OpenOffice.org

A computer that is built instead of bought can cost as little as $500, and still be a full featured, highly functional machine.  Software licenses for certain office suite can cost as much or even more than all of the hardware combined.  Of course, one can steal an ISO off the internet or load up a cracked version from a friend, but what if one is building the computers for a business.  Surely there must be a cheaper and more legal way to put a full functioning, Microsoft-compatible office suite on a Windows computer.  Luckily, there is.  Enter OpenOffice.org.

Now I know, that looks like a website I just gave, but it’s actually the URL of the website, the name of the program, and the title of the project.  OpenOffice.org is a powerhouse of an office productivity program that can replace MS Office for most home users.  Add in the popular Mozilla Suite and even MS Office Pro can be replaced. Over the next several weeks, I will be covering, in-depth, the two biggest open source projects for Windows – OpenOffice.org and Mozilla.  But, what is OpenOffice.org?



OOo (as it is called for short) is a program that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, vector graphics editor, database, html editor, math equation component, and presentation mode.  Notice the wording of that sentence.  It’s not a suite that offers 6 programs; it’s a program that offers 6 modes.  It is a format called a works program, (which is where Microsoft Works got its name, but OOo is *much* better than MS Works!).



The four main modes of OOo are Writer (the word processor), Calc (the spreadsheet), Draw (vector graphics), and Impress (presentation).  But with the one-program-different-modes format, a user can open any document that OOo supports from any window of OOo.  It is a much more convenient way to work with multiple documents.

OOo is compatible with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, along with other industry standards, like WordPerfect, AportisDoc, PocketWord, and HTML.  It can even export files to PDF with the click of a button!  (A PDF export feature for Microsoft Office can be as much as $300.)  And it can export graphics or presentations to Flash.  However, the native format for OOo is a great way to save important data.  It usually takes up less room that MS Office documents, and if anything happens where you can no longer open the file, the format is based on XML, which means the file will always be human readable (once unzipped) in any text editor.  This means your data is safe.


Another assurance that your data is secure is the fact that the specs for the OOo native format are open.  This means any programmer can write a filter or a program that will open OOo’s files.  So even if OOo were to disappear, you’d still be able to fully read your documents, format and all.  Try that with some other office programs.

And, since OpenOffice.org is open source itself, there is no reason it should ever disappear.  No company owns OOo, although it is currently hosted by Sun Microsystems.  But the code is freely available for anyone to use, so OOo will always be available.  And it will always be free.



In the coming weeks, I will have more to say about OpenOffice.org, and some of its powerful features, like its use of Styles, Templates, Macros, etc.  But I’d like to mention another great feature of OOo, and that is its cross-platform nature.

OpenOffice.org is truly cross-platform.  That means you can use it on Windows (95 – 2003), Mac OS X, Linux, Solaris, and other operating systems.  This is good news to anyone who has ever worked in a multi-platform environment. Some programs, like Microsoft Office, have editions of their software made for Macintosh, but it’s not the same program, it is completely rewritten for Mac.  This means that there is a learning curve when moving from, say, MS Office 97 on Windows to MS Office 98 on Mac.  This allow means there are potential compatibility programs. This is not true for OOo.  It is written in such a way to allow different “ports” to be made of the same program (the same source code) for each OS it supports.  The features on the Windows port of OOo will be in the same place on the Mac port of OOo or the Linux port….
This can significantly lower the TOC for companies with multi-platform networks.  It also means if you have a friend with OOo on Linux, and you need to do some work on a file you made with your OOo on Windows, you don’t have to ask him were the spell-check is on his program.

OpenOffice.org is not some MS Office knock-off.  It is a program with similar features to MS Office, but it also has features Office doesn’t, like a vector graphics program, built in PDF/Flash export, and support of the OOo file format.  It is compatible with MS Office, like WordPerfect, Lotus SmartSuite, and AppleWorks are.  OOo is a great program that has a ton of features, and I look forward to telling you more about it in the weeks ahead.  And, of course, it is absolutely free. To get your copy of OpenOffice.org, or to learn more about it, visit the website: http://www.openoffice.org/.

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