by Jason Deraleau

Related link:

I recently set about installing and configuring the X11 Final Beta of the productivity suite. Inspired by the recent release of Apple's X11 package, I downloaded the 160MB image and ran the various installers. Thus far I'm fairly satisfied.

I've been using Microsoft Office for years; since back in the days when Microsoft actually used version numbers to differentiate releases and not years or letters. It's easily the standard for businesses around the world and has been for many years now. Let's face it, MS Office is an excellent product. Since it's such a great product, pretty much every business uses it. Businesses now rely so much on MS Office that they won't even consider shifting to another platform unless it has a version of MS Office available.

While Mac OS X has the advantage of having a port of Microsoft Office (and a better one than the Windows version IMO), it also has the advantage of having access to the wonderful world of open source software. Mac OS X has mastered perching atop this fine line of open v. closed and it's great to see so many software choices. One of these choices is the productivity suite. is an open source project based upon Sun Microsystems' StarOffice. Essentially, it is an office productivity suite with all the usual culprits: a word processor, a spreadsheet program, a presentation app. While not as polished and featureful as Microsoft's offering, OpenOffice includes most of the features you've come to expect from such a suite, with the added advantage of costing, well, nothing.

OpenOffice has been ported to many different platforms, the most recent of which is Mac OS X. The Mac OS X porting team is working on porting the whole suite (which is about 2GB of code resulting in 160MB of binaries) in stages. First up is getting it to run in X11, next will be rendering with Quartz and finally, a full-blown Aqua version. The beta I downloaded recently is the final beta for the X11 version. I've been using it for a couple of weeks and have yet to find any major issues.

OpenOffice was able to open all of my Microsoft Office documents with minimal loss. For example: I first opened up a spreadsheet I keep around which contains my home budget. It has some basic formatting (bolds, cell borders) and formulas (averaging, SUMs). OpenOffice opened the file and rendered it much the same way I'd expect it to in Microsoft's Excel. The next file I checked out was a letter I recently sent out. It again contained some basic formatting (bolds and italics this time), but also contained some bulleting. Here OpenOffice became a bit confused. It could tell it needed to have an unordered list, but it didn't use the exact same graphic that Microsoft's Word did. This was quickly remedied when I chose Numbering/Bullets from the Format menu.

The final document I tested out was the most complex. It's my resume, which was done in Word and contains all kinds of formatting (bolds, italics, underlines, different font points, font faces, bullets, and alignment). I'm happy to report that the only problems I encountered were once again with the bullet graphics. This was quickly fixed the same way as above. Overall I'm quite satisfied with OpenOffice and I recommend it to anyone that either can't afford Microsoft's Office or is perhaps considering it for a corporate deployment. It doesn't have all of the features of Microsoft's suite, so if you're a power Excel user your mileage may vary, but for the average user it has all of the features you're used to.

The X11 Final Beta is not an Aqua application. To use it, you must install an X11 server and then OpenOffice. If you're a novice, this is probably a 4 on the difficulty scale. For experienced users, well, you probably already have an X11 server installed :) You can find instructions for installing Apple's X11 server at the URL listed above. When you go to the download page for's X11 beta, you'll find instructions for making it work with Apple's X11.

Do you or would you use OpenOffice?


2003-01-31 08:39:38
exclusively at home
I use OpenOffice exclusively at home on a Win98 laptop and have had little trouble with file format conversion of functionality. I've got a copy of Office 2000 that I chose to not reinstall after a recent refresh of the hard drive. I'm not missing MS Office at all. I look forwad to the final release for my wife's ibook.

At work, I run both since we've got more complex documents and I don't want there to be ANY issues on the sending or receiving side.

2003-01-31 09:38:13
Missing Filters
As a replacement for MS Office, I find OpenOffice works very well indeed. It needs a filter to read WordPerfect documents, though - thus far I;ve been reduced to reading WordPerfect documents into Word, then reading them into OpenOffice - hardly ideal.
2003-02-01 22:00:04
I'm using it!
First tried a few months ago. It was horribly sloooow running under XDarwin. But after Apple's new X11 was released, I gave it another look. What a difference! It still takes a while to launch, but once it's up and running, the speed is quite decent. It has a ton of features, and I'm already regretting having shelled out for Office v.X. :'(
2003-02-03 07:15:21
My Primary Office Suite
I have both Office XP and OpenOffice 1.0.2 installed on my laptop. I have been using OpenOffice exclusively for the last month and find it easier to use. The thesaurus in OpenOffice Writer is betten than that in Word. Output in HTML is exceptionally clean. My wife has been using Calc for the past few weeks for all her spreadsheet requirements. We are also introducing OpenOffice to a local school, along with K12LTSP ( Great stuff, this open source.
2003-02-03 09:38:19
OpenOffice is very much incompatible with MS Office
The reviewer should have tried to use typical technicla reports or books from MS office in Open Office and vice versa.
They are just not compatible enough to work on a document in both office suites. Header/Footer, Cross references and headings get messed up pretty badly.

I wish it where otherwise ;-(

2003-02-04 14:37:45
OpenOffice is very much incompatible with MS Office
Good thing is free then. Now you can install it on all the machines you work at, including your parent's when you visit them at Christmas but want to keep working on an important project.

Try doing that with Microsoft Office without violating licensing terms or going bankrupt.

2003-03-04 07:51:22
In my opinion, MS Office, like Autocad is used by everybody not because it is good but because they think everybody else uses it and they have to be "Compatible". My personal experience of Word is that it is tempremental. I do like Excel which I think is MS only really good product.

Open source and open standards are the future of software.

If Microsoft do not soon learn to stop making thier own flavour of everything (Java, HTML, Graphics Libraries etc) they will find themselves more and more circumvented by frustrated users.

OpenOffice and Star Office both use XML as their native file format, another incoming standard. I have found with spreadsheets at least that these are about half the size of equivalent MS Excel documents.

At least new releases of open source software focus on bug fixing rather than adding even more "fetures" which the user doesn't need but require more memory, disk space, processor etc.

M.R. Corbett

2003-03-31 00:20:29
OpenOffice is superb.
I have (bundled) Word 2002 on my PC purely to cope with moronic scanner software that only allows scans to Word. I would never have paid the money for Word.

OpenOffice is simple to install, has a minimal learning curve, and does almost all I want it too (but Word doesn't do all I want it to either!). Don't hesitate - get OpenOffice and do something useful with the cash you'll save.
2003-08-10 09:24:15
OpenOffice is superb.
for user perhaps but for developper ?