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back to article LibreOffice 4.0 ships with new features, better looks

The Document Foundation has announced LibreOffice 4.0, the latest version of the free software competitor to Microsoft Office that spun off from the OpenOffice.org effort in 2010, describing it as nothing less than "the free office suite the community has been dreaming of since 2001." "LibreOffice 4.0 is the first release that …

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I would love to see Base expanded to become more of a viable alternative to Access. Even the ability to access tables in other files (to allow for a front end \ back end split) would be welcomed.

It's great to see it maturing, I haven't upgraded MS Office in years but it's nice to know theres a decent free alternative.

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Anonymous Coward

"Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office" - except that the gap is so wide it's like jumping out into the Grand Canyon.

This might do for very basic home users but it's simply not an option for business.

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That's a very blinkered and crazy point of view.

Libre Office is very good for the vast majority of business users. Why? The vast majority of business users use their entire Microsoft Office suite to:

* write the odd letter, maybe even mail merge

* record a few values in a spreadsheet

While there are a large number of users that use more advanced features and there are a lot of (suicidal) organisations that somehow run their entire operation on Excel Spreadsheets, their number is considerably less than the majority. The majority of business workers do not sit in finance offices juggling Excel or Word macros across multiple documents, they sit in grotty offices using Microsoft Word in place of a type writer.

I like Libre office (and Open Office prior to that), and use Microsoft Office extensively, but what I'd like even more is for Libre Office to be challenging MS Office much closer and forcing Microsoft to actually improve their product rather than just change the user interface skin every few years and somehow make the entire thing larger, slower and more bloated with every release.

The key lock in to the Microsoft Office suite is Microsoft Outlook. Unfortunately despite being awful in a huge number of ways, it's the best email and calendaring client there is.

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Absolutely agree with your Outlook comment.

As to the other points, it's about 100% compatibility.

I'd also suggest that PowerPoint is probably out in front as the most used app.

And having less than 100% compatibility when you are sitting in front of 20 strangers and your boss just emailed you his latest update to a 50-slide presentation 5 minutes before the meeting is *not* going to cut it.

Plus, service providers like myself (I'm a translator) also need 100% compatibility and I have to send back what I get. I get Word, I send back Word. I do not send back a 100-page technical manual in Word after checking it (i.e. and saving it) in LibreOffice. The risks are simply too great.

But, as you say, Outlook is the killer app. Well, that and PowerPoint.

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'"Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office" - except that the gap is so wide it's like jumping out into the Grand Canyon.'

That doesn't seem to be many people's informed opinion. Especially as Microsoft Office isn't doing anything to widen the gap - instead, it seems to be milling about trying to confuse users with clever new interfaces that they don't understand.

See http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2013/01/30/office_2013_perspective/

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Outlook Aaaarrggghhh!

I have to agree about Outlook. And that's the killer MS Office program. If it wasn't for the slightly complicated stuff I do in Excel (I've not used it for anything hard in 10 years), I mostly use Outlook now.

For example, we changed our company name slightly 3 years ago, and I was amazed to find I'd not updated my letterhead when I went to write a letter last year. In 3 years, I've written 2 letters, and I've not updated my fax header, so I've not sent one of those either. 5 years ago I would send out several per week. Everything's done by email nowadays. Even most of the quotes we get are now PDFs.

Obviously it doesn't apply everywhere, but documents are becoming less formal, and communications are more likely to just be emails now.

I used to hate Outlook when I first had to use it for business. Then I tried to find an alternative when I moved to a small company where I get to control large parts of the IT. Haven't found one yet. I guess the integration of calendar, email and address book is always going to end up somewhat messy. I do find it odd that email programs seem to be a less popular thing to create now than they were 5 years ago, even though email is becoming more important. I'm also sure there would be money to be made from small business who don't really want to run Exchange servers, and wouldn't mind paying £50 for an email client plus monthly cloudy server hire, rather than full fat Office/Exchange.

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@Eenymeeny

> As to the other points, it's about 100% compatibility.

No such thing. There is a problem now where we get Power Point slides for guest speakers that work prefectly on their system with their version of Office but load mangled or refuse to even load on our version. In the end, I installed LibreOffice on the machine as well to at least read the worst cases.

Worst case procedure:

1. Import in LO and resave.

2. Read the presentation with our version of office and edit so it looks roughly how it is supposed to.

3. Load the fixed presentation into our presentation software (uses MS Office to render the slides)

Don't talk to me about 100% compatibility.

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Anonymous Coward

Microsoft Outlook

The key lock in to the Microsoft Office suite is Microsoft Outlook. Unfortunately despite being awful in a huge number of ways, it's the best email and calendaring client there is.

