5 Myths About OpenOffice.org / LibreOffice

Most free software accumulates myths. Most people only know about it second hand (if at all), but few are slowed by the fact that they don't know what they are talking about.

As a large desktop application that is also cross-platform, OpenOffice.org (or should I say LibreOffice?) seems to have attracted more myths than most. Here are the top five that I have kept stumbling across in eight years of advocacy:

OpenOffice.org Can't Be Any Good Because It's Free

Most free software has faced this myth at one time or other. And, to be honest, sometimes it's true, in that some free software compares unfavorably with its proprietary counterparts.

But in OpenOffice.org's case, the myth is far too sweeping.

In the main office applications, the only place where OpenOffice.org lags behind MSO is in the presentation software; Impress remains less able to handle should than PowerPoint. Other software does not come bundled with OpenOffice.org, but often you can download free software to make up the difference -- for instance, you can use Mozilla Thunderbird rather than Outlook.

Overall, in almost every instance where you would use MSO for professional purposes, you can easily substitute OpenOffice.org. I know, because -- unlike most of OpenOffice.org's detractors -- I've used it professionally, even when I was a lone user interacting with an office full of MSO users. Once I learned the software, I never had any difficulties.

OpenOffice.org Is Immature Code

"I'd like to use OpenOffice.org," I often hear, "But I need software I can rely on, so I have to stick with with Microsoft Office."

To anyone like me, who can quote chapter and verse about the instability of MSO, or point out what has been broken for over a decade in it, this comment makes me burst out in a fit of giggles. And this reaction isn't anti-Windows or anti-proprietary prejudice; the information is widely known among power users. If I used Windows or proprietary software, I wouldn't be using MSO.

But, my initial reaction aside, this rationale irks me, because the idea that OpenOffice.org code is new simply isn't true. StarDivision, the office suite that is OpenOffice.org's ultimate answer, released its first component -- the word processor -- twenty-five years ago. Within another four years, the word processor had been joined by the rest of the suite.

Almost certainly, none of this original code remains in current versions. But, if anything, OpenOffice.org's coding challenges are exactly the opposite of what most people assume. Its problems are not adding features, but dealing with legacy code while adding new features and trying to minimize code bloat.

OpenOffice.org Is Just a Microsoft Office Clone

This charge seems part of a double-bind. If OpenOffice.org does not offer features comparable to MSO, or include features that MSO can easily import, then it cannot offer an alternative. MSO is, after all, the world's most popular office suite. Yet, when OpenOffice.org tries to retain compatibility, it is dismissed as a clone. Whichever path of development it chooses, OpenOffice.org can't win.

At any rate, the myth just isn't true. Although always concerned with MSO compatibility, OpenOffice.org has never simply imitated MSO. A handful of its spreadsheet functions have no equivalent in Excel. Nor has OpenOffice.org succumbed to replacing menus and toolbars with a ribbon interface like the one that MSO users are still complaining about several years after it was introduced.

Even more importantly, advanced use of OpenOffice.org depends on the use of styles to a degree that MSO does not. That is especially so in Write, which has five different types of styles where MS Word has only two, but is true of all OpenOffice.org's applications. By contrast, MSO seems to favor manual formatting over styles. For experts especially, OpenOffice.org is the office suite of choice.

OpenOffice.org Lacks Certain Features

Occasionally, this accusation may be true -- but not so often that I can remember a particular instance. Almost inevitably, when someone asserts this claim, it means that they have not spent enough time familiarizing themselves with the interface. They haven't noticed that the feature is in a different menu, or goes by a different name. Sometimes, the allegedly missing feature is one that is not enabled by default, but is one that you can quickly add by creating a macro or customized keyboard shortcut.

I also have to add that the same people who make this claim never seem to know OpenOffice.org well enough to mention the fact that there are some features -- such as page styles or a completely customizable table of contents -- that OpenOffice.org can boast but that MSO completely lacks.

OpenOffice.org Is a Second Choice

Mainstream reviews often start with the assumption that OpenOffice.org is a poor choice compared to MS Office -- that nobody would use it if they could afford to spend money on software.

This assumption ignores the philosophical and political concepts of freedom that makes OpenOffice.org the preferred alternative for some of us.

But, as an analysis, it is incomplete. If you take the time to learn how to use OpenOffice.org, then you quickly find that, in general, it compares very favorably. To be exact, I would say that OpenOffice.org's Impress is inferior to PowerPoint, largely because of its limited capacity to coordinate sound in presentations, while the spreadsheet Calc is roughly equal to Excel in features, capacity, and stability.

