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OpenOffice vs. MS Office in corporate environment

Posted on 2006-05-12
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I am looking for advice or personal experience someone has had with using OpenOffice in a corporate environment.  

Our company might be expanding in the next year or so which would mean many more computers.  Which would also mean there would be a need for Office productivity suites.  I downloaded OpenOffice 2.0 a few days ago to play around with it.  It is obviously so attractive because it is completely free.  And from what it sounds like documents made in Office are compatible with OpenOffice and vice versa.  The one thing I noticed right away with OpenOffice is the slow load time...but that's not a big deal.  We use Lotus Notes/Domino for email...so I would think that would make it easier to implement OpenOffice because we don't have use MS Outlook for email.  And what about from a user's perspective...is the learning curve relatively low getting used to the interface of OpenOffice?  To me the interface seems almost the same.    
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Question by:philmaceri
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 16670635
If all you are doing is basic office documents then Microsoft Office is overkill.  What I would suggest you do is go to the 3 or 4 most office intensive users and have them use Open Office for a week.  If they like it, can use it effectively, and don't have many significant questions, you might be better off going with Open Office - just be careful, I believe you have to consciously save the Open Office documents as word/excel files, otherwise they save as openoffice files and Microsoft products, last I checked, cannot open those native files.
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by:moorhouselondon
ID: 16670832
I think OpenOffice is a viable choice for corporate use, once people have been trained.  One thing you may come up against is employment and training of permanent and temporary staff if they have been more used to MS Office.  But anyone keen to train up on your equipment is, to my mind, showing a greater commitment to your overall package as, *at the moment*, skills/training they pick up at your company's cost may not necessarily have a beneficial effect when appearing on their CV.  

I emphasise "at the moment", I cannot see how MS can compete without offering MS Office for free.  Their argument that free products are not suitable for "mission critical" usage does not hold water when you consider that Internet Explorer is/was a product bundled for free - a product that MS tout as being suitable for all levels of user.
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by:moorhouselondon
ID: 16670956
>once people have been trained.

I agree there are many similarilties between the packages.  However, a good way to "sell" this is to train people on the advantages of using OO over MS Office.  The Style Sheet facilities are very powerful indeed, particularly for corporate usage, but require a certain amount of experience to get the hang of them.  Once there though, it is a breeze to "knock out" structured documents to corporate standards, improving productivity.
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by:bnedelcov
ID: 16671382
I use both OO and MS-Office at the office. That is because I really like open-source software. But I could not get rid of MS Office because all the applications that have an export capability need MS Office installed in order to get the right results. You might not need this if you use only the basic functions for office. Otherwise keep working with the MS version as it is much more stable and it is compatible with everything.
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by:eeree
ID: 16672150
If You and your employees are not  programers, there is no any counterindication for installing OOo - MS Office is necessary only if You need VBA environment - for basic use OOo is better ;)
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by:scrathcyboy
ID: 16672253
The bottom line for corporate is this -- if MS word didn't exist, your company would think that Open Office was the greatest thing since the dawning of mankind.  They would go ape-s over it, is this not correct?  OOffice is a great product, and easier to use than MS word -- but it is very complex, there is a lot of "depth" to what you can do in it.  Because it is open source, the things it lacks most is (1) consistency from version to version, and (2) a good set of workable templates to do tasks.  For example, version 2 that I just donwloaded cannot open a word DOC file.  This is a sily oversight that will be corrected when the kiddies get around to it.

But face it, it is free, it has a growing future, it is free, it does everything you want, it is free, and it can import just about anything you want, it is free, and it can eclipse MS office for ANY corporation ... and of course, it is free.  So you know the answer, right?
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 16672274
I'm sure scrathcyboy won't respond to me - he never does - but as usual, I take issue with what he said.  I have Open Office version 2 installed as well as office 2003.  A document I created in office 2003 opens flawlessly in OpenOffice.  MAYBE *HE* had a problem opening the word document, but I don't think this is typical behaviour.