Not sure I'd call it the "best" (certainly not after it too had its UI ruined by the ribbon), but so far it's the only reasonably useful integrated client. This is probably what *seriously* annoys me about OSX - I have to open separate programs for contacts, calendaring and email, or buy the expensive MS Office for business package (which costs roughly as much as all the other software on the machine together).

However, not all is lost. I hear there are some developments on the horizon which may improve matters (that is, for open standards based services, not the Exchange -let's-confuse-the-competition MAPI type) - I hope to receive the betas soon (they know I am good at breaking things :) ).

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Re: @Eenymeeny

Hear hear. I used to work for a bulk fax company that accepted Word documents from customers. That never worked very well, even if you factored out the users who just had their default paper size set to Letter instead of A4.

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Microsoft didn't win the market from the very good alternatives that were available because it was better.

It won the market because it was "good enough" to do the job and a lot cheaper than the competition.

Most of the bells and whistles we see now came after that event.

Libre Office doesn't have to be better than Microsoft Office - it merely has to be good enough, and cheaper.

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Anonymous Coward

I'd also suggest that PowerPoint is probably out in front as the most used app.

I actually stopped using it because of featuritis (meaningless gadgetry that does zero to improve your message). Nowadays I have actually returned to Keynote, a part of the Apple iWork series. The main reason is simplicity - it has a couple of features to make things look pretty, but doesn't absolutely bury you under crap. The result is that I can hammer out a structure in minutes, get the graphics I want and can then focus on the content that *I* must bring, not my presentation. In other words, most of my time goes again to content and meaning, not to tweaking to make things look pretty. Oh, and the LibreOffice remote thing for Android? Been available for iOS to control Keynote for years..

Practically every element of the Microsoft Office groans under feature saturation. There is FAR too much rubbish in the code that serves no other purpose than functioning as an argument for you to buy a new version. I bet the next version is called the "productivity" version, and it's basically all that crud ripped out again (and the ribbon, we live in hope)...

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Re: @Eenymeeny

which is why you keep a laptop with office 2003, office 2007 and office 2010 on it (plus the upcoming 2013 version, which is sooo ugly).

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re: The key lock in to the Microsoft Office suite is Microsoft Outlook.

Yes and no, for me as a technology professional, Office includes Visio and Project, which combined with the need to exchange work in progress with colleagues and clients does at times present problems ...

So whilst there are good alternatives for components, I've not been able as yet to totally replace Office because of what the whole gives me.

However, I'm wanting to pull the PIM functions out of Outlook and put them on my tablets (prefer Android because of the Lenovo and Samsung tablets which support pen input) so these can start to really replace the paper-based time manager which is still sitting on my desk...

Aside: talking of FiloFax/TimeManager, I find it interesting that no has tried to launch an updated version of the Kyocera Refalo.

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@Eenymeeny

I'd also suggest that PowerPoint is probably out in front as the most used app.

I'd also suggest that PowerPoint is probably out in front as the most overused app.

There -- fixed it for you.

[But seriously, you can't believe that PowerPoint is used more than Word or Excel, can you? I'd think either of those is used a couple of orders of magnitude times more often than PowerPoint.]

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Re: @Eenymeeny

NB. Office 2013 won't run on XP and will need at least 7, so you'll have to upgrade your main OS install which will cause problems with older versions of Office it is therefore advisable to make sure you have at least one XP virtual machine (eg. Windows 7 Pro - XP Mode) with Office 2003 and 2007 installed. In future you will only need to install the VM hosting software and copy across your Office VM(s) to be up and running.

I've not looked around Amazon's infrastructure to see if they have any preconfigured Office VM's that could meet your requirements. But then these also require a functioning broadband connection ...

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Re: @Eenymeeny

A US study suggested that PP was used slightly more than Excel, to about 34% of entire Office usage. You have to understand that the gradual loss of progress in the US and the increasing reliance on litigation is fueled by vast numbers of office staff firing powerpojnts at one another. The ability to produce a memo on half a side of letter paper has been supplanted by the ability to present the same information, less well presented, as a ppt.

The other day I got a screenshot which was sent as a ppt. It was at unfeasibly small scale so to read it I had to extract the image from the ppt into something else. I guess the monkey hadn't heard of Paint.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: re: The key lock in to the Microsoft Office suite is Microsoft Outlook.

MS ruined Visio with that infernal ribbon, but when I moved to OSX I discovered Omnigraffle. The Pro version basically does what Visio *used* to do before MS bought it, but has a lot more power. It solves the "Visio" problem at least on OSX and iOS6 because it can open, edit and save files in Visio files too..

