An alpha release was just announced for Open Office 3. Being an Ubuntu user, Open Office is really the only sane choice I have for an office suite. At work I’m using Microsoft Office 2007. Among the office suite applications, I’m most of a power user for the spreadsheet applications. Here’s my side-by-side comparison of Excel and oOo Calc:
Microsoft Excel 2007 on Windows XP:
- Looks really pretty.
- Loads up quickly.
- Proprietary and expensive.
- Not available for Linux.
OpenOffice Calc 2.4.1 on Ubuntu:
- Feature-rich – has some features that excel does not.
- I can have a sandwich in the time it’s loading.
- Free as in speech, and as in beer too!
- Usability issues, such as inconveniently prompting a dialog box on every delete. (This is logged in their database as bug # 9392. There’s a workaround, but hopefully it will be fixed by default in Open Office 3)
- Autofilter feature is immature compared to Excel, not enough options for filtering.
- It can open a password-protected XLS correctly (prompting me for the password), but it can’t save it back with the password.
- I was going to complain about the UI, but now that I’ve thought better of it, it’s no worse than other GTK/Linux apps.
I asked my mother what she thought of OpenOffice. Where she works, they used to use Microsoft Office before switching to OpenOffice due to licensing issues. She mentioned a few complaints about usability and some printing problems. But at least she’s able to use it in place of Excel. On a tangent, one of the nice effects of the BSA cracking down on pirated software is that there are more companies looking at FOSS alternatives, given the insane licensing fees for Microsoft software.
Hopefully OpenOffice 3 will bring significant improvements to the OpenOffice suite especially in terms of UI and usability. I believe that in terms of features/functionalities it is already close enough to parity that adding more would already be significantly affected by diminishing returns. While open source software have made incredible gains in other areas such as browsers and IM clients (Firefox and Pidgin are awesome), a good and stable office suite would further accelerate its’ acceptance on the desktop market.
Either that, or we just wait for Google docs to overtake Microsoft Office.