OpenOffice vs. Office 2011: Rooting for the Underdog

Happy birthday, OpenOffice. Believe it or not, it’s been ten years since the mighty “other” productivity suite—the open-source uncle of Microsoft’s ‘Monopoloffice’—began the slow fight for recognition. How far we’ve come.

Of course, it’s been slightly less than ten years for us Mac folks, but in any case the milestone merits a re-evaluation of this streamlined suite of apps, especially in light of Microsoft’s recent release of Office 2011 for OS X.

At the end of the day, the question has always been whether or not OpenOffice is able to sufficiently replace Microsoft Office. Has it reached this stage today? Read on to find out…

The OpenOffice Advantage

Before delving into the nitty-gritty of the matter, let’s take a broader look at the situation and discuss some of OpenOffice’s overall characteristics.

A significant leg up that it has over Office 2011 is size. OpenOffice is a lean 430MB when installed, versus Office 2011′s significantly beefier 1.3GB footprint. This not only makes it more portable, but also means that it’s quicker to install — plus, you can download it right from OpenOffice.org wherever you are.

The entirety of OpenOffice also launches from a single icon, bringing up a “portal” screen from which you can open whatever kind of document you need. This can save some space in your dock if you frequently use a word processor, spreadsheets, and presentations but don’t want an icon for each taking up space.

Splash Screen

Splash Screen

The most obvious advantage is, of course, price. OpenOffice is completely and utterly free. You are encouraged to donate to the project to help fund ongoing development, but it’s neither required nor pressured. Furthermore, the open-source nature of the project also means that there’s only one version of the suite, unlike Microsoft Office’s ‘Home & Student’ and ‘Home & Business’ editions.

Performance Anxiety

When it comes to actually working with OpenOffice, the advantages of its lean nature seem oddly understated. You’d expect that at a fraction of the size of its Office 2011 counterpart, it would load significantly faster…but that simply isn’t the case. While the main window typically opens in under 2 seconds and each of the component applications jumps to attention nearly instantly, the same is true of Office 2011. So much for that.

The one area that OpenOffice is noticeably quicker in is font performance. Office 2011 will periodically slow down to “optimize font performance”, an operation that reduces the program in question to a crawl. It doesn’t take long to perform, but OpenOffice seems able to handle font performance just fine without optimization. Furthermore, even when you have many fonts installed, OpenOffice’s font menus tend to be distinctly more responsive. Office 2011′s feel sluggish, even after the “optimization” routine.

Now let’s have a look at each of the major components of OpenOffice in more detail and determine how they stack up against Microsoft’s.

Documents & Interface Issues

OpenOffice’s document editing application is called Writer. In the bluntest of terms, Writer is a minimalistic application that is truly focused on word processing. This stands in contrast to Office 2011—or especially Apple’s own Pages—both of which combine word processing capabilities with some advanced layout design functionality. For those who are only interested in producing text and have only a passing need to style it up, this will be a positive distinction.

When you open Writer, you’ll notice a clean and familiar interface that clearly adheres to the ‘classic’ interface layout established years ago for word processing applications. Whereas Word from Office 2011 seeks to offer some eye-candy in its design and interface, OpenOffice is evidently the old grandfather recommending salt crackers and prunes because they’re healthier.

Open Office Writer Header

Open Office Writer Header

Microsoft Word Header

Microsoft Word Header

Nevertheless, OpenOffice’s interface is undeniably functional and accessible… but it is also undeniably dated. There is a sense that in striving to maintain this barebones, ubiquitous look, the OpenOffice team has forgotten to take into account the positive developments in user interface design research that have cropped up over the past several years.

The elephant in the room here is Microsoft’s ribbon interface, so let’s bring him into the conversation. In 2007, Microsoft revolutionized the design of their Office suite for Windows by introducing their “Fluent User Interface”, which consistent primarily of a fundamental re-thinking of how features and tools were laid out in their applications.

The so-called “ribbon” interface was a transformative element that purported to provide quicker, more intuitive access to the available features of the Office suite. Unfortunately, for a customer base that grew up learning that the original interface was intuitive, the switch was received with a great deal of controversy.