Outlook, however, remains an as yet unsolved problem. I'm no fan of the default OSX apps..

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Yes, Base is the big hole in the suite. It compares to office the way a kids' trike compares to a Jaguar. While Writer and Calc can import MS formats nicely, Base seems stuck as a 1980s "wine cellar inventory demo" sort of toy. There is just no competitor who can actually do the complex chained queries on medium-large databases that Access can. And Access itself is terribly limited; it looks like 1990s code not updated except cosmetically. The 2GB file limit in Jet is ridiculous. But it's a few orders of magnitude more than Base can actually handle.

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You are implying that there is 100% compatibility between different versions of PowerPoint, I don't have the same experience. In fact, (I'm in academia) we mandate students to print all presentations to pdf files to avoid surprises.

I agree with everything else though (except for outlook, but then again I'm not in the industry.) The typical user doesn't even know Word numbers pages automatically.

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Anonymous Coward

Base

yes base needs the most work! need to be able to deal with multiple sources - linking odbc and local and other remote connections for my basic adhoc data load, manipulation and updating type jobs.

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Re: Kyocera Refalo.

I've just had a look- I like!

I guess the closest modern attempt would have been MS's Courier- allegedly killed by Bill Gates himself. A shame, because it looked useful, and wasn't straddling the tablet/ultrabook camps.

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Anonymous Coward

iWork

That's iWork with apps that are all 2009 ? I've been holding off purchasing iWork for my iMac and installed LibreOffice as a "stop gap" measure at the end of 2011 and I'm used to it now. it's far from 100% compatible but it'll do for the vast majority of things.

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Mushroom

LibO works great in our business, used with Thunderbird-Lightning

We have 200 staff using Thunderbird, have been using it for about 7 years and have never had staff asking for Outlook, for the last few years we have used the Lightening calendar pugin which hooks into Zimbra and Google etc. LibreOffice is used by many staff, not a single complaint or problem with this either. If you open your eyes quite a lot of businesses are doing the same too. I think quite a few comments are from people who are locked in and possibly not in a senior enough position to lead the way out, or trolls, or thick.

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@Nick Ryan

I agree with your comment on Outlook (I use this on a daily basis, go figure) however there's more than that. Its not merely Outlook; its the interoperability between all the Office components which is the big issue IMO. That stuff (VBA) is so extensive that it can be mind boggling (IMO).

I do tech support on a Windows server for a small company. Within certain business hours people can ring me with questions, e-mail is obviously no problem, I do regular maintenance on the server and to top it off the director of said company gets a weekly report from me where I tell him how many phonecalls were received, how many e-mail inquiries were received and a summary on the maintenance on said server. This doesn't effect costs, but the director likes to be kept in the loop (its a small company, but bigger than mine is).

You don't really think I'm typing all of this ? ;-)

I click my Word template, which then checks the current date, contacts Outlook and starts checking the (dedicated) inbox for that company to see how many e-mails there are between that day and seven days back. Phonecalls are monitored by me through Business Contact Manager (free yet invaluable Outlook 2010 extension) and the same applies.

So all that's left to do for me is fill in what I've been doing on the server.

THAT is IMO one of the key assets of MS Office. With a few lines of VBA code you can make it do whatever you want, and it can save you hours and hours of work.

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Re: @Nick Ryan

Extension of that, last place I worked had an entire suite of specialist applications that leveraged exactly that feature to produce extremely complex tables of data in Word documents (and to a lesser degree Excel files).

Having said that I'd never buy Office for work, a freebie is good enough (in my case Google Docs mostly).

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Re: @Eenymeeny

Happened to me once. OO saved me from deep failure.

Training material for a 3-day training spasm. Somehow, the illustrations - vital! were either corrupted, or the version of PP on the machine was nadgered. As I'd flown from Finland to China to do the training, I couldn't exactly pop home...Always kept a DVD of my material with me. Download Open Office, run my presentation/material (in .ppt format) through that, didn't bat an eyelid! Rescued!

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Anonymous Coward

That's odd, aren't features what people keep complaining are missing from iOS, Windows Phone and the Blackberry?

I could very easily also say that Android is creaking under the problem of too many features. Yet both Android and Office are popular precisely because you can buy it and not worry about feature XYZ being missing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Big business starting to demand users use LibreOffice

You go to one company and see them moving to something else and then claim every one is?

You're always posting anti-MS crap Eadon based upon the dream world you live in..