However, it is in word processing that OpenOffice.org really outperforms MSO. OpenOffice.org's Writer is as much an intermediate desktop publisher as a word processor, and (as I know from personal experience) can handle 700 page documents full of graphics while MS Word chokes on anything more than 30 pages unless you take extraordinary precautions -- and, even then, you better have regular backups in case of corruption. By contrast, OpenOffice.org is a plausible substitute for FrameMaker -- and you don't get more sophisticated in word processors than that.

Admittedly, OpenOffice.org does not come with some of the extras that MSO includes. But, browsing through the repositories, you can usually find equivalents, starting with Mozilla Thunderbird as a replacement for Outlook.

In short, in some ways it's true that OpenOffice.org does not compare with MSO. But in just as many ways, it's as good or better.

Assigning the Blame

Probably the most irritating aspect of such myths is that they have dogged OpenOffice.org from the first. Yet even in the 1.0 release, first made eight years ago, I could have debunked them in much the same terms as I've done here. The main difference that the intervening years have made is that my answers have become even truer than they were eight years ago.

I suspect that most of these myths are not reasons for avoiding OpenOffice.org, but excuses for laziness. When you have to pay for your software, you are more cautious about changing it than when you can download two or three alternatives in a matter of moments without paying anything. Too often, the perpetrators of these myths are laying the blame on the software when they should actually be blaming their own fear of change instead.

Despite such myths, OpenOffice.org remains a valid alternative for almost everyone -- and whatever Oracle or LibreOffice chooses to do, that is going to remain at least as true in the future as it is now.

[Over the last six years, I have covered most aspects of OpenOffice.org for Linux Journal. In fact, several people have told me that they have arranged my columns to create their own manual. However, while I could squeeze out a few more articles by going into detail about the functions in Calc, I've rapidly running out of ideas for new columns.

I will probably return to OpenOffice.org from time to time, but, starting next month, I'll be writing introductory articles to other major desktop applications instead.]


-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)


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Overlooked fundamentals

Lewis Smith's picture

Having read through this topic, I am struck by the lack of understanding of a couple of fundamental points.
It is well known that the great majority of users of office suites use very few of their capabilities: 10% perhaps, or less. Even power users probably get nowhere near. When users winge that (say) OO does not do a particular thing that MSO does, they are usually hooked on a trivial feature. In this context, it is fatuous to say that MSO does more than OO: at a clinical 'features-list' level, perhaps. But does it actually matter? Hardly ever, because incompatible or missing featurea are typically on the fringe. The capability of OO (ditto MSO) far outstretches that of most users.
Much talk about not being able to interchange documents between OO/MSO. In real life, such interchange is nearly always *read-only*: you write something, you send it to colleagues, either just to read, or for comment. It is rare for such colleagues to need write access: document multi-authoring. You may want their comments, but you do *not* want them directly editing *your* document. The most common expression of computer ignorance is people who send others proprietary-fornat files just to read - the huge majority case. In this context, document interchange should be neutral - typically PDF. People who do otherwise & complain about incompatibilities are actually creating the problem.

Lewis Smith

Open Office Writer

Tess Elliott's picture

At the suggestion of my brother, I started using Open Office after years of using Microsoft Word. It became part of the office suite, and I refused to buy the whole package just to keep upgrades to Word. I have to say, that while I had to unlearn a few things, I really do like Open Office and use it all the time. It will save in any format, and has excellent desktop publishing tools. I believe in open source software because there must be something for those struggling in this economy. It is a good program, and I have yet to use all its tools. I would recommend it for anyone!

OpenOffice Ambivalence

Big's picture

I'm OpenOffice fan till now I cann't strongly recommend OpenOffice.org to my colleagues. Today, the evidences are the followings: very slow to start the program at the beginning, always having red color underlining every words when copy and paste from the Internet, given that there will be missing zero when useing Find and Replace, given that has been the same with amazing AutoFilter of it almost 8 years ago happened in .calc, the problems when you use transferring data between writer/impress. The above are the solutions that was from blackbox test by our country developers published in IT magazine more than a few months ago. Would you response positively?

OpenOffice ambivalence

Big's picture

I am OpenOffice.org fan but I could not strongly introduce my younger colleages, also my friends to use OpenOffice.org. The reasons are that nobody dare to insist they have got the same problems in details, perhaps they did not known yet, e.g., very slow openning of the program. always underlining with red after copy and paste (.writer)from the Internet, given some problems when use copy/paste between writer/calc and impress and things that not user friendly according to the original designs, missing zero when use writer in function of Find and Replace, given almost eight years of amazing AuoFilter, and etc. This was in a magazine in my country , more than a few months ago, they found that after blackbox test it was 21 bugs, including not established bugs as the bugs' criteria, that were something similar to some what I had also got during my first beginning(3-5 years ago) til now with OpenOffice.
big, 5-11-2010; 13.04pm.

