Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Three cheers for 3.0

Years ago, when I still worked on PCs, I used keen software called OpenOffice (versions 1 and 2) to write two books. It was (and is) a Microsoft Office semi-clone, but much sleeker and less bloated than Bill Gates' memory-hungry moneymaker has become. OpenOffice's word processor, Write, was the perfect tool for writing books, and it could read and save files in Microsoft Word format for sending to the publisher.

Best of all, OpenOffice is an open-source program, which means its program code is available to anyone who wants to tinker with and improve it, and it is free (except perhaps a donation to the OpenOffice people, if the user likes the software enough). Many national governments -- and many corporations -- have converted to OpenOffice rather than pay large sums to Microsoft.

Then I switched to the Apple platform, mainly because I liked the Lady Friend's sleek, stable Macs better than my clunky, crash-prone, virus-collecting PCs. But using OpenOffice with a Mac was clumsy and not very reliable, because that required using an add-on program called X11, a hacker's dream but a duffer's nightmare. So I bit the bullet and put a legal copy of Microsoft Word 2004 on my Macs.

That was all right, but slow to load and clumsy to operate, even on the Macs. I didn't need 99 per cent of its useless, memory-hogging "features" -- useless for a serious text-oriented writer uninterested in eye-candy hells and thistles.

Now OpenOffice Suite 3.0 is available -- and, praise the Lord, for Mac OS X in a native OS X version. No more X11!

I downloaded it onto my Mac Mini last night and immediately loaded an entire book manuscript written in Microsoft Word into OpenOffice Write. The formatting was perfect, except for a couple of letters on one page, which the spell checker immediately caught. And the loading and execution speed of OpenOffice Write was noticeably faster than that of Word.

Version X.0 of anything is never perfect, but OpenOffice enthusiasts are so quick to make fixes that its teething bugs are likely to be squashed swiftly.

I'll be using Calc, OpenOffice's spreadsheet, as well as Write. It also has a Microsoft PowerPoint clone called Impress, but I'm a fan of Apple's own KeyNote.

There are also drawing, database and mathematics programs in OpenOffice for those who need them. They are likewise compatible with the Microsoft Office versions, though there will be some differences and some anomalies.

Give OpenOffice a try. It won't cost you a nickel.


  1. I wholeheartedly agree. I've been using Open Office for years now and will not use anything else. I just love open source software. I am in the process of upgrading all three of our computers from Windows XP Corp to Ubuntu 8 which is also open source and free to download or order from Ubuntu and they will send you a free disk.

  2. Jeremy, terrific. OpenOffice is well known among technoadepts, but the casual computer user has never heard of it but goes with Word because Microsoft is a familiar name.

    Much like camera buyers going for Nikon and Canon because those companies are huge and market aggressively -- but don't necessarily manufacture the best cameras.

  3. Hey, watch what you say about Nikon!

    P.S. I also use OpenOffice ... mainly 'cuz I'm cheap. Works fine. But I don't love it as I love my Nikon D70!

  4. Hey, Nikons and Canons are fine but Pentaxes are better.

    Pipers are OK but Cessnas rule.

    Real men fly high-wing airplanes, wusses fly low-wing airplanes. (Why did God make birds high-wing?)

    The Twentieth Century Limited beat the Broadway Limited hands down . . .

    And so on.