OpenOffice.. how much longer does it have?

by Dustin Puryear

You know, I’m really starting to wonder about OpenOffice after reading this note from Ed Moltzen. So great, OpenOffice 2.4 is about to be released. That’s.. boring. Who really cares? There just doesn’t seem to be much of a vibe around OpenOffice anymore.

Obviously, the problem here is Google. Without question, Google stole all of OpenOffice’s thunder (well, what thunder there was) with Google Docs.

Personally, I use Microsoft Office 2003 (yes, I’m behind the times). I write a good bit, as a consultant I work with documents internally in our office as well as with clients, and, frankly, Office just works. But if I had to change, I’d just take the plunge and try an online office suite like Google Docs. Why take the effort to jump to OpenOffice just so I can.. well, nothing. What does OpenOffice offer me that would make me want to change? Not much. Google Docs is another story. Everything is “up there” in the Big Network In the Sky. How cool.

I think OpenOffice is going to get more and more marginalized over time. I don’t see how that can’t happen.

P.S. Okay, okay, so OpenOffice gets a mention about how well the overall architecture works and its impact on Microsoft. I'm still not blown away.


2008-03-03 19:34:08
Well, I sure it has a LONG time. For what I need, my version of OO is perfect. I've never had a good experience with MS Word (maybe it's better in a the last few years, but I've yet to hear someone _happy_ they get to use Word). But I don't write books or deal in "paper-land", so my needs are not the same as those that need a billion word processing features (who that is, I still don't know).

I use OpenOffice (or rather NeoOffice in OSX, which is based on the OO source code, though I've donated to both projects) because what little speadsheet using/creating, word processing and powerpoint _viewing_ I do is in no way worth $250 (or whatever Microsoft is charging these days for Office for Mac).

But I drink a different flavor of kool-aid than the Win32 gang (though I do regularly use ALL major OSes), so the fanboys can ignore my comment.

2008-03-03 19:34:28
Um? Boring? Is Microsoft Office really that exciting? You're talking about word processing and spread sheets here. Entertainment has nothing to do with it. You don't like OOo, that's great. I personally find it to be the best of the bunch.

I wasn't aware that I was missing out on so many thrills. OOo isn't going anywhere so long as Linux, Unix, Free BSD, OSX and other OS's exist.

Oh wait. You work for Microsoft.

2008-03-03 19:35:10
Google Docs is great for its niche, but it's light-years behind MS- and Open Office in features. It's not even remotely a drop-in replacement.
2008-03-03 19:38:03
Who really cares?

I dunno, maybe everyone who doesn't want to or can't run Office?

Dumbest blog post ever. I don't know why O'Reilly publishes this nonsense.
2008-03-03 20:27:59
You thoughts might be partially true in the US but no so much in the rest of the world; and in so called "third" world.
Cost of Office upgrade?
How many of you guys can honestly justify every office upgrade? Office 2008 is flashy and all but how people really need this upgrade?

Google Docs are pretty good but I doubt people are ready for online service based programs for writing documents yet. Well, at least not me.

2008-03-03 21:11:27
JT is right, Google Docs is way less featured than OO or Microsoft Office. Google Docs is useful for writing documents on the fly and sharing them over multiple locations/among multiple people, but for anything fancier than coloured text it's not going to cut it. So it's good for keeping notes but I wouldn't try and write a formal report on it. For that you need OO. I haven't used the Google Docs spreadsheet but this is even more true for the presentation/powerpoint app.
2008-03-03 22:28:01
So you don't know why people use Open Office? One word: FREE!!!
2008-03-04 02:22:33
Can't believe that such a useless post makes it to .
2008-03-04 02:34:17
guys before me are right: this is mostly a weak blog post. openoffice is a free alternative for definitely more than 50% of folks of the whole office suite user base, who should not have to shell out ridiculous amounts of money for MS monopoly to create some files in universally accepted formats. google docs will always have two problems: network dependency and privacy issues. both have their positions on the market, they are both very strong in what they do and i hope they will continue existing for ever and ever. until the network chips and word processors are put in the brain, that is *evil laugh*.
Italo Vignoli
2008-03-04 05:41:40
You are obviously free to have your own opinion. In the States the position of OOo is not comparable with Europe, where the open source suite is well over 10% (and maybe even higher in Germany, France and Italy). I know the Italian figures: 2 million downloads in the last 12 months, against 1.4 million licenses of MS Office 2007 (I know that you can't compare downloads with licenses, but you definitely can't minimize 2 million downloads against any figure, including the number of new PCs sold in the country during 2007: 5 million). In comparison with MS Office e OOo, GoogleDocs is nowhere, especially in countries where broadband is still limited to a fraction of the population (see Alfresco Barometer). At the moment, the trend is still upwards, and the numbers double year over year. Will OOo fade over time? Who knows... It would be really nice, though, if you could express more competent opinions than this one.
2008-03-04 05:44:02
>What does OpenOffice offer me that would make me want to change? Not much
For alot of oder MSOffice users, that it exactly the point! It also offers plugins, PDF exports, access when there is no internet, and GPL'ed (Free, unrestricted) access to its source code.