Fast-forward a few years and the ribbon has made its way to all Microsoft Office products on Windows and Mac. The concept has been refined based on user feedback, but it remains largely the same. It is a different paradigm and whether or not you like it will most likely have a profound effect on how you view OpenOffice versus Office 2011 aesthetically.

Functionally speaking, the lack of aesthetic flair in OpenOffice is a non-issue. Unless you need a pretty interface to work, you’ll be able to put words on a page without a problem in either Writer or Word. Writer will also allow you to import PDF files, which Word does not (it can only export them).

Useful for wordsmiths with ADD, Writer features a full-screen view to help minimize distractions, but unfortunately it’s quite crude — removing access to toolbars while maintaining the garish margin markers. Word’s full-screen implementation seems considerably better thought out, with calm black surrounding your page while everything else disappears. Even so, they’ve kept the menu accessible: mousing to the top of your screen prompts it to slide out of hiding, creeping back out of your way when you’re done with it.

Open Office Writer Full-Screen

Open Office Writer Full-Screen

Microsoft Word Full Screen

Microsoft Word Full Screen

Spreadsheets

The second pillar of office suites is their handling of spreadsheets. OpenOffice’s answer to Microsoft’s Excel is a powerful tool called Calc. The new version of Calc not only adds extra security enhancements for files, but also bumps the number of supported rows in a spreadsheet to just over one million, making it almost infinitely robust (though performance when loading large spreadsheet files is significantly less efficient than in Excel).

OpenOffice Calc Header

OpenOffice Calc Header

Microsoft Excel Header

Microsoft Excel Header

Calc is probably OpenOffice’s strongest contender, if only because it is the one component where design tends to matter the least. In terms of being easy for someone new to pick up and use, Calc falls way short of Excel and its easy-to-manage ribbon and extensive wizards to help with more complex functions, but power users and spreadsheet gurus will find that it is more than capable of handling the vast majority of things they throw at it. Calc also supports more languages for macro functions, though their use is somewhat less accessible.

Presentations and Templates

OpenOffice’s Impress is a smart presentation program. It suffers from an inexcusable lack of attractive built-in templates and design options when compared to PowerPoint 2011, but its multiple-monitor support and efficient handling of effects and transitions makes this forgivable.

OpenOffice Impress

OpenOffice Impress

Microsoft Powerpoint

Microsoft Powerpoint

It’s a difficult component to judge because the entire paradigm of slideshow presentations seems to be transforming slowly into something more video-like and less linear and stale. PowerPoint 2011 seems particularly in tune with this shift, offering the ability to export to a movie file so you can transfer your multi-media presentations around without worrying about it opening strangely on another computer.

That being said, if you’re just after raw slideshow-based presenting, then Impress will do the job fine.

Extras

With the main elements out of the way, it’s worth mentioning the extra components of OpenOffice since they can be extremely valuable additions depending on your workflow. Draw is OpenOffice’s answer to Microsoft’s Visio — fans of Microsoft Office will be shrugging here because Visio has yet to make it to the Mac, even with this latest 2011 version. Draw doesn’t just win by default though, since it actually does provide a powerful set of tools for creating and manipulating diagrams and graphics in 2D and 3D.

Base corresponds to Microsoft Access, once again absent from Office 2011. OpenOffice Base is flexible enough to handle both personal databases and large, enterprise-scale affairs with its support for MySQL, Adabas D, as well its ability to integrate with existing databases thanks to its support for JDBC/ODBC standard drivers.

Last up is Math, a simple outboard equation editor for setting up complicated mathematical statements that can then be integrated into Writer, Calc, and Impress or exported freely for use in another environment. Office 2011 also has its own dedicated equation editor (called, creatively enough, “Equation Editor”) that gets called up to handle equation entry from within each application, or can be run separately from a subfolder of the main Microsoft Office 2011 directory in your Applications folder.

If you’re using the business edition of Office 2011, you’ll also have access to Outlook, Microsoft’s mighty email/calendar/contacts super-application that has been the staple of its Windows counterpart for years.

