vs NeoOffice: throwdown
July 24, 2007 6:34 AM   Subscribe

Which is better for my shiny new Mac?

I have a new MacBook, and am loathe to put any MS products on it. Still need to do get stuff done though, so which is better for general word processing and spreadsheet work? And which one won't make the recipients of files hate me?
posted by shrieking violet to Technology (29 answers total) is pretty good, but really sucking it up and getting MS Office is the usual thing. Don't be a fanboy.

coming from an unrepentant Mac/Unix nerd
posted by tylermoody at 6:38 AM on July 24, 2007
posted by ReiToei at 6:39 AM on July 24, 2007

yeah, and what tylermoody said re: fanboyism
posted by ReiToei at 6:40 AM on July 24, 2007

NeoOffice is much more 'native' to the Intel Machines. The Open Office verison requires X11.

Now, that being said, I had to install MS office because I was doing some markup/collaboration and needed to guarantee compatibility without any worry. :( I probably could/should have tested it...but that still would have required installing MSoffice. And at that point...

If it's just for .doc files, there are a number of alternatives, check out versiontracker, bean and abiword.

posted by filmgeek at 6:42 AM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm loathe to reward MSFT for keeping its data formats secret. Try NeoOffice first. I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that you need it.

If you then discover can't get along without it, buy MSFT Office.
posted by cmiller at 6:49 AM on July 24, 2007

NeoOffice has always been slow as hell for me. I'd wait until is finally native on OS X (which might well be within the next 12 months) or shell out for MS Office (which is what I did).
posted by macdara at 7:00 AM on July 24, 2007

Put it this way: I wouldn't want to use NeoOffice for any serious work. I haven't used it for a month or two but it's always been pretty buggy. Not crash buggy, but irritating-that-doesn't-work-like-it-should buggy.

A neat solution is to install VMWare Fusion or Parallels, install Windows in a virtual machine, and run the Windows version of Microsoft Office. Both Fusion and Parallels let you use "convergence" modes that display the Windows program as an ordinary program window on your OS X desktop. This also means you don't have to run the slow PowerPC version of Office that's the only one available for Macs right now. It does need a lot of memory, although you might get away with just a 256MB virtual machine setup on a 1GB computer.

When I bought a Mac I had existing Windows and Office licenses, so I just transferred them to my Fusion setup.
posted by long haired lover from liverpool at 7:15 AM on July 24, 2007

I use NeoOffice, and it's fine. Bean for short bits and bobs (i.e. knocking out a snailmail letter), NeoOffice for longer documents, spreadsheets (not presentations though, the presentation tools in both OpenOffice and NeoOffice kind of suck).

NeoOffice is slow to boot though (sometimes needing half a minute or more to get going), so if I'm working on a lot of different things throughout the day, I'll just leave it open.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:15 AM on July 24, 2007

I switched to MS Office after trying to work it out with NeoOffice for months. It crashed constantly.
posted by sugarfish at 7:21 AM on July 24, 2007

NeoOffice is better than since, as was said, OOo requires X11. NeoOffice is slow to start, however. Also, as liverpudlian lover mentioned I wouldn't depend on it for really important work. You'd be surprised how much you can get away with using apps like TextEdit and GoogleDocs. That said, I've been keeping grades on spreadsheets in NeoOffice and haven't had a problem, but I do multiple backups and don't do anything fancy. Once OOo comes out for OS X natively then it will probably be what you want.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:22 AM on July 24, 2007

Oh, and everything I do in NeoOffice I save in MSOffice format so I can use it on different machines. You can set that to be the default.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:23 AM on July 24, 2007

The new version of iWork is due soon. That's rumoured to have a spreadsheet component, in addition to the Pages word processor.

if you're looking for an absolutely Apple-native toolset, it could be worth waiting for.
posted by long haired lover from liverpool at 7:24 AM on July 24, 2007

I would love to not be using MS Office myself, but I couldn't get productive with NeoOffice or AbiWord (another free option).

I have one colleague who is vehemently anti-Microsoft. He works in NeoOffice. And then opens his work in MS Office, tweaks it, and resaves it.
posted by adamrice at 7:43 AM on July 24, 2007

The newest version of Office for the Mac -- which I'm not sure has actually shipped yet, but it will be very soon -- has dropped all macro support, rendering it braindead and useless. I strongly suggest not buying it.

It's obviously a method for Microsoft to say 'we're supporting the Mac!' while actually crippling it... and, note, charging you just as much money, nevermind the fact that the part that makes it Office (the extreme customizability and programmability) isn't there anymore.

The old version is PPC-only, and is awkward on Intel chips. It works, but it's slower and less stable than it should be.

I've only used OpenOffice on the Mac, but it's an X11 program. This does work, but it's not a Mac program at all. It's a Unix program, and this is very obvious. NeoOffice will at least feel more Maclike, and will probably use the system clipboard, but I imagine the font rendering will still be inferior to the OSX native stuff.
posted by Malor at 8:00 AM on July 24, 2007

When I bought my MacBook Pro (to replace my Powerbook G4), I decided not to let MS Office and its occursed auto update programs and bloat tarnish my machine.

I get by with Apple's iWork, actually, which can save slideshows as perfect .ppt files and documents as .docs and open the same (with some occasional finesse). It has the added benefit of being beautiful and typically simple/intuitive.

When I'm hurting for a spreadsheet app (which doesn't come up day-to-day for me), I turn to Google Docs.
posted by coolhappysteve at 8:05 AM on July 24, 2007

If I have to work with other people, I would get Microsoft Office over OpenOffice and equivalents — but a new version ("2008") is coming in 3-4 months that will natively with the new Intel Macs.