I think it remains very relevant.

2008-03-04 05:59:47
I love OO and use it all the time, but I am wondering when will OO release a web based version of their product? For a long time now we have been needing a "Google Doc" type product that you can install inside of a facility and run yourself. I think if OO did this, then they would draw more people to it, especially if you could get it working inside of other software apps, like Zimbra.
2008-03-04 11:21:59
You're using 2003 because the upgrade to better MS is more hassle and cost than it is worth.
Upgrade to Linux and you can stay current for free.
2008-03-04 11:46:34
Without question, Google stole all of OpenOffice’s thunder (well, what thunder there was) with Google Docs.

Perhaps for you, but there are plenty of uses for OO.o that Google Docs doesn't currently meet. ("Works offline" is a big one.)

Dustin Puryear
2008-03-04 15:21:30
I think the comments about OO having more traction outside of the US makes a lot of sense. This isn't to say that OO isn't important here in the US, but, really, it still has rather limited deployment. That's just the reality. Is this a cultural, financial, or technological thing?
2008-03-04 15:22:43
Sorry to say this but nobody really cares what you think about
You may have forgotten that there are a lot of people who don't run RedmondOS and can't and don't want to use MS Office. If you don't want to switch to that's fine, I mean it's not like if anybody asked you to do it . And wait, don't tell me you work for Microsoft and you use Google Docs because that would just make me laugh my ass off. You are conscious that they keep a copy of everything you type there, right? You know we're talking about Google here...
Dustin Puryear
2008-03-04 15:34:28
Hi Jona-

You are right that nobody has asked me to use OO, but in fact I have used it. Quite a bit actually. However, at some point I had to stop using OO and actually prevent it from being used for sending out client documentation since Word docs often came out.. interesting.

That said, I think that OO itself is just fine. I don't have a problem with it from a technical standpoint.

My real question is whether it will increase or decrease in relevance, and thus my post. At this point, it seems to me that OO is going to eventually begin decreasing in relevance because it's in a very tough niche now. It has Microsoft Office on one side and the growing market for online apps, such as Google Docs, on the other.

If OO is able to leverage its current position and technology to provide a rival for online apps in the near-future, then it will continue to grow. However, as a stand-alone "local" application, OO will become marginalized over time.


One interesting area that OO could see a lot of growth is with Apple.

P.S. No, I don't think Microsoft or Google is stalking me. ;)

2008-03-04 23:29:37
Whats the deal with "Port 25" being on ONLamp again? It went away for a while and now its back? I read this for... LAMP news! Open source at Microsoft has nothing to do with Linux / Apache / MySQL / P languages. I'm especially not interested in comments on an "Open source at Microsoft" blog that express Microsoft opinions about non-Microsoft open source products. Could MS news perhaps be elsewhere?

To keep this from being completely off topic, I use OpenOffice when I need to deal with MS Office files. I don't particularly want to edit my files in a web browser, and maybe I even want to edit them offline! Even if MS Office ran on my computer, it isn't very usable and certainly not worth the asking price. That leaves me with OpenOffice (which is also not worth the asking price of MS Office, but they don't ask that price).

2008-03-05 04:57:45
Yeah this is a dumb post … google docs is kinda ok if you need to share a simple doc with a friend who hopefully has a gmail account. MS Office can suck me, im not spending 250 bucks if I can avoid it. So THAT is why OO is great: its good and its free, as in beer.
2008-03-06 08:23:29
Google Docs stole all of OpenOffice's thunder? Please. Numerous studies indicate Google Docs doesn't even command 1/10th of 1% of the office market. Despite all the static emitted from Google's reality distortion field, Google Docs is hardly a viable office solution, and won't be for years.