When you've worked for a few more companies then you'll probably recognise that any alternatives to Office are only in use at a very small number of companies.

Honestly, give up with all the M$ crap, it's tiresome and you do yourself no favours in an IT career if you show massive bias to a particular company or technology.

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Re: Big business starting to demand users use LibreOffice

Sorry dude, but MS Office is far better than LibreOffice on so many levels. OneNote, Visio and Project aren't replaceable in even an academic environment let alone in a professional environment. If you can find a FLOSS app that implements even half of what OneNote can do, I'll be surprised.

MS Office is one of the few apps I run in CrossOver that isn't a game.

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Stop

Re: Big business starting to demand users use LibreOffice

He won't listen. Argued this before. Libre office cannot do the following:

per user suite feature lock down (guest, teacher, staff, administration, exams) without scripts copying files (which run the risk of not applying if interrupted on login or local access)

simple domain rollout and update to the same level as OCT

workgroup and domain shared workspaces and template repositories (per OU)

I'm on my phone so can't be arsed getting into format lock down based on user (to force standardisation on students who would happily save files as html just to pass the teachers off) etc.

Down votes ahoy but I have REALLY tried to use an MS alternative. The fact is, sometimes there isn't an alternative.

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Anonymous Coward

Well it clearly is the decision of senior IT leaders that make informed decisions on purchasing for businesses. The volume of migration to LibreOffice is as near zero as it has ever been.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Big business starting to demand users use LibreOffice

Yes I have seen that policy scenario in a few places too. Use cheap / free office - Microsoft Office must be justified.

However, everyone but the cleaning staff still gets Microsoft Office - people tried at first, but very rapidly reverted - the standard justification now being "I need a version of Office, and I need it to work" - this especially being the case when needing to exchange documents with other companies.

Business is not moving away from MS Office to free alternatives in any numbers - far more people are moving to Office 365 (or Zimbra or Google Apps). In terms of volume, the interest in LibreOffice is close to zero.

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WTF?

oh come on, credit where credit is due

When MS launched Word & Excel for Windows the leading PC word processor was WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS and Lotus 1-2-3 had abandoned compatibility for 3D sheets. both were woefull: WP was a crude wrapper around the DOS program (even using its own print drivers); 1-2-3 was a slow biggie port from OS/2. Not only was Excel better than 1-2-3, it was a better 1-2-3 than 1-2-3.

Not only was Word/Excel better than the competition, they were better and cheaper, with better support. Office was better because MS had already done all the hard GUI work on the Mac version.

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@AC: re visio and omnigraffle

Agreed that Omnigraffle is the bee's knees. Every time I try to use Visio I end up swearing because I can't align things perfectly and copy paste doesn't work properly with the rest of the MS Office suite. The one beef I have with Omnigraffle is that it is Apple only and even with the pro version doesn't have great compatibility with visio, so it is hard to share work with colleagues who aren't on Mac. yEd is a worthy cross platform alternative-- not nearly as slick as Omnigraffle, ugly default colors, but lines stuff up right, is free, and works everywhere.

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the term is not featuritis, but creeping featurism.

Last time I used office, however, in a corporate environment, the main incompatibility was between users - one would so something 'clever' and then no one knew how to edit the document.

Or say 'Oh haven't you got the Airbus 380 font..here lemme download it for you.'

One longed for wordstar.

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Re: @Eenymeeny

I work with a translator, and we have multiple versions of Microsoft Office on hand (some on quarantined PCs so they don't eat one another) specifically so we can deal with documents we receive in Word Version ~!@#$, which frequently aren't even compatible with earlier OR later Word versions. We cannot quite leap away from Microsoft Awful because of compatibility fears. It's not that LibreOffice or OpenOffice.org is incompatible with Microsoft Office; it's that they introduce a few extra incompatibilities. largely because Microsoft's file formats are obscure, poorly implemented, obfuscated trash.

While the various versions of Word interoperate poorly even with one another, we need to reduce file-format pain as much as possible, 'cause the translation clients have NO clue about this issue, and we will get the blame for any format weirdness that crops up. Sticking to the crummy software that created the document will, at least, eliminate another headache we just don't need.

In a more desirable environment, Microsoft and everyone else would be using open file formats, and work life would be easier and more productive. I've never really understood the Microsoft mind set; if they played well with others instead of being monstrously evil, I think they would still be the major player they now are, and still approximately as profitable. They just wouldn't be hated and despised to anything like the degree they now are. (Was it really worth it, Bill?)

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...more compatible with Microsoft's Rich Text Format (RTF)...

Even MS couldnt' get the RTF formatting right across their Office versions.

