More and more good software is becoming open source and OpenOffice.org is no exception. OpenOffice is very similar to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint apart from it doesn't cost ?600. OpenOffice is based on Star Office 5.2 distributed by Sun Microsystems, the aim of OpenOffice is to continually develop an office suite that will work on any operating system and is free, unlike Microsoft Office.
I decided to test OpenOffice 1.0.1 on Windows and Linux to see if and how it contended against Microsoft Office. The first thing I tested was how the program installed, the windows installation was very easy, the Linux installation was slightly harder, however this is normally expected in Linux, this may be made easier if more rpm's were available. Overall for installation it was very easy and did not come up with any errors on either Windows 2000 or SuSE 8.
It looks similar to Microsoft Word, and has many of the features MS Word has. It took a while to get used to the new layout and to find where everything was, for instance word count is not just in tools, you have to go file > properties > statistics. Also inserting tables is different but in some ways easier.
There were a few extra features that I thought made OpenOffice better in some ways such as predictive writing, which if you have words that you type often it would automatically put this word up for you, If you didn't want the word you kept typing the word you wanted otherwise if you hit return you got the predicted word. This I found very useful however you had to be careful that you weren't using the same adjectives in the same sentence too often.
This worked very similar to excel and I could do many of the graphs and work that I would normally do in a spreadsheet. It did maybe lack a few of the very advanced features but as I didn't really need these features it didn't bother me. I do not do a lot of work in spreadsheets however I found OpenOffice very easy and nice to use.
The first thing I noticed when starting a presentation was that there were no nice background templates such as you would find in Powerpoint that make your presentation look nice even when the content is ****. The animation was very easy to do and i made a short slide show in very little time at all.
One feature of MS office I didn't miss at all was the paper clip that pops up and does general annoying stuff, this is one thing OpenOffice does without and it does it well! Another handy feature I found was that when I installed OpenOffice for Windows it put an icon in the system tray, I thought originally that it would get in the way but it was actually a really good feature for easy access to work and creating documents.
Another feature I liked was that whether I booted to Windows or Linux I didn't have to worry about getting to know different programs to edit documents, once you had learn't the basics to OpenOffice I could easily carry on with my work where every I was. One feature that I did think needed work on was that of the spell checker, it failed to convert some of my simple mistakes such as changing ?i? to ?I?.
Overall I was surprised at how good OpenOffice is and I would recommend the Windows and Linux version to any home user. For commercial use maybe StarOffice would be a better option for support reasons and at ?30 for a copy its still a lot cheaper then MS Office.
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