OpenOffice hasn't really made an impact because it has nothing to offer that Microsoft Office doesn't already have. And believe it or not, "free" isn't a feature. Users will continue to use the prevailing product until the alternatives are so compelling that the ROI is greater than the pain involved in familiarizing oneself with the competing solution.

2008-03-06 14:56:17
I find it humourous that the author expects _something more_ from OpenOffice over MS Office to make it worth switching. Just doing the same isn't good enough. He doesn't once make mention of the fact that OpenOffice, while simply doing the same job, does it for free. That's a fairly significant thing that people like you may shrug off since you probably get office for free from your company or something, but a very large majority of the world does not get Office for free and so a free office suite that works just as well is a fairly significant value.
2008-03-07 01:27:38
What a silly and preposterous attitude.
I have switched to openoffice while still using windows, years ago, because I was tired to use pirated versions of MSoffice and didn't want to pay for a legit one.
I never looked back. Open office is gorgeous and free.
Apart from the current low quality of google on line solutions, if compared with openoffice, relying on google is asking for troubles whenever you need to work and don't have a connection for your laptop.
2008-03-08 02:59:36
Further down the line, when the network really is ubiquitous, online services probably will be a better option. Solid guarantees of QoS and security are no doubt on their way. But then you have to ask what you're going to be doing with the docs - maybe a dedicated HTML editor would make more sense.

Right now I personally use OpenOffice because it just works - pretty much the same across all the machines I use (for inexplicable reasons I'm now on WinXP, OS X and Ubuntu).

Compatibility with the rest of the world isn't a problem, it supports the main MS formats. Open formats are pretty important too. OpenOffice doesn't cost an arm and a leg, and not being locked into a dependency on a single vendor is desirable.

Big +1 to what others have said about not everyone being in the US.

Aaron Trevena
2008-03-08 06:56:07
Actually, both MS Office and OpenOffice leave me cold - I've been using seperate Applications for Spreadsheets, Word Processing, etc and have been far happier.

Abiword is a very snappy, easy to use, and it feels much more polished than OOo or Office (no clunky errors, bizarre behaviour, messages about "Template.doc" being overwritten, footnotes don't wander between pages on a whim, etc).

Gnumeric also works really rather nicely as a spreadsheet, apparently it lacks "Pivot Table" features, but given that the number of people worldwide who use that feature in Excel would fit in a single London Underground, that's no great loss.

As for presentations, I've tried a dozen tools, and have returned to paper and whiteboard for any professional presentations - much quicker, I can update it on the fly and don't have to worry about cables to projectors, or faffing about just to show some bullet points.

Phil Wilson
2008-03-09 08:51:01
It'll last at least as long as people give presentations at conferences where the wifi is unreliable ;)
2008-03-09 14:53:25
I'll be short:
1. OpenOffice is free. I use it in my company for all desktops and rocks.
2. I use it for 2-3 years by now and I never found a thing i couldn't do with it.
3. OpenOffice works for Windows, Linux and other platforms...which is awesome if you have a heterogeneous enviroment.
2008-03-09 14:53:29
I'll be short:
1. OpenOffice is free. I use it in my company for all desktops and rocks.
2. I use it for 2-3 years by now and I never found a thing i couldn't do with it.
3. OpenOffice works for Windows, Linux and other platforms...which is awesome if you have a heterogeneous enviroment.
Carla Schroder
2008-03-12 18:50:40
Let's not forget that OpenOffice does not hold your data hostage in closed, proprietary formats that change with every release; MS Office still does not natively support ODF even though it has been an ISO standard since 2006, though there are a number of third-party translators that sort of work; OpenOffice is not maintained by a giant illegal monopolist that doesn't care about all the collateral damage caused by their unfettered scorched-earth tactics; OpenOffice runs on multiple operating systems and every version of Windows since 98, while MS Office requires XP or better; Microsoft is proficient at releasing frequent "we heart interoperability!" announcements, without ever actually implementing any; Office depends on that proficient malware capture-and-delivery application supreme, Internet Explorer; and on and on.

