yes, there are some compatibility problems sometimes (minor stuff, usually) with .doc files between my boss' Office and my OOo. But the funny thing is that there are times when my OOo will open the Office file fine, but the Office on the Macs will have some problem with the same file -- that seems to happen with graphical elements in docs.

Not to mention MS support of its own older file formats, which is abysmal as everyone knows. After all, how would they make you upgrade, right? Better software quality in the new version?

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J
Pirate

@whiners in general

Yup, OpenOffice has its problems.

Ask for your money back, then.

Or better, donate them some money to help develop the features you need, fix the bugs, etc.. Funny how people will pay a lot of money for buggy software, and quietly swallow (or loudly defend) it just because they have no other choice and/or can't get themselves to admit they payed so much for that thing... They are so smart, so they can't have been conned. But when it's free stuff, then they fell that if it is not perfect then it is totally unusable crap. If only the same standards were used for all situations...

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Pirate

@ AC 14:43

The "bug" you describe refers to a behaviour where OpenOffice.org fails to connect to Windows network shares on servers whose names contain illegal characters. If you had read the Microsoft documentation, you would know about that. But you probably didn't get the manuals with your pirated copies of Windows and Office, did you, you filthy pikey?

I'm guessing that the OO.o development team probably have drier lentils to soak than clueless sysadmins with misconfigured networks. It's not as if you can't patch the Source Code to bypass the check anyway, if you really prefer a horribly broken network.

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Anonymous Coward

wont matter when oracle kills it.

Open name or not when oracle gets its hands on it wait and watch.

it wont be open any longer if at all it will even still exist

no doubt they will just kill it, so grab all your sun programs now before oracle kill everything.

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