to MS Office are feature-filled
by Alan Zisman (c) 2002 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #669 August 20, 26, 2002 High Tech Office
Last week, we saw how open
free software was becoming a more credible alternative for many
particularly with the recent release of both the OpenOffice office suite and the Mozilla Web browser.
OpenOffice is derived from the StarOffice
suite, purchased by Sun Microsystems from its German
Sun released its source code for open-source development, resulting in
both free OpenOffice 1.0 and a similar but enhanced edition, released
Sun as StarOffice 6.0.
Both versions have a lot in common: they're available
for a range of operating systems and languages. Both share a word
processor, spreadsheet, presentation module, and graphics editing
module. But neither includes a module
to rival Microsoft Office's Outlook. Both have a look and feel
will be familiar to users of Microsoft Office, and do a reasonably good
of opening saved MS Office documents.
Not perfect mind you: heavily formatted documents may
some massaging and Microsoft Office macros won't work. While documents
be saved in Microsoft formats, these suites would really rather save
documents using a space-saving variation of the Web-standard XML
language, a direction that Microsoft is hinting it will use in its next
edition of Office.
Like many open-source projects, these suites offer
lots of flexibility. But here's a general rule: If you don't know what
an option means, you don't need to change it.
OpenOffice is available as a free download from www.openoffice.org. The
version is 47 MB. Versions for the Linux and Sun Solaris operating
are also available while a Mac OS X version is under development. And
Microsoft's newest Office XP, OpenOffice and StarOffice support Windows
A single copy can be freely distributed on as many computers as
While some earlier versions of StarOffice were free,
version 6.0 is not, though its code remains open source. It adds a
database module and some fonts to the basic OpenOffice feature set, but
importantly, it includes support from Sun. A single copy (US$76) is
to a single user and can be installed on up to five systems. By
Microsoft Office XP Professional sells at retail for $850 and can be
on up to two computers.
(Yes, little known fact: you can legally install that
Office XP -- but not Windows XP -- on both an office and home computer
on both a desktop and notebook system.)
It may be worth it to look at moving to OpenOffice or
StarOffice for business word processing, spreadsheets, and
presentations. Don't let visions
of huge savings be your only consideration, however. Testing is in
to ensure either will be compatible with the documents you use.
(And if you're installing one of these on a system
has Microsoft Office, note that it will want to take over as the
'registered' application for your MS Office documents. You can avoid
this by watching the
options during installation, however.)
Like MS Office, both OpenOffice and StarOffice are
features, most of us will never use. If they meet your tests for
with your saved documents, either the affordable StarOffice or the free
OpenOffice would be capable replacements.
(Is your workplace planning to check out open-source
software? Let me know.)