If you didn't read the RTF with the same version of MS Office on which it was created, and expected it to look the same, let's just say, good luck with that.

Even older versions of LibreOffice (as well as OpenOffice) did better than the "wrong" version of MS Office.

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WTF?

Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office?

Maybe the gap with Office about 10 years ago.

What's next, the gimp closing the gap with Photoshop?

Of course, LibreOffice and the gimp might be ok for the casual user. But for real work, not even close.

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Devil

Re: Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office?

"Of course, LibreOffice and the gimp might be ok for the casual user. But for real work, not even close."

Ah yes those ten thousand column spreadsheets which are so easy to read and if it breaks, no one knows what the hell is going on.

Most offices I've seen could still be running Orifice 4.3 and still function fine.

As for GIMP/PhotoShop, unless you have the real urge to spend $$$ just use GIMP.

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Re: Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office?

"Real" work? I've used OOO since 2005, then LibreOffice since the fork by choice on my own machines. As a consultant working on customers sites using customers kit, I have found myself so massively impeded by the wretched ribbon thing that I have installed LibreOffice instead of wasting time hunting for basic things in Excel or Word. I have never had a problem reading or writing documents exchanged with colleagues. Before any fanboys start, yes I do use advanced features and create large documents too.

Keep on drinking that kool aid!

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Re: Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office?

Ten thousand column!? Somehow I get the feeling that anyone running near that many columns is using the wrong software.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office?

Sounds to me like it's barely closing the gap with NeoOffice.

If LibreOffice 4 is "...the free office suite the community has been dreaming of since 2001..." there must be a lot of people out there dreaming about fuck-ugly, clunky Java interfaces.

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Facepalm

Re: Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office?

Oh go on then, I'll bite.

So everyone should just give up and buy MS or Adobe products? Please.

I use GIMP and Photoshop extensively, predominantly GIMP. And the only thing I really need Photoshop for is CMYK image support. If GIMP had that then my entire design workflow could be completed with GIMP/Inkscape.

When it comes to LibreOffice, I've seen more improvement in LO in the last 12 months than I had in OO over 3 years. It's almost equal to Office XP, which I still run because it's insanely fast on hardware from the last 5 years. The only things where LO wasn't so good: pivot charts were a bit crashy, boggy graph performance, lack of a presenter view for multi-monitor/projector setups in presentations. Other than that LibreOffice has had 95% of all users covered in the last few years.

I'll leave you to your ribbon interface and horrible bloatware but don't ruin it for people who actually use this software and appreciate the hard work of others. I'll be giving this new version a go tonight.

The problem is that people just think Word, Excel, Powerpoint. Why would anyone buying a computer from PC World be aware of any alternatives.

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Re: Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office?

LibreOffice and GIMP do do "real work" and one will find them excellent products. The toolchains are slightly different, but this is not a problem if you are only using one and either product is capable of matching their proprietary versions.

What people often forget when they say "You should use X instead of Y" is that "close enough" in file handling is simply not good enough in many cases. The fact that GIMP can read a Photoshop filse is of no use to a profession unless 100% fidelity is guaranteed. Gradients rendered the exact same way, layer and filters applied the exact same way etc.

But one stated out using GIMP, you can apply the same argument to Photoshop; it must render your GIMP files the exact same way otherwise Photoshop is useless to you.

So it really is more of a question on which one you start out with - for that choice is your lock-in and that is why you should choose freedom (if possible).

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Re: Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office?

"And the only thing I really need Photoshop for is CMYK image support."

Then write the CMYK support, or hire someone to write it, or sponsor the project, or write the specs, or help with the testing, or the docs, or....

That is, of course, assuming you have the time/resources/money.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office?

Oh - Gimp is a software package. I always assumed Gimps were the lowly paid nerds that managed legacy UNIX estates...

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Re: Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office?

"Then write the CMYK support, or hire someone to write it, or sponsor the project, or write the specs, or help with the testing, or the docs, or...."

Or pay a nominal sum of money to obtain commercial software that already has these features, along with support?

Of the options you mentioned, only writing it myself or hiring someone to write it will actually guarantee the specific functionality gets created. That's not going to be free to do. If I needed hundreds of copies in several months, this might be a way to go and save some money on licencing. If i need 4 copies immediately, the only sensible approach is to go out and buy something that already does it.

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FAIL

Re: Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office?

People have been asking for CMYK support in GIMP since the 1990's. The reason why the developers haven't added this much-requested feature is that it's very, very, very, very hard to do, with the current GIMP architecture.

So suggeting that he add it himself, isn't really very helpful.

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