% fortune -ae paul murphy

Openoffice vs Microsoft Office

Last week I asked for help understanding the circumstances under which one of these packages is distinctly preferable to the other. As of this morning (June 08) this had drawn 142 comments from which I concluded:

  1. people who preferred Microsoft Office to OpenOffice generally also did one or more of the following:

  • People who wrote against Openoffice usually did so in demonstrable error - on the original mail merge issue, on performance, and on specific functions, most of which OO simply doesn't handle in the same way Microsoft Office does.

  • People who preferred OpenOffice generally argued one of two positions:

    The only obviously unanswerable criticism of OO came from people concerned with inter-operability issues with respect to conversions from OO to Microsoft Office. Lance.e.king, for example, pointed out that work done in Impress doesn't always survive a transition to PowerPoint while other people mentioned similar problems, particularly with respect to embedded imagery, with Writer to Word translations.

    This is a real issue people are afraid of - one you'll hear cited when you suggest people convert their own operations to OpenOffice, but which actually reflects bugs in Microsoft Office and offers the ironic implication that OpenOffice ought to code for those bugs.

    Usage creep is another issue along the same lines: people who've successfully abused Microsoft Office demanding comparable usage "benefits" from OpenOffice - an issue nailed by Storm14k in this comment with respect to the word processor component:

    What a word processor shouldn't do...

    When I start reading about some of the complex things people do with word processors I cringe. I would not trust this type of work or programming to some single file that sitting out on a share probably. If you want a dictionary build a database and web app. Thats too much info to be lost in some .doc file. When I find something like this going on in an organization I immediately suggest a more robust application suited to this purpose. It seems to me a lot of these features that people love about Word shouldn't be in Word or any other word processor. Maybe I can see it for very small companies but good grief. And desktop databases....I'll stop before I get started.

    On balance I came away from the discussion with the impression that the differences in functionality are of minor importance for most people most of the time; that those who spoke against OpenOffice generally did so on the basis of mis-information; and, that most of the arguments for Microsoft Office were in one way or another artifacts of market share rather than technology with people using Office where they shouldn't simply because they have it, or because other people have it.

    (Note: one of the odd things about this discussion is that the people involved pretty much all recognize that there are multiple sides to it; and while I think this makes the conclusions more valuable and trustworthy, it also means that the viewpoint of the real Microsoft bigot - the people who think Linux is some kind of subterranean job threatening fungus - hasn't been heard.)

    Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.