Practical Technology

for practical people.

OpenOffice is ten years behind MS Office? That’s just fine!


In an interview with Australian online technology newspaper IT Wire, Alan Yates, general manager of business strategy for Microsoft’s information worker group, said that is about where MS-Office was 10 years ago. That is to say, Microsoft seems to think is only good for single-desktop users.

And, that’s a problem because…?

I don’t get it.

I use OO.o ( 2 every day. It works. It has all the features I need. It’s fast. It’s reliable. I can send files from it via email directly from my application. It’s also secure, unlike Office. And, its file format can also be read now and forever-after by any program that uses the ODF (Open Document Format).

Oh, and did I mention that OO.o doesn’t cost a penny, while Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003 lists for $499?

OK, I give up, what’s the problem with OO.o again?

Let’s get real for a minute. There has not been a significant upgrade in Office suite functionality, from anyone, since, oh, Office 97.

In fact, I still have a copy of 97 running on a Windows 98SE system on a wheezy Compaq Presario 4665 with a 300 MHz Intel Pentium MMX processor and 64 MB of RAM. To refresh my memory, I booted it up in my back room.

I played with it for a few minutes, and, you know what? Yates is right. OO.o 2.0 works and looks a lot like Office 97. In other words, it works better than Office 2003.

There’s been no real progress in Office suites for years. That’s for a very good reason. By 1997, they already did what 99 percent of all users want them to do.

As for the “improvements,” you can keep most of them. Menus that won’t show you all your choices until you’ve wasted a few seconds? Obscure features buried in menu systems so deep that you need a pick-axe to find them? You can keep them.

What I think Yates really wants to do, though, isn’t to compare OO.o to Office 2003, which is just the latest Microsoft standalone office suite. No, what I think he really wants to do is to get people thinking in terms of office suites as networked applications.

In short, he wants to start making people believe that they need Microsoft’s upcoming Office Live, which is a suite of Web-based small business applications, and its new Office server offerings such as Microsoft Office Forms Server 2007 and SharePoint Server 2007.

What Microsoft is trying to do with all of these is to get businesses to put all their business applications eggs, including the basic office suite functionality, into one Microsoft network basket.

Of course, once a business takes that step, it’s all over with. They’re going to be stuck with paying Microsoft subscription fees until the end of time.

Microsoft has always been about lock-in. If they can get a company to seal its fate by using interlocking Microsoft applications on both the front- and back-end, it will be almost impossible for them to go to another company’s programs.

No thank you.

I’ll stick with my standalone office suites. So should you.

Even if you’re using Microsoft Office, at least so long as you don’t invest in the backend services or Office 2007, you’ll keep your software freedom. Even if you don’t give a hoot about open-source software, your checkbook will thank you.

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