OpenOffice does not replicate MS Office error

Anonymous's picture

OpenOffice can never be completely compatible with Microsoft Office, because to do so it would have to copy Microsoft's errors. For example, Microsoft Excel considers 1900 to be a leap year, and all days of the week prior to March 1900 are incorrect. They state that 'Because most users do not use dates before March 1, 1900, this problem is rare.'

(See http://support.microsoft.com/kb/214326)

The OpenOffice team do not think it is appropriate for their spreadsheet program, Calc, to deliberately give incorrect answers merely for the sake of 'compatibility'. Calc calculates days of the week correctly, with 1900 being a non-leap year, and this aspect is therefore incompatible with Microsoft Excel.

OOO replaced Word

Jerry G's picture

I installed Ooo with desktop icons for a couple users. I changed the label on the Icon to "WORD", changed the default to save as *.doc and for over a year they think they are using word without any compatibility issues in a small office setting.

Ha! That IS funny! I have

Hunkah's picture

Ha! That IS funny! I have done similar things, but I usually tell them.

That is hilarious and

Webmistress's picture

That is hilarious and AWESOME!

Katherine Druckman is webmistress at LinuxJournal.com. You might find her on Twitter or at the Southwest Drupal Summit

"...for instance, you can use

Anonymous's picture

"...for instance, you can use Mozilla Thunderbird rather than Outlook..." -
I can't take this author seriously after that.

Outlook vs Thunderbird

Elmar's picture

I started with the the IBM word processors when such things were dedicated hardware/software. Then used Wordstar for quite long time. Then WordPerfect. Finally, MS Word. This mainly because the MS suite became the standard in most of my customers and compatibility in those days was atrocious. I see and worked with the migrations from DOS 1.0, through to Win 1.0 (all were simply interesting experiments until WFW 3.11). And I am now on Win7. I do not believe I missed a single iteration of MS OS, and all Office since I switched from WordPerfect / Lotus / Freelance.

Outlook came as a matter of course and I cannot remember when I first started using that. Prior to that (and concurrently) I used to to do my personal stuff on a PALM PIM.

Whilst using Open stuff regularly (Win versions), last year (2009) I decided to make the switch to Ubuntu.

Struggle at first, (I am also an old dog - 58 next year) but am getting the hang of it.

I have hundreds of templates and some significant VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) stuff (whilst I was a techie these days I have very little time to indulge being mainly involved in managing large change and systems projects and other stuff) so I still spend a lot of my time in Virtualbox / MSO.

My non-client PIM is Thunderbird (I used KDE Kontact for a while, but found that using the KDE tools in a Gnome environment too disruptive so switched to Thunderbird. But I absolutely loved the level to which you can customise Kontact and miss that. Problem is I dislike the garishness of the KDE interface and prefer the subtlety of Gnome - interface should be background, not dominate - the tool's purpose is what it is used for, not the tool itself. Indicates a child/adult maturity problem.)

So now to Outlook. I cannot get rid of it, because I have emails stretching back to the 90's.

I dislike the Ribbon intensely. Firstly because it wastes work space. Secondly because it cannot be modified easily. Thirdly, because it moved stuff around so radically from the toolbar approach. Fourthly, I dislike being forced to work a certain way (an inanimate tool should not dictate to a sensible creature.) Fifthly, because there currently is no consistency between the ribbons / toolbars in the different MSO 2007 tools - case in point Outlook / Project vs. Word / Excel. And I could go on.

My biggest issue with MS came when I started migrating from MS. Then I discovered the implications (what appears to be a lock-in strategy) of MS: importing stuff into MS is well supported. But try to get it out... now that is another matter entirely. This is due to the proprietary file formats that MS insists on using. (Thankfully governments - God bless them - have forced MS to move to more open formats - as a grudging concession, I thought that *data* was always owned by the user.)

Initially, there were things that irritated in TB (which is why I used Kontact for a while), but I have since found ways to overcome most of them (these are typically related to working home / roaming / office with firewalls, proxies and all that).

And I love the way that addins / extensions work. I tried some of these things in Outlook, but usually gave up - which brings me to another thing I hate about MSO: whilst the mainline stuff works exceptionally well, unless a feature is used by most of MSO's millions of users, very little attention seems to be paid to it - typical of software which is controlled by managers whose primary focus is the bottom line (which always means money) and have very little technical knowledge themselves.