Replacing the intermediate Entourage from previous versions, Outlook is now an extremely powerful and well designed solution for handling day-to-day tasks, scheduling, and mail. OpenOffice has evidently not seen this aspect as one worth pursuing, and it’s not terribly surprising considering the competition in the field even from Apple’s own dedicated iCal, Mail, and Address Book apps.

Conclusion

The spotlight is on you now. Do you hate the ribbon? Do you value beautiful aesthetic interface design and loads of shiny templates to work from? If so, then OpenOffice will still fail to impress you, despite its continuing advancements “under the hood”.

If you’re a business user looking for a powerful alternative to Microsoft’s suite that offers the same fundamental functionality without any need to worry about licensing costs, then OpenOffice will seem like a godsend. Similarly, if you’re a casual user who only occasionally needs to use an office suite and therefore can’t justify ponying up the cash for the premium Office 2011, then OpenOffice will serve as a suitable alternative.

My own feeling is that OpenOffice remains the underdog for now. It’s ironic because if I had been asked the question just a short while ago when Office 2008 was still the best Microsoft could do, I might have said otherwise. Office 2008 was a sluggish, awkward, and foreign-feeling set of applications that failed to deliver the kind of performance and working environment that I had hoped.

Since 2011 though, I must give credit where it’s due and admit that Microsoft have stepped up their game to produce a truly stunning set of programs that run well, feel like they’re native to the Mac, and go above and beyond the call of duty making them a pleasure to work with.

I’m rooting for OpenOffice though. I think the project is a valuable and admirable one, and I suspect that as more and more people adopt the software, contribute donations toward development, and lend a hand in making it better, OpenOffice will close the gap between it and its competitors swiftly and decisively. After all, the open-source model offers it an agility that is hard to come by in commercial development cycles.

So for what it is — a compact and barebones but powerful office suite at an unbeatable price — OpenOffice is a winner. But can it outright replace Office 2011? It seems unlikely.

Leave us your thoughts about OpenOffice and Office 2011 in the comments! Which do you prefer?


  • William

    iWork FTW

    • http://id.linkedin.com/in/rizky Rizky Syazuli

      same here.. iWork is enough for me..

    • http://abdusfauzi.com abdusfauzi

      iWork is my choice.
      You got my vote.

      • Pooria

        Second that (or fourth that)! iWork is beautiful, FAST, and enough for me.

    • Jossy

      Yea iWork has to be no1

    • Marius Masalar

      I’m actually a big fan of iWork’s word-processing-plus-layout-design approach in Pages. I still use InDesign but for more basic things Pages is great.

      • http://ksbja.zxq.net KsbjA

        Actually, Office 2011 also has a word-processing-plus-layout-design. Still, iWork has less bugs/annoyances (forced Times New Roman, for example) and is easier to use. Floating Inspector windows are wonderful, but the Ribbon is also good. iWork has a way better background separation tool than Office. Numbers’ interface is better than Excel’s. On the other hand, my faves in the new Office are the Ribbon UI (because opening non-floating windows to access the most basic preferences is just awkward, and preset styles are good – especially if I don’t want to put that much time and creativity in designing simple, less important elements) and the customizable themes in PowerPoint (suddenly so many combinations, and it doesn’t feel like cookie-cutter presentations that much anymore!). Anyhow, iWork is my favorite, but Microsoft did Office 2011 right, so they’re both winners.

  • http://jasmu.com jasmu

    what about http://libreoffice.org?
    they separated from openoffice.org after oracle’s takeover.

    • http://yourworkflow.ca Curtis McHale

      Since they only separated a few weeks ago an have yet to do a proper release on their own I’m not sure that they are really a proper contendor in this space yet. I hope they do keep the ball rolling and give us another free offering but we haven’t see it yet.

  • http://twitter.com/ariadng ariadng

    Office 2011 for me. I think it’s far better than other office suites, including Office 2010. It’s weird that Microsoft made the Mac version better than the Windows’…
    But actually I like OpenOffice. I’m just wondering when they’ll fix their old UI design…

  • Ahmed

    iWork Rocks , others Sucks ( Just My opinion ;) )

    • http://appflow.co.uk Luke Barnes

      I’ll ditto that! I much prefer keynote for presentations and am more comfortable in pages than any other app I’ve used.