And it may be free, but that doesn't mean it's not going to cost you.  Learning curve and installation time and other administrative variables will be a factor in cost.  It MAY be a better fit for you than office - you have to evaluate your staffs skills and the costs to retrain them on the product.  THEN you can determine if it's a better value.

If your a tech consulting company, then you almost certainly you use it - tech savvy people don't have much to learn about it - non-tech people have a lot more.
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by:bruintje
ID: 16672789
just to back up leew on his last comment
>> tech savvy people don't have much to learn about it - non-tech people have a lot more

how true, thats why the new office does away with all the clutter and uses semi-smart interfaces to help the user using only what is needed for the task at hand, unfortunately i still have no beta but from the whitepaper stuff out of MS they realized functionality overflow is a cost to companies and they tried to solve that problem.

Big question is if they will succeed because it would level the playfield between OO and MS Office because a lot of people have trouble adjusting to new things even if it would mean simplification of their work [think about that]

OO may look as a good alternative to MSOffice but its the everyday user [who probably uses Office at home] that needs to work with it and produce for the company, thus you can safe on licenses but you'll shell out big money for training or do it yourself which means lost hours on other things.

just my 2 cents
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by:moorhouselondon
ID: 16672823
Elaborating on eeree's comment:

The tools that Microsoft give the user to use are aimed to integrate products together, and this is a big selling point for them.  For example, the ability to paste a chart into a document or presentation and do various things with it.  At this level things work so long as the resources (for instance memory, hard drive space, a willing firewall, version compatibility, and time) are there#.  However, when one tries to really do something serious with these tools, things break.  Maybe not immediately, but all it needs is a security patch to come "unsolicited" down the pike from Microsoft that hasn't (apparently) been tested on the particular "mix" of functionality you are trying to stitch together, and you are saying hello to a taxidermist.  Consider changing versions of software and all sorts of problems appear - the comment above suggests that OO is subject to variability between versions - well MS aren't exactly above making things incompatible between versions.  Do you want a list?  How many items would you like?  

eeree mentions the programming aspect.  Bearing in my mind my comments about variability between versions, a prudent programmer will try to avoid using as much as possible that they do not have control over.   The MS way of doing things seems to rely heavily on Libraries, the registry and faddish concepts.  A Portakabin is not the best structure in terms of materials used or aesthetics, but you can stick it in a hostile location and it will still do the job (that's an analogy BTW).

#If however, it doesn't work, where are the diagnostics for working out why it didn't work?  MS gives us Black Boxes to prod.
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Jeroen Rosink earned 2000 total points
ID: 16677085
Hello philmaceri,

You might take a look at these articles:
Office 2003 vs. OpenOffice.Org
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1571626,00.asp

Performance analysis of OpenOffice and MS Office
http://blogs.zdnet.com/Ou/?p=120

About the learning curve of OpenOffice, I think you have to look at your users, If they using MS Office in more then the standard way I can imagine they thought themselves. In this case they ought to learn using OpenOffice also quickly. If they are using just the basic functions of MS Office products then helping them with some kind of quick reference card to explain the functions MS Office vs OpenOffice.

Still I learned at some companies myself that companies rather paying money then getting some for free. The basic reason is the support on payed products. At this moment every now and then Microsoft is posting some updates to close the security lags in their software. Im not aware that OpenOffice is doing this on regular basis. Perhaps this might be an issue to take into consideration.

regards,
Jeroen
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Author Comment

by:philmaceri
ID: 16679559
Wow....I really sparked quite the debate.  I appreciate all the help and information.  Althought I think most of these posts were not for my purpose...but merely vocal supporters of either MS office or OO.org.  None the less all the info was helpful.  The links roos01 had in his post were most helpful.  Those articles showed concrete numbers of performance in OO.org vs MS office.  That is why I am rewarding roos01 with the points.  

I am not sure if we will go with OO.org or MS office.  But I know now that a viable free alternative exists.  Sure there are some drawbacks...but that is to be expected with any free product available on the market...it all comes down to user base needs.  I am going to have some of our power users try out OO.org and see how they like it.

Thank again!
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by:Jeroen Rosink
ID: 16679812
Glad to help, thanks for the grade!
Jeroen
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