OpenOffice Saves in MSOffice Format -- So Is Buying MS Office Worth It?
February 23, 2004 12:54 AM   Subscribe

I've been thinking about plunking down the cash to buy a licensed copy of MS Office (or Office XP, or Office 2003, etc.) for my new laptop. Can anyone tell me why I shouldn't just run Openoffice instead? From what I've read, it appears that I can "save as" most MS formats with it. Any firsthand experience?
posted by trharlan to Computers & Internet (19 answers total)
I've been using openoffice for the last four months and i am quite satisfied with it. There are a few problems though - that i have learnt to live with i might ad.

1. Unless you run it in the background it takes a lot longer to load than MS-Office.
2. It just has a different feel to it than MS-O - not as slick. Although it has functioned without incident, I've had problems simply getting to trust it with my work.
3. The 'save as' function has worked fine - although it always warns that something may be lost when you save in MS-O format - so it always feels a little risky just saving in MS-O format - i always back up the file in openoffice format just to be sure, which is annoying to have to do.

The reasons for my continuing use of openoffice are:
The 'export to PDF' function that i use all the time and
The feel-good factor of using open source.
posted by FidelDonson at 1:29 AM on February 23, 2004

I've just gone back to OfficeXP for a few reasons.

OOo is slow to load. Feels memory intensive too.

OOo has bad dictionary support - it's US only and doesn't seem to be very inteligent.

OOo seems to really hate you copying in text from another source if you don't want it as a blockquote. Yes you can copy as raw text, but you shouldn't have to.

OOo's spreadsheet is pathetic compared to Excel.

The HTML editor made me laugh. Hard.

If feels like they put together lots of bits that mostly worked rather than a few things that kick arse. On the plus side, I think I made similar kinds of comments about Mozilla a while back, and now it's all growed up and I's so proud... *sniff*
[note, I haven't downloaded the most recent version yet cos I'm on a 56k connection. *shakes fist at BT*]
posted by twine42 at 2:15 AM on February 23, 2004

I've been using Open Office 1.1 on my Red Hat 9 machine for a few months now. I'm not sure if it's any help since you're using windows. But here's my experience: It's a huge leap forwards, compared to star-office, etc. Importing my older windows Powerpoint and Word files is reasonably flawless. There are some occasional formatting problems and sometimes greek symbols are mysteriously converted to random symbols.

But having the luxury of working in a linux-only environment, while still be able to read those stupid Word attachments the HR department sends around is great. I'd say it's become a mature Office suite.

On spell-check: why does it suggest "inhumanely" for "linux-only" ?!
posted by swordfishtrombones at 2:18 AM on February 23, 2004

I've had no problems with the dictionary - I use the danish version of OO and the accompanying dictionary works fine.

The spreadsheet is lousy - i forgot since i nearly ever use it. It works fine with some basic tables and such, but doing graphs sucks.
posted by FidelDonson at 2:27 AM on February 23, 2004

Chalk up another happy Open Office user. I read a lot of spreadsheets but don't create many. I write long complex documents with embedded graphics and other objects, and exchange them with MS Word users. I keep MS Office installed on my machine for safety, but I haven't needed to open it in more than 6 months. The people I work with have all stopped upgrading MS Office, so hopefully we'll avoid the versioning hell we've all been through in the past. Open Office has never crashed on me (something I can't say about MS Word).

On the other hand, I had a lot of power-user keyboard shortcuts and mouse techniques in MS Word that I had to relearn or give up on in Open Office. Expect to spend some time experimenting and searching through the doc at first.
posted by fuzz at 4:18 AM on February 23, 2004

What everybody else said.
It really is V e r r r y slow, but I understand that this is an issue which is being looked at.
The spell checker seems to have an "UK English" option, but this may be later versions.
twine42: paypal me £1.00 (or mail me the materials), and I'll burn you a copy to CD and mail it out to you. My email address can be found on my userpage.
posted by seanyboy at 4:27 AM on February 23, 2004

I use OpenOffice, for me it does everything it needs to do. The only compatibility problem I've had are with some spreadsheets from work which were stupidly coded (these were for timecards - lots of scripting in them that didn't actually work right even in Microsoft Office but didn't work at all in OpenOffice. This was over a year or two ago though so they may work now but we've moved away from timecards (again))
posted by substrate at 5:13 AM on February 23, 2004