  • http://bananaranha.com bananaranha

    When it comes to actually working with OpenOffice, the advantages of its lean nature seem oddly understated. You’d expect that at a fraction of the size of its Office 2011 counterpart, it would load significantly faster…but that simply isn’t the case.

    Contrary to what most people believe, program size on disk does not make any difference to performance. It is mostly due to resources such as icons, templates, images, sounds, localizations, etc. Those are only loaded when you use them.

    Not only installed size doesn’t matter for performance, but even the executable’s size is not an indicator for performance.

    Features are loaded on demand by the OS when you use them (though sometimes, common features are pre-loaded for speed). It’s not like you have the code for Words’s charting feature loaded when you don’t use charts in your Word document.

    What matters is implementation: algorithms, language, architecture, etc. How close the metal or abstracted the program is, how many layers it has, etc. Those make minimal impact on file size, but huge impact on speed.

    Moral of the story: a 10MB program could slow as molasses compared to a 200MB one.

    • Marius Masalar

      Thanks very much for this explanation, bananaranha, it makes a lot of sense.

      I suppose my expectation was that the significantly smaller footprint would mean fewer components to load/unload as you use them and therefore quicker performance overall, but it seems like that’s not the case either way.

      • Jan Blazicek

        Just take a look at Minecraft game, the app itself has about 200 KB and a few megabytes in textures and whatnot. Yet it is able to get my late 2007 macbook pro very hot and it even lags from time to time. I actually have it on pretty low settings. :) (Of course it’s written in java, which would explain a lot, but still it’s tuned pretty fine from what I know).

        Bottom line is that even a few lines of code can contain algorithm so complex that it would make our heads explode.

    • -

      sure, write a tiny script that loops… :-)

  • Vote4Office2011

    IMHO OpenOffice cannot be used for writing professional documents within a short period of time due to the lack of a good macro api (to be fair: …due to the lack of good api documentation)…

  • Michael

    What I don’t get is that with the advent of all the shared frameworks and API’s many of these applications should have gotten much smaller (installed size) and quicker; even with many of the new features. Why do they continue to add girth at such an astonishing rate?

    I’d say Open office was a hog at 430mb; being almost as large as the largest application installed on my mac (Photoshop CS3). And the new AutoCAD, which I had for a little while, is also an astonishing 1gb.

    Where are all these lines of code going?! I remember installing AutoCAD version 2.1 from five, 5-1/4in floppies and thinking it was huge at something around 10mb. Even now they haven’t added THAT many new features and they should have been re-evaluating and editing their code to make it as efficient as possible.

    It just boggles the mind. These young programmers need a lesson in space efficiency if you ask me. The web dude’s get it; they have to worry about load times, etc… but the desktop guy’s just don’t seem to.

    • http://www.miknos.com Alexei

      This is exactly what I was thinking of. The code is huge because they don’t care about space or it is needed?

    • Zac

      from one CAD user to another you should try draftsight. it is very light weight and as powerful as AutoCAD. very nice if you dont feel like shelling out the cash for AutoCAD just to draw 2D drawings. another + for draftsight is that it is lightweight and made by the good people at solid works.

    • -

      acad includes a lot of images.

      office (and acad, btw) is crippled by the ribbon. so, it’s difficult to compare.

  • http://nataliaventre.com Natalia Ventre

    OpenOffice interface is sooo boring, and as Marius said it takes forever to launch. Besides I find it hard to use, I never accomplished the most simple tasks with OpenOffice, I have trouble finding the options in the menus, even playing a presentation in Impress is difficult.

    I use iWork, but for the ones who like freebies, I think Google Docs is a better choice.

    • http://twitter.com/ariadng ariadng

      oh yes, I almost forgot GoogleDocs :)

  • guez

    OO has not normal/draft view, which is a deal-breaker for people who actually use their word-processor to *write*.

  • jfs

    I’d love to use Open Office at home, but it’s just painfully slow to open on my Mac (Mac Mini with 4Gb of Ram).

