The recently released OpenOffice 2.0 (OOo 2.0) has generated quite a buzz. Personally, I’ve been patiently waiting for this final release for quite some time now. Well, what got me interested in OOo 2.0 is that it has all the features that one would expect from Microsoft Office, and a little more in a relatively similar user interface. And the best part – It’s Free! Who doesn’t like free stuff? I know I certainly do and couldn’t resist giving freewares (especially the good quality ones) a try.
So, here’s my first impression upon installing it on my PC for about a week. It does really looks and feel like MS Office… which is a good thing since most people are already familiar with it. However, the loading speed of OOo 2.0 is relatively slower compared to the MS Office. A simple tweak is all it takes to improve it; by increasing the memory used by the program. Just go to Tools -> Options -> Memory -> Increase graphics cache use for OpenOffice (from 16MB) to about 32MB or more and the memory per object (from 2.4MB) to about 4MB or more depending on your system. On my system, it shows noticeable improvements and I would recommend some experimentation with the settings.
One of my most commonly used component in an office suite is MS Word, known as Writer in OpenOffice. It has all the common features that one would expect from a word processor. The first feature that caught my attention was its ability to export to PDF. There is also similar feature for MS Word, but it requires 3rd party plugin. The other nice thing about Writer is that its much easier to add a header and footer to the page as compared to MS Word which is hidden deeper and deeper in the menus over the years. However, the best thing about it is that it could easily open and edit my MS Word (.doc) and all other MS Office suite documents without affecting the original looks. This is certainly a move in the right direction for the open source developer of OpenOffice.
Taking a trip down memory lane… the Microsoft Office suite wasn’t the most preferred nor popular office suite back in the early 90s. There was WordPerfect for word processing and Lotus 1-2-3 for spreadsheet that dominated. To gain users support to migrate to Microsoft’s Office, Microsoft ensure that their office suite will be fully compatible with the former dominating file format used by WordPerfect and Lotus. This has definitely eased user’s transition to MS Office. Over the years, with tremendous improvements made to the MS Office suite, it has gained its recognition and eventually dominated the office productivity suite that we have come to know today. In fact, it is now been just as dominating as Microsoft’s Windows.
The other components in the office suite is the Calc, which is equivalent to MS Excel. Honestly, I rarely use spreadsheet except for occasions when I need to generate some charts and some repetitive calculations based on formulas. Well, Calc manage to do it just as easily as MS Excel. Next, is Impress which is similar to MS Powerpoint. The look and feel is exactly the same. However, there isn’t much templates as compared to Powerpoint. Perhaps this limitation would be improved in future version of OpenOffice as more people starts to contribute their templates to the open source developers. Personally, I’m not too sure about making my next persentation slides with Impress and save it in OpenDocument format (can save as .ppt Powerpoint document or .swf Flash instead) as most computers are installed with Powerpoint for presentation purposes.
As for the other components of the suite, Base (equivalent to MS Access), Draw (equivalent to MS Visio) and Math (equivalent to MathType), I’ve not had the chance to actually try it out. Perhaps I may try using them later on. Overall, I had a good first impression on OpenOffice 2.0 and would love to recommend it to everyone to give it a try. So, am I going to quit using MS Office? Not yet, I will basically be primarily using OpenOffice regularly these days instead and keep MS Office for compatibility reasons (such as Powerpoint).