Is MSO good? Of course it is - maybe not as good as the $100millions and large number of dedicated developers c/should make it. (Add to that the beta approach that MS has adopted.) But it is slick, glitzy, expensive and bloated. So it should be.

Bottom line: how sure are you that you will still be able to get at your Outlook objects in 10 years time unless you have regularly updated and migrated your software and data regularly? I can tell you: none at all.

I cannot even open MS Project files I created in 1999. (Searches inform me helpfully that I must install MS Project 2000 or 2003, open those files then save them again in that format. Nice.)

Since we are talking of bottom line: my first true laptop (not luggable) was a Toshiba T1200 (I still have it and it still boots up). It had a 20MB disk and 1MB memory. Now, I suspect you know what I need to run MSO.

Of course, I would not be able to run OOo on the T1200. But, since the almighty bottom line seems to be all about money, I am puzzled that companies even contemplate MSO over OOo (or equivalents). Seems to em to be counterintuitive. I suspect it is because our overpaid and mighty masters are too scared to make such decisions because of the irrational responses of good, passionate people who say <"...for instance, you can use Mozilla Thunderbird rather than Outlook..." -
I can't take this author seriously after that.> in such an arbitrary dismissive fashion. and do that anonymously.

I can't take you seriously

repunante's picture

I can't take you seriously after that.

Mail Client speed and stability - Outlook no thanks.

tbird_fan's picture

I can well believe it. I used Outlook, but gave up because once a month at
least it would choke on some obscure spam message, and I had to call my
hosting company to get them to delete it from my queue.

Since moving to Thunderbird, I have no such problems.

Thunderbird is fast anyway, but switching off the indexing in Thunderbird speeds
it up further. Can you switch off indexing in Outlook? or stop it trying to parse Html junk?

My company is thinking of switching to Linux desktops next year, and I have been involved in the preparations. Seems that for those who really must have a Calendar in with their Mail client, then Evolution is a well developed stable option that we will offer also.

Outlook alternative

dyffdd's picture

If you install the Lightning add-on to Thunderbird, you will have a replacement for Outlook.

Myths are true

Anonymous's picture

I find it ironic that at least 2 of this proposed myths are actually true

RE: MS close. By no means could anyone suggest that openoffice is any sort of clone to word. It is certainly true that openoffice handles some things well (general stability, lists, etc) it lacks many key functions that work has had for 10 years (master/slave documents, native embedding of a decent graphics product, rich bookmarking, etc). If one is doing a 10 page paper for english class, the openoffice is fine. However, if anybody is doing anything remote professional (draw is down right silly) then one really needs a decent office suite.

RE: Features. Some cited above. The single most glaring short comings are: Draw...cant dither no better than sprites 20 years ago and no isometric abilities what so ever. Writer...in addition to the above, decent bookmark constructs and decent ability to embed its own spreadsheets.

FYI...I am NOT a MS employee or even an MS fan (OO docs are more stable even though the suite has its stability issues...cant load because of memory issues, it just sits there...so have to reboot). I have to use OO because of a corporate mandate.

Professional documents by now 100 million installs (OpenOffice)

graphic_what's picture

Dear Anonymous, I think your spellchecker is substandard...please redo in your favourite word processor and resubmit.

The point in the article was
"Myth: OpenOffice.org Is Just a Microsoft Office Clone "
You quote it as "RE: MS close" and then proceed to argue a set of points completely unrelated to that mentioned in the Myth section concerned.

"FYI...I am NOT a MS employee"
I believe you, but you do seem awfully hung up on the draw features in Word versus what is available in OpenOffice.
These are not something I have used in any business document. When I need a professional looking graphic, I usually get one of the staff to knock something up in a graphic design package. I paid for their time to train to use the package, and the results they produce are far superior to anything I have seen in inbuilt draw packages.

Navigator - essential? I hardly new it was there until recently

Anonymous's picture

Sebt makes some reasonable points, however I think the Navigator thing is a little overplayed.

I have used OpenOffice for 7 years and just the other day used the Navigator for the *first* time ( http://is.gd/gxk5h )

Before that in healthcare I worked on hundreds of documents, before Word even had an outliner view.

My point is that having a Word Processor that does not include a natty little feature like 'outliner', does not stop people producing good quality documents.

We all use our computers differently, and whilst we personally might think one feature is absolutely essential, the truth is that it is probably very unessential to many others.

On the subject of just adding 'outliner' to LibreOffice / OpenOffice; as a FOSS advocate, you probably need no reminding about patents and software patents in particular. The whole reason that the user interface of Office was changed to Ribbons and all that nonsense, is because it was difficult to patent menu interactions. Now that the Office (with an outliner) has a very specific and individual look and feel, it is much easier to protect with patents. Your suggestion that an Open Source Office suite just wholescale copy some feature, is unrealistic, and inviting a patent complaint.