    I can open Illustrator and Photoshop in the time it takes me to get into Open Office.

    • http://yourworkflow.ca Curtis McHale

      Yeah I’ve also had issues with speed on Oo on OS X and I’ve working on a MBP. I haven’t used the latest offering of Office but Office 2008 was even slower. I haven’t found iWork to be particularly fast either though. For most text editing I just stick with TextMate and long writing goes in Scrivener.

      • Marius Masalar

        Office 2008 is a snail, Curtis. I highly recommend you give 2011 a try if you get the chance — it’s a transformative improvement in responsiveness and loading speed. Truly impressive.

        I’m with you on Scrivener though, good features for organizing large manuscripts.

  • http://abdusfauzi.com abdusfauzi

    iWork. I do admire OpenOffice, however my friends are on Windows and Office11 close the gap of compatibility for document layout. Thats all what I need from Office11. Honestly, iWork are the best on Mac, and I will choose OpenOffice if I don’t have iWork, and I don’t need the Office11 for personal work.

    Above all, OpenOffice really need some UX and UI improvement. That is how you get new user and subscriber.

    • http://yourworkflow.ca Curtis McHale

      Yeah the interface could use an overhaul for sure. I really think that after a speed improvement a refresh of the UI is needed badly to get wider interest in Oo.

  • Koobe

    Office 2011 has been a real surprise for me. The 2008 Mac version was incredibly awkward to work so my expectations were low – but the Outlook version in 2011 is a giant leap forward and the Powerpoint from Mac to Windows is almost seamless now.

  • http://luissalvador.net Luís Salvador

    Office 2011 > iWork > Open Office > Office 2008

    Few weeks ago I had the Open Office, now I have and use Office 2010 (it’s must better)!

    • Rena

      Agreed on the >’s, but I kinda like LibreOffice (OO’s sis) and haven’t got Office 2011 yet.

  • skz

    NeoOffice!

  • http://www.libelvas.com/ Libelvas

    iWork and NeoOffice work just fine:-)

  • http://loneplacebo.com Tony

    Google Docs! … Ok, this is a bit awkward.

    • Marius Masalar

      When it comes to web apps, I agree with you, though I must say I’m also partial to Acrobat.com’s tools myself.

      This review was more geared toward desktop applications though, and mostly just OO vs. MO, so Google wasn’t really in the scope.

  • http://www.handlungsplan.net to

    Ragtime!
    Appstorm should really do a review of Ragtime – it just rocks!
    http://www.ragtime.de/start.html

  • http://www.mikekey.com Mike Key

    Open Office = Bloated Fail

    End of Debate.

    • Westen

      > Open Office = Bloated Fail

      Well to be fair, when you consider Open Office’s–

      > End of Debate.

      Oh, I nearly missed that. Nevermind.

      • -

        yeah, it’s a bit amusing when ppl enthusiastically take themselves out :-)

  • Jacob

    To me the last decent version of Office that exists was Office 2003 (on Windows). I can’t stand the multi-pane/multi-window/ribbon based workflow.

    Used an office suite a lot I’d definitely go with iWork, but I don’t so I use Google Docs, as it’s simple and works well for me.

  • Jacob

    To me the last decent version of Office that exists was Office 2003 (on Windows). I can’t stand the multi-pane/multi-window/ribbon based workflow.

    If I used an office suite a lot I’d definitely go with iWork, but I don’t so I use Google Docs, as it’s simple and works well for me.

  • A. C.

    I prefer NeoOffice to OpenOffice. OpenOffice has to maintain the same interface for Windows, Linux, OS X, FreeBSD, Solaris and a couple of other systems. NeoOffice is a port of OpenOffice to OS X only, thus NeoOffice has all the same features and menus as OpenOffice but the interface is a bit more Mac-like. The NeoOffice developers are keeping NeoOffice up with OpenOffice.

    One critical reason I prefer NeoOffice is that documents will not center properly when printed if they have small margins in OpenOffice. I have no such problem in NeoOffice. I reported this as a bug two releases ago in OpenOffice but it’s still there. This is using a Brother Laser printer, by the way.