Given the cost, I would use OO/Google now and wait to buy the real Office later in the year.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:11 AM on July 24, 2007


Or.. using Google Docs / Writely.
posted by wackybrit at 8:17 AM on July 24, 2007

Office 2008 will drop macro support and is not out yet. if you need macros, Office 08 won't work for you. it will, however, still support AppleScript - just not VBA. OpenOffice has an Aqua port now too - see here - which may work better for you than NeoOffice. there are also a whole bunch of other word processor type deals available too - I used to use Nisus back in the System 7/OS 8 days and it was always pretty nice. dunno about spreadsheets, though - you could always do something like Bean or Nisus for WP tasks and keep around NeoOffice/OO.o for spreadsheets. and, there's always AppleWorks.
posted by mrg at 8:47 AM on July 24, 2007

It would be helpful to know what your requirements are. Do you just need a word processor, or do you need the spreadsheet as well? What about Powerpoint? Do you need to interoperate with other people using advanced MS Office features like annotation and macros?

Really, if you just need a word processor, Pages is really nice, and compatible with 95% of MS Word.
posted by mkultra at 8:53 AM on July 24, 2007

I use OpenOffice and save things as .doc or .pdf and have had no problems, though it's a little sluggish and annoying sometimes.
posted by mdonley at 10:16 AM on July 24, 2007

mkultra, I like Pages, but it's just not very compatible with work documents and such, I've found. Generally, I need to do some light word processing (not such a big deal) and some not-so-light spreadsheet work (a bigger deal).

Sounds like Ooo is at least worth a shot, until the Intel Mac-native Office comes out. We do have a Windows machine in the house, so it's not (total) fanboy or -girl stuff, just a desire to avoid MS on this one if possible. Thanks all!
posted by shrieking violet at 10:42 AM on July 24, 2007

Got a new Macbook, and wanted to avoid pirate apps, so I was determined to do without Office, like you.

Avoid OpenOffice - it feels too weird.

The current version of NeoOffice is fine for the main, basic stuff - which is what 95% of us do 95% of the time. It's progressed majorly since I first tried it about a year ago (maybe it's just that the Macintel manages better); it is somewhat slow-starting - so just leave it open.

I like Pages, but its purpose is a little different, and it also takes some getting used to.

(Next challenge: Life without Photoshop...)
posted by progosk at 11:45 AM on July 24, 2007

iWork is pretty good, but it doesn't hurt to use MS Office on your shiny new Mac. It will make it easier to play well with others.
posted by MythMaker at 3:23 PM on July 24, 2007

I am currently enthralled by Google Docs, and seriously can't recommend it enough. Now that I've incorporated it into my workflow (nearly always with internet connection) it is just the easiest thing to use.

Not great for really complex document creation, but most of us aren't really created complicated docs anyway. Reads/writes .doc files with no problem.

Spreadsheet is pretty great as well, again, for basic stuff.
posted by griffey at 3:42 PM on July 24, 2007

If you have a job in the corporate or academic worlds and use your computer for work, you need MS Office.

I've used Neo and Open. I've also used MS Office since it was first released. There is no comparison either for stability, overall functionality, feature set, or, most importantly, widespread compatibility.

Your computer phones home from all kinds of applications, including Apple OS X. The idea that a Macbook is somehow morally superior if it doesn't have any MSFT apps on it is silly.
posted by spitbull at 5:29 AM on July 25, 2007

I've been using NeoOffice for a while, and it's gotten significantly better over the past year. The most recent few releases have focused on performance. It it critical that you check the patch list every two weeks or so - they update frequently, and the performance fixes are often real.

The OpenOffice aqua port, for now at least, is not usable. I really don't understand why they didn't just adopt NeoOffice and start from there.

The recipients of files may still hate you, unless you convince them all to move to OpenDocument, which they should anyway. It's actually the only way I've found to get pretty decent cross-platform interoperability - i.e.: the Mac version of OpenOffice/NeoOffice will open .odt files produced on the Windows version pretty transparently, while the Mac version of MS Office chokes on Windows .doc files all the time (and vice versa).
posted by Caviar at 7:00 AM on July 25, 2007

Your Mac version of MS Office chokes on windows Office files, Caviar?

I have never, ever had that happen. And I have been using MS Word since it was released. On both Mac and PC platforms.

Seriously, take the perspective that your co-workers (if you work in a professional field other than IT, anyway) will be pissed off at you if you don't send them documents they can open with what their IT department installs on their computers, which is MS Office.
posted by spitbull at 1:08 PM on July 25, 2007

Please remember, everyone, that NeoOffice and OOo are fully capable of saving documents in MS Office format. Mine is set to by default.
posted by monkeymadness at 8:09 PM on July 25, 2007

It's been a while since I used the Mac version of Office. When I did, it wouldn't handle long filenames, which was really irritating. Have they fixed that yet?

I constantly get complaints from people using the Mac version of office that files created in the Windows version don't look right, and I sometime encounter Mac-produced MS Word files that are garbled when opened from Windows. OpenOffice has done a better job with those. I suppose it depends on what features you're using, how complex your documents are, and whether they have anything embedded in them.

NeoOffice and Openoffice can save files in MS Office format, but that's hit and miss, although they get better with each version.

The only solution I've found for any reasonably complicated document is to have everyone use the OpenDocument formats (which they should be anyway, since they're better).

Sun has recently released an ODF plugin for all MS Office 2000, XP, and 2003 that allows Word, Excel, and Powerpoint to read and write ODF files.
posted by Caviar at 9:25 AM on July 27, 2007

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