To anonymous who talked about "College Students and OpenOffice" and his daughter:
Most good quality Universities use Unix and Linux in research, and are pretty clued up about Postscript (.ps) and .pdf file formats.

I completed my entire degree with OpenOffice and never had an issue, as when output is printed, the results from free Office suites easily match that which can be produced otherwise.

For the one first year module, where an electronic project document was required, I simply asked the tutor on day 1 if pdf was okay for the final submission. He said that was great.
OpenOffice: File->Export as pdf
and you are done :)


Full link to the Navigator article:
LibreOffice / OpenOffice and repeating without 'cut paste'

XML formatting

Anonymous's picture

My working environment doesn't allow me to use OO, so I use xml,xslt,xsl-fo to remedy my feeling of loss. I do hate MSO, they sometimes just freeze other applications.

LibreOffice and OpenOffice

chiongbian's picture

mabuhay :)
i am a foss advocate, having understood the philosophy and the values it fights for. i refrain from entertaining MSO troubleshooting requests but instead push for the installation of OO. with version 3.0, i can vouch for the superiority of OO/LO over MSO. i've been using it since 2004 and until now, i have no regrets for converting my laptop into a pure linux box - running only pure foss applications. my only concern now is how to be more productive with the powerful applications that i have in my box, something i never thought of during my microsoft days.

God bless to all.

Another Major Bug In OO.org

Andrew_C's picture

Until recently, OO.org lacked proper support for PS Outline OTF fonts under Unix and Linux. Seeing as many OTDF fonts are of this sort, this was a major problem to many users (including me). 3.0 started to address the issue. 3.2 supports most and apparently 3.3 has (almost) complete support. There still remain other issues with display and printing of OTF fonts, particularly East Asian ones.

This issue was first reported in 2000. As far as I can see, it could have been avoided if OO.org just used the system font libraries, like every other X11 program (and like it does in Windows).

I also have several simple Excel spreadsheets (without macros) that Calc is incapable of displaying properly. KCalc and Gnumeric have no problem displaying them.

College Students and OpenOffice

Anonymous's picture

Alot of people come to me when their son/daughter are starting college and tell me that one of the "requirements" they have to have before starting is Microsoft Office. Every chance I get I try to point them in the direction of OpenOffice making sure to tell them to make sure and set the software is set to save in the Microsoft Office format for documents and spreadsheets so it will be "compatible" with what their instructors are looking for. After a follow up with most of these people I found out that they went ahead and shelled out the cash for Microsoft Office anyway.

I most recently ran into this when my girlfriend started college online a week or so ago. I tried my best to keep her from doing it but since Microsoft Office was a "requirement" she went out and purchased the $120+ software because she was scared that the instructors would notice a difference and it would affect her grades.

Everyone remember the story a couple of years ago where the college girl purchased the laptop with Linux on it and claimed she could not do her school work with it? This is the same thing and I find it very irritating especially when I try to show people all the advantages of open source software. Hopefully all of you feel the same way as I do.

fear of change and such

Val's picture

My old (high)school is a good example for that. All student PCs were running Win3.1 and only few ”media-PCs” were running Win95 when they even had the license for WinXp. The informatics course consisted of hacking text into word and how to safe it. Only later we were allowed to learn about a few possibilities of pascal using chosen features of Delphi3 (our teacher failed at object oriented programming), but at least we were allowed to use WinXp. Anything but MS-products were evil and Macs were only for freaks who like to swim against the stream. (That was about 6 years ago and that teacher is still working — but I heard, there are a few new teachers in that department by now)
All school-friends to whom I still got contact refuse to change because of the work and difficulties they imagine to encounter which would make it impossible to use their PCs for even the easiest task. They also refuse to try free software for above stated myths. (also those who have to work with linux and OO at university —strange)

I'm glad that we dismissed Windows and co. years ago and even got our parents to switch OS (the ”help, it's broken” calls decreased rapidly — all they use is OO and something to check their mail).
SO people who first got into contact with computers about 10 years ago and used MSO for years had no problems switching and find OO a lot easier to use.

”we paid the license - now we cannot use anything else” was the motto at my school, and most of it's students later on as well — the MS-indoctrination worked.

I think such prejudices that are taught as truths make a non-negligible reason why those myths are still so popular.

OOoh yeah ....

Linux 24/7's picture

Well sure OOo is in many (most) ways better and more advanced than MSO, and also a lot more stable. I have been working deeply with the advanced features in Calc and surely it can do the job very well, BUT the documentations really lack very much behind. If open source wants to be taken seriously by a broader public then the programmers should take the documentations A LOT more seriously.