  • http://danielw.net Daniel Wiklund

    I use OpenOffice, and have been using it for at couple of years now, when i swiched from PC/Windows to mac about 4 years ago i started out using iWorks (pages) but it really never spoke to me (coming from MS Office) it was too different from what i was use to on Windows and then one of my friends suggested that i should try out openoffice, and it was love at first sight :)

    I’m sure that iWorks has developed and got better over the years but OpenOffice always did the job for me, and the fact that it is free is just a major major plus.

    80€ for iWorks or 140€ for MS Office makes a big difference for at student.

  • Nikolay Boyanov

    OpenOffice of course because is free…

  • Beric

    NeoOffice is the way. Better integration with the Mac interface than OpenOffice, but the same file format across M$, Linux and Solaris. The “ribbon” slows me down.

    Currently I’ve moved to LibreOffice on my Linux VM. Don’t know if there is a Mac binary yet, but the sooner the better. Oracle will no longer support it’s open source commitments.

  • http://fairheadcreative.com Adam Fairhead

    Nice writeup, thanks for the share! I’ll give another vote to Google Docs, another worthy contender for consumes with monopoloffice!

  • http://in.linkedin.com/in/girishkolari Girish Kolari

    I use OpenOffice in my Mac for all offline work but I prefer online office tool like ZOHO doc more for my work.

    Girish Kolari
    http://girishkolari.blogspot.com/

  • Matt

    Neooffice is enough for me to work with my windows centric colleagues. The only price I have to pay is load time, and I’m happy to do so.

    I’ve tried Open Office and frankly I can’t see why you would go for that over Neo. The Mac integration on Neooffice is way better, even the service menu works well :-)

  • http://quellcode.blogspot.com Dinesh Verma

    According to my point of view- open office is better. Since i’m a college student, the tools that i need are available in open office, why waste money. open office is faster.

  • doctorroboto

    I use iWork, haven’t tried Office 2011 yet, but iWork is functional plus cheaper faster and looks better.

    I loathe OpenOffice, its slow and damn ugly. I wont even use it on Linux I use Gnumeric and Abiword for that.

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  • Ben

    I have to have Microsoft’s 2007/2010 Equation Editor that is in Office 2007/2010/2011. I’m an engineering student and write many equations into lab reports. Plus, I can get Office 2011 for $10 as a government employee ;) I would still pay the $100 to get it.

    • nobody

      Yes this is true, and only ppl which really need to edit and prepare documents understand how far away is OpenOffice from be a tool for professional or even simple univerity documents use. Most ppl which scream how good and how free is OpenOffice simply don’t need OpenOffice and will be enought for them MS Word or any free tool.

  • Justin Bell

    Hi … I have used Open Office for years on Linux, and I prefer to use it on my Mac. However the Base (Database) program requires JRE Java. This is now pre-installed on Mac Snow Leopard in a different place, and Open Office cannot find it, so the Database does not work.
    It would be great if OpenOffice could work on that, as it is such a pity. I have always liked the fast speeds and simplicity of OpenOffice and the lack of embedded protection software.

  • http://arabic.alshahid.net M Alhadi

    Thank you for this comparison article. For me, for a word process software to be really competitive, beside all other functions, it has to be universal. By that I mean to support all main languages in the same way it supports English. To now, Microsoft 2011 lacks this support as it doesn’t support RTL like Arabic & Hebrew, the same can be said to Pages, though it can read but you can not use it for editing. I use Mellel and NeoOffice for this purpose.
    I don’t know why companies like Microsoft Office (Apple Package) and Apple let down people from Middle East while they can do it for them?

  • AE

    Unfortunately MS office is simply far better at any function beyond simple paragraphs of text.

    We create documents with tables and pictures inserted and sections and page breaks and …… etc. When using Open office the number of snaggs is overwhelming to the point of being un useable.

    I did try joining the open office forum but it was such a faf i gave up – it was pretty obvious that they were not going to listen to my many small niggling points let alone act upon them!