I don't think I've ever met anyone who actually paid for MS Office. What a novel idea.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:22 AM on February 23, 2004

seanyboy - thanks for the offer... if there are enough impressed people I'll download it next time I make my monthly trip to broadbandland (or just dl it at work I guess).
posted by twine42 at 5:34 AM on February 23, 2004

I've used Open Office for about 6 months, now, and I've had no problems. Although I really just use the word processing features, so YMMV.
posted by bshort at 6:13 AM on February 23, 2004

I used OO.o 1.0 and 1.1 for quite a while at home, where I'd occasionally have to bring Office-format docs home to work with. For that purpose, it worked out pretty well. Lately I've been using KOffice, instead, which is more immature and not a Windows thing at all, but for light-to-medium workload, OO.o is fine for me.

On the other hand, I don't use a fiftieth of the features of either Office or OO, so it's especially easy for me to switch suites. If you're a Real Excel Jockey or do heavy lifting in Word, you'll probably find the free alternatives lacking in features you use every day in Office.
posted by majick at 7:28 AM on February 23, 2004

My colllege bookstore sells office xp for $20 a copy to students, you can only buy one per semester though. I am sure other schools have the same type deal, i am not sure how much you planned to pay but i would have any student relative or friend see if they can get it from their college bookstore.
posted by Recockulous at 7:33 AM on February 23, 2004

The latest version (ie. released these past two weeks) OOo apparently loads much quicker. Keep in mind that MSO has some memory-resident bits that help it load faster, at the cost of system memory. I believe OOo has a similar available feature.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:36 AM on February 23, 2004

A friend of mine I do work with uses Open Office. I use Office XP. Everytime he opens one of my word docs that has any kind of real formatting (tabbed lists, tables) the formatting is destroyed and has to be manually recreated. I can open them and the text is all there, but that's about it.

I'd say if you are just using it for your own documents and don't count on them looking good for Office XP users.
posted by malphigian at 8:47 AM on February 23, 2004

I switched back to MS Office after using OO for a while. Main reason: can't set a custom default currency format. I'm in Chile, where we write prices like so "$0000", and I had to choose either pre-defined US ($0000.00) or pre-defined Chile (CL$0000). Neither was useful. I figured there must be some way to fix something so basic, but gave up after a few weeks.
Apparently, the whole "country code in front of the currency symbol" is considered a feature, as it allows you to interact with people from other countries. Whatever.
posted by signal at 10:08 AM on February 23, 2004

My gf recently picked up an educational copy of MS Office for $170. The version she got was minus PowerPoint and Outlook, and included licenses for 3 computers. Assuming that cost is the main reason to go with OpenOffice, you might want to look into getting a deal on MS Office. It can be had for a lot less than the usual sticker price of $300. Of course, if OpenOffice is free, you might as well try it out first.
posted by scarabic at 11:41 AM on February 23, 2004

Re: twine42 -- I woudn't say OO has "bad dictionary support." I added a Spanish dictionary using the Dictionary Installer tool, and don't have any complaints.

Re: everyone else -- Yes, it's kind of slow. But I haven't tried the latest version yet.
posted by Aaorn at 12:16 PM on February 23, 2004

Signal: why don't you make a non-currency number format, and include the currency symbol in that? I know you can do custom formats for numbers in OO.
posted by deadcowdan at 1:27 PM on February 23, 2004

Another winner for OO here. Very fast too, if you let it use the MS Office quick start up trick (ie: Load the whole program in memory when you boot the computer). First tried it as StarOffice 4.

I use the spreadsheet all the time. It's chock full of formulas, etc. Graphs might not be so nice, but they ARE readable (I *HATE* 3D graphs that are only good for hiding the true stats).

More importantly, no matter where I go, I can always load up my OpenOffice documents and edit them. That's something nobody can say about MS Office, and it's simply a deal breaker to me.

If, for some odd reason, an Office XP user can't read your documents, you can either export them to PDF (built in), or, easier still, just tell them to download the software and install it. It's what they'd tell you if they sent you an Office XP document.
posted by shepd at 2:54 AM on February 24, 2004

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