And about that the article says:

"By contrast, OpenOffice.org is a plausible substitute for FrameMaker -- and you don't get more sophisticated in word processors than that."

Well, the very best word processor at least for technical documents is still by far LaTeX. I haven't seen anything in any other office suite, that can do nearly as much as what you can do with LaTeX. Also it is easy to use when you have learned it...


Anonymous's picture

I've found mailmerge to be clumsy on OO. True, it's clumsy in MSO -- but worse in OO.

MSO Features Lacking

G Johnson's picture

1) Discoverable features. The ribbon interface is painful to use, and makes it very difficult to find the functions I am looking for. One good example: Take a section of highlighted text, and change the case on it (all upper, all lower, initial caps, etc.)

2) First class treatment of styles. Defining styles helps me keep documents consistent and allows me to change large section consistently. MSO still does not make it reasonable to use them.

3) PDF integration. Yes, MSO can finally make PDF's, but it still lacks full integration with PDF.

4) Documented file formats. The file formats used by MSO are still not described by a useful document. Even if they were, it doesn't follow the documented formats anyway, and there are things like "Use Office 95" that are not described in enough detail to make them possible to implement. This makes writing tools to do automated processing of files nearly impossible.

MSO incompatibility is also a muth

hypertex's picture

Several comments mention incompatibility as a problem. I think this is also a myth based on my experience. I've used OOo in an office full of Word users. Not one person ever noticed. The integration was seamless--there were no formatting issues or anything like that.

I think that people who see compatibility problems have those problems because they don't know how to use a word processor. It's all about the styles feature that most word processors have. If you simply use that feature and rid your document of the 'default' style, then compatibility problems disappear. The default parameters are often user specific, thus a default style could be different even among two different users of the same word processor.

The bottom line is that if you know how to use a word processor correctly, you won't have any problems with compatibility.

oOoffice yes!

Geoff Paxton's picture

I was writing a book. I was using someone else's computer to create their web site. They had Windows Vista dog! and MSO. I transported my book file, in doc format, (2Mb) and opened it, and the system bombed. I installed Openoffice.org, and could work happily on the document (under windows) with the same hardware configuration. Which shows that MSO is heavy on resources.
I no longer use MSO at all - just as I avid dog-poo on the streets.

well maybe... but

comment's picture

I've been convinced that OOo is great until I found the documents it creates are not at all compatible with MS office. What I mean by this is that a nicely arranged article written in the OOo word processor will almost always get screwed up when I open it in MS Office (mis-arranged texts, etc). That's why when I want to share a document with others who use MS Office, I'd avoid using OOo.
OOo is by itself great, but the sad fact is when millions of people use MS Office, you have to be compatible with MS Office documents. Software freedom / Open source should not be an excuse for a lack of functionality/user-friendness/compatibility, otherwise, not too many people would bother to use.

you just have to...

comment's picture

Maybe OOo is able to keep 95% of the document format unchanged when it's opened in MSO, but the remaining 5% is what keeps annoying me. I certainly can export documents as pdf, but that means people won't be able to edit it. And there are times when the only accepted format is .doc, so to make sure things go alright I'll have to go to Windows to check it out. Well, that means using MSO and Windows again.

Why is all these? Well, it's because people around me use MSO and some of them don't even know what Linux is. They just have no idea what to make of a .odt file.

you = fail?

Anonymous's picture

You must be doing something wrong, because I've been using Open Office for 2 years and have never had an issue with someone using MS Office opening my files. In fact, I've reformatted MSO files that coworkers could not open up because they had an older version of MS Office.

you = fail = not-fail

Anonymous's picture

I would love to use OO as my main word processor, but I, too, find that many documents are incompatible when opened by MSO. My resume for example, correctly displays the two-column section on OO, but when opened in MSO, the two-column section is shown as one column, messing up the rest of the document.

This may be fixable, but if it is, it certainly isn't obvious...

Another situation I encountered was a collaborative process in which I HAD to use MSO's change-tracking system, which I could not get to function in OO.

Too bad, cuz I like the concept of open source, and I like OO in general, but I simply haven't yet been able to do away with MSO.

...the problem is usually the proprietary file format

cbemerine's picture

I too have experienced differences between a Word formatted and Writer formatted document. Most of the time the fault is that of a proprietary format not OOo Writer.

If in doubt, I save a copy in either .pdf or .doc format. I remember two different public organizations that had to waste tax revenue on reformatting old Word documents to the NEW Word format. Heck they do it to themselves.