Given all the thousands of well-documented flaws in Microsoft's products, all the billions of dollars of damage caused by the Windows-powered World Wide Botnet, and their long and relentless history of aiming to be the dirtiest corporation in existence, I'm rather appalled that anyone with a conscience would support them in any way. (Yeah, BillG is polishing his legacy and buying a stairway to heaven by being a Philanthropist, just like all the robber barons before him.) But even for people who don't care about such issues, dismissing a high-quality office suite like OpenOffice with sighs of it being not exciting enough is kind of weird. I'm bored too- bored with "but I must exchange documents with Word users!" excuses, when .rtf meets the needs of 95% of these, heck, plain text would probably do for half. Oh, another OO strength- excellent document-format converters. How many of those does MS Office have? Besides the ones for older Office versions.

I care very much about having real choices and control of my own stuff- both of those principles are Kryptonite to Microsoft.

Jeff M
2008-03-14 12:18:57
Openoffice, the best alternative for students, families, kids, and business. The price is right and it works great. I use the presentation to show slides at a business. I use Gimp to modify and create pictures. I think this guy is just yanking our chain....
Sam Bull
2008-03-14 14:01:49
What does MSOffice offer that would make me want to pay for it: Not much.

OpenOffice is free software, MSOffice costs money, and does not work natively on my OS.

Based on the MSOffice at college (might be 2003), it doesn't have auto-complete for long words, tables are not as easy to control as in OpenOffice, images are terrible to position, you have to use tabs and spaces to get the image where you want it as opposed to just drag&drop in OpenOffice. It can't export PDF files easily, you have to download some dodgy freeware, which is still not as easy after it's installed.

OOo is just as easy to use as MSOffice (interface seems easier for the MSOffice I use at college), so it's not taking much effort to move to it.

So, why would I want to pay for something that seems to be inferior, does not work on my OS, and is no easier to use than OOo?

And, seeing as Windows market share is going down, people are more likely to be using something that works on their OS's.

2008-03-14 16:16:05
The one thing nobody mentioned is the zillions of small businesses out there that have apps and processes at least partially based on the VBScripting capabilities of MS Office.

Clunky? Yes. Non-portable? Sure.

But they're out there, I've seen them, and they're not going away anytime soon.

S. Neuhaus
2008-03-16 03:54:22
I can only assume this blog post is a flamebait. I would never trust Google with my office documents as long as there is an alternative.
OpenOffice does the job, and does it very well.
Jamie Young
2008-03-24 08:19:31
One thing that has been (mostly) overlooked in this entire debate is the fact that OOo comes pre-installed on virtually EVERY flavor of Linux. I believe strongly that Ubuntu is going to make an incredibly strong push in the upcoming months of this year, specifically in Europe and Asia. It will make a nice, although less dramatic push stateside, however, you can't deny the growing appeal of FOSS. The economy isn't looking too bright ahead, and a lot of companies may start looking to shave bucks off of their server and workstation costs... and Linux is going to be their choice... which ties directly in with OOo... Google Docs is cool... but very limited and basic. It does what it needs to in a pinch, no more. Microsoft will have to address more security related issues faster if it wishes to keep it's dominancy at the current level... and between Mac and Linux... it's not happening.
2008-04-14 05:12:39
Your site is just amazing!
Good luck!
2008-07-07 12:48:44
Am I the only one that thinks it is weird that you want your office suite to be exciting, and something that "blows you away"?

Office suites are supposed to be boring. They are tools.

I thin the biggest advantage, that Open Office has, is that it doesn't cost $700. It also doesn't come with pre-planned obsolescence so you have to pay another $200 to $300 every five years for upgrades.

What surprises me is that Microsoft has managed to placate the entire user population into paying huge costs that work out to at least $100 to $200 per year for some basic office suite tools!

Dustin Puryear
2008-07-10 11:56:59
Hi Tom.

First, a few things. Your quote of "blows you away" seems a tad out of context. I didn't say, or imply, that I was looking for fireworks. I'm simply not blown away. Some software, including good old standby's like productivity suites, can sometimes blow you away. In this case, not so much. :)

As far as cost being a major factor, well, certainly. That plays a very big factor in any decision, especially if you are a business that doesn't even have the option of spending a lot of money, period.

2008-07-22 23:27:10
Google Docs and Open Office each has their own sets of pros and cons. In my case, I'd use GD if I were often online. But how about during those times when I need to write and there's no internet connection? I'm not about to use Notepad or Wordpad. And MS Office's not free. I'll use OO in this case.