    • -

      yeah. fine-tuning layout is unintuitive in ooo (ime, 2009).
      i *later* searched some for method to fine-adjust layout, but never tried what i found.

  • -

    privacy defects inseparable from “online/cloud” data processing are prohibitive.
    “plastic” type icons circa 2004 were functionally the best.
    Only years later, the murky, mushy style icons came into vogue (eg, ms vista). For these icons to be distinguished, they must be larger, thus requiring larger display (>$$).

  • Chris

    I found a great article about comparison between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice. You can check it here: http://www.software-latest.com/2010/06/30/microsoft-office-vs-openoffice.html

  • John Yate

    The argument is a non-starter for me: Microsoft Office crashed out in the second month and refused to re-install on my rather puny Windows XP rig. Just when I needed to use Microsoft Publisher for a quarterly document that was in .pub format, and had also taken over a quarterly Word document. No more ribbons for me !
    That’s something of a relief though, because they didn’t always deliver the relevant functions for the text and graphic objects I was selecting and I was left scrolling through the ribbons for what seemed like hours to find the functions I wanted. I could never understand how one of my friends could construe the ribbons in 2007/2010 as making things “easier”.
    OpenOffice Writer was able to decode the overarching Word document I’d been left with, and also to read contributors’ Word documents, though a few niggling size adjustments were needed to make the layouts work in the OpenOffice. Document portability-wise, OpenOffice Writer would have beaten Office 2000 hands-down, because it has been able to produce the PDF exports forever, and can also do the JPG page-by-page output files other print shops now require.
    Office 2010 can now do both of these, but I warn you, the UI on MS Publisher’s .JPG page-image output facility is as unfriendly as they could make it – if you want each page to have the (nowadays seems derisory) 300 d.p.i. maximum available output resolution – you’ve a big big chance of getting it wrong on one of the (e.g. 32) pages, because you have to re-set it from 150 d.p.i every single time you generate a page image.
    And I have reversed-engineered the Publisher document into the free OpenSource DTP package Scribus, and the readers get roughly the same look and feel as with the Publisher document, because I can still use all my Windows fonts.
    I don’t think I’d be able to do THAT quite so readily under Linux, even though Scribus came from that side, but I expect I’d eventually get the necessary printer support to do occasional paper page previews.
    Scribus is literally more *old fashioned* – you can correct spellings out in the open, but in late 1980′s/early 1990′s style, any significant typography has to be done in the story editor. You can definitely paste in a .doc or .rtf source document, and get the text content into a text frame, but don’t expect the fonts and text attributes to magically copy over into the Scribus version, as does reliably happen in Publisher, and more or less also in cheapo Serif PagePlus X5 (£10 if you’re lucky), which I’m now trialling. Though PagePlus can sometimes need a tiny bit of help swallowing big font size changes… not too onerous !
    But if you include a picture from a file in an OpenOffice Writer document, it uses the picture’s file name and location reference instead of storing a copy of the picture in its file, so you have to remember to maintain copies of all the pictures you include in a dedicated picture folder, preferably near the document file. Actually, OpenOffice Writer doesn’t always manage the open picture files that well, and suffers temporary errors trying to update the picture displays when you scroll onto their pages.
    And don’t expect to paste the contents of a live web-page containing multiple pictures into OpenOffice Writer, as you can definitely do with Microsoft Word:-
    The typography works OK, but Writer creates file references for all the picture objects on the page, and these all map back to very temporarily available on-line files. If there are a lot of pictures, it’s really tough work downloading the picture content into hard files on your machine and naming them so that your Writer document can reliably re-open with them in place.
    Yeah, yeah, yeah – I’d probably go back to MS Office if I could !

  • Patrick Valmont

    Tough call, but I’ll go with Office 11. I’ve also used Open Office, on my Macbook it’s way faster than O11 but in terms of functionally Office11 kills it. Outlook 2011 is quite nice though a slow startup it’s a great improvement over entourage. Every other Office program works great excluding word. For some divine reason Word has a sluggish boot time and like you mentioned, font management (in word) is a serious problem. Hope this can be fixed with an update.

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  • http://rentalwarsaw Sid Schweitzer

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