In that situation the only correct response is to acknowledge the root cause of the waste of resources, the proprietary data format...the proprietary company, and insulate yourself from that ever happening again.

You insulate yourself by moving your organization to open document formats and if the proprietary software product is not compatible you stop using it.

Keep it simple. No point in throwing good money after bad....Thanks to OpenOffice.org Writer, now LibreOffice this scenario should NEVER happen again. If it does than the IT shop was not allowed to do their job to mitigate the business risk and prevent it...that too is not their fault now is it...

MSo Issue too

G Johnson's picture

I have the same issue with MSO, whether it is because I am using a different version (2k3 vs XP) or even just a different video card driver. If you really want the layout to stay exactly the same, use OOo only, or make it an image or PDF.


Eddie Gear's picture

Its nice to see miths being debunked. However, One who is used to Microsoft Office, will think before they change apps.

I'd say the opposite

Anonymous's picture

Generally speaking, someone who is used to Microsoft Office won't think. They simply won't change apps.

That's sort of the big point here. People get used to Microsoft software and refuse to consider other possibilities, even when the alternatives offer a better experience and offer it for free.

While I would rather use

Anonymous's picture

While I would rather use OpenOffice than MSO, other people at work all work on Windows systems. I work on Linux.

OpenOffice has 1 major down fall that prevents me from using it all of the time an that down fall is Macros.

Macros and VBA written in MSO will not work in OpenOffice and vise versa.

I have spent hours writing code in OpenOffice, then sending my excel sheet to MSO users and it just does not work.

So, I rewrite the code in MSO but now I cannot use it on OO. Solution, I have to use VMware, Windows, and MSO just so I can use my spreadsheet.

So until OO is compatible with VBA, then I just have to stick with MSO.

Re: Have you heard of OxygenOffice

Anonymous's picture

I hate necroposting, but you'd think you've heard of OxygenOffice, which comes with a VBA plugin by default. Research fail.

Luddites from Mars....

Joe Beets's picture

without question the most pleasant to use office suite i've ever used is Appleworks. I have a lot of documents, especially drawings as well as texts, that I shall likely lose since it's been given a Viking Funeral and nothing else seems to be able to read the files and exporting is no more efficacious. True, it doesn't do everything, but then neither does MSO or OO.o or even FrameMaker. But what it did, it did pretty well and aside from the occassional weirdness (no doubt caused by MacOS X oozing out from under it), it served me well for a very long time and I miss it.

One big question I have about OO.o is "whither Java on the Mac"? If, in fact, Java is "deprecated" on the Mac, what happens to OO.o on the Mac? I'm afraid that would be a serious injury even if it avoids a killing blow. I have both OO.o and the pale-blue-green "native" version of same on my Mac, and so far I've avoided MSO on this machine, but how much longer will that work? For me, the cross-platform nature of OO.o is a very important feature since I cannot always control the OS environment in which I must work. Having OO.o as a "known quantity" on every platform I see regularly is a big plus.

OSX version of OpenOffice.org

Anonymous's picture

OpenOffice.org does not rely on Java on any platform. It is entirely optional. Extensions to OpenOffice.org are most convenient to write in Java (although it is also possible in other languages), because it offers the best crossplatform development. And Java is not dead on OSX. It will simply be supplied by Oracle instead of Apple.

Oracle and Java?

Anonymous's picture

You've never dealt with Oracle have you. What was once free you must now pay a yearly license fee. And look what happened to OpenSolaris.

Typewrittin value

efekare's picture

Dear Borg, I cannot think of that day come to no one want to look and see if this thoughts are gonna really important to be written down? What is the point to drawing or hitting letters is so important for that and need so much assistant like any suites to do such highly lazy act in valued times.

A long term OOo user, I'm about ready to give up on it

Anonymous's picture

I've been using variations of OpenOffice since before it was OpenOffice, but am finding its minor incompatibilities with Word, mainly, and misbehaviors when tracking changes in long documents simply too much inconcenience to bear when living in a Microsoft environment. Fonts, formatting, image positions, comments - these things get changed, moved around, deleted when switching between Word and OO.o. Since I'm the only OO.o user, the solution to re-gaining compatibility is obvious, although distatesful. I no longer feel like I have a viable choice.

Today, I managed to get OO.o in a state where it could no longer save my work. AT ALL. I cut and pasted it into a new document and saved it, but some of my figures disappeared and some formatting changed. I'm not sure Word is any better, but allowing yourself to get into a state where you can't save what's on the screen is unacceptable.

So re-install, sir. Isn't

Anonymous's picture

So re-install, sir. Isn't that a good idea?


Bill Moseley's picture

OpenOffice still isn't very good. Even if all the things you say are myths, it still has a very poor user interface (like menues that pop up over where I'm trying to work), it's still slow, it's compatibility with MS Office still sucks. I don't like MS Office. I'd love to use Open Office where I work, but it is so unpleasant to use that I always go back to MS office. In my opinion, the worst part of most Linux distros is that they include Open Office. It's shortcomings are the primary reason I can't replace Windows with Linux completely.

Hopefully, the new LibreOffice will jumpstart development and improve OO at a more rapid pace.

You have that at least a

Anonymous's picture

You have that at least a little bit backwards. MS Office has a very poor user interface (I'm constantly battling with menus popping up over the text/cells/textboxes, which never happens in OpenOffice), it's even slower than it used to be, and the compatibility with all other software sucks. Pretty much anything else uses .odt and .ods files by default, but MS Office only recently added the option to open those files and it still doesn't always import them correctly.

On the other hand, perhaps LibreOffice will come up with a new, more intuitive user interface. That would show Microsoft, seeing as how they can't seem to improve theirs.

OOo Writer

Anonymous's picture

As a user of MS Word XP, I download and try every new version of OpenOffice.org Writer for the last couple of years in hopes of converting. But until Writer allows you to shrink the top and bottom margins while in Page Layout, I won't switch. It is very annoying having 2 or 3 inches of white space between pages and having to scroll up and down to reread what was written (especially on a laptop). This lack of attention to usability turns a lot of people off. This issue has been reported on their website and is years old, but has been ignored. It might seem trivial to some, but for others writing manuscripts or editing long documents, it is not.

p.s. Switching to web view (as people have suggested in the past) is not an option. When writing, I would like to view the page like a real page but be able to shrink the top/bottom margins (like in Word and Wordperfect)

OOo Writer

Anonymous's picture

As a user of MS Word XP, I download and try every new version of OpenOffice.org Writer for the last couple of years in hopes of converting. But until Writer allows you to shrink the top and bottom margins while in Page Layout, I won't switch. It is very annoying having 2 or 3 inches of white space between pages and having to scroll up and down to reread what was written (especially on a laptop). This lack of attention to usability turns a lot of people off. This issue has been reported on their website and is years old, but has been ignored. It might seem trivial to some, but for others writing manuscripts or editing long documents, it is not.

p.s. Switching to web view (as people have suggested in the past) is not an option. When writing, I would like to view the page like a real page but be able to shrink the top/bottom margins (like in Word and Wordperfect)

Web View

Anonymous's picture

Try web view. You might actually like it.

OOo writer

jes D Nissen's picture

I really don't understand your problem. I have just opened a text in OOo, and changed top and bottom-margin to 0 (zero) - works without problem, text now is continuous down the pages -?

True, you don't understand

Anonymous's picture

True, you don't understand the problem.

The issue is not setting the margins to zero. I don't want the margins at zero as I may need to have headers/footers (i.e. page numbers, chapter title, etc.) in addition to some space when printing the page. I would however (and I've seen many comments from other people with the same sentiment) like to temporarily hide the top/bottom margins while writing the main body text. On my laptop, this extra space is about 3 inches and is annoying. In Word (XP), the user can click at the margin and hide the space while keeping the original formatting for printing output.

I am not trying to malign Ooo, but I think some people have an elevated view of its "superiority" just because they hate Microsoft. I continually try new versions of Ooo Writer in hopes that it will work for me without irritation. Right now, it doesn't.

The Reasons I hear:

Hunkah's picture

The biggest reasons I hear:

1. They got MS Office pre-installed on their computer during their purchase of a new computer, the sales guy told them it was cheaper to buy it now, with the extra discount. So now that they have it, why would they want to change?

2. It's what they're used to... it works... why change?

3. Why would they want to change when all their documents they make now are readable by everyone already?

These three reasons are the ones I fight with all the time when helping people save money. They don't understand the Microsoft Tax when they purchase a computer. These "extras" still cost money. I can't even buy a Dell laptop that I am going to install Fedora on, without purchasing an MS license! I don't even BOOT the computer when I get it, I just reformat and install Fedora! I still have to pay Microsoft for a friggin license! I love Dell Vostro Laptops, but I refuse to buy another one if they sell me another Microsoft license!

Things aren't going to change until WE ALL put a stop to this stupidity. Closed formats, unnecessary license fees, patents on "intellectual property" and "ideas". Frig, it is like putting a patent on the wheel. We don't reinvent the wheel anymore we make CARS NOW! We are never going to grow as a human race when we are all killing innovation and trying to make money off of other people success. Innovate people! Grow yourselves! Stretch a little and get out of your hole.