Recently we did the PC-shuffle at my house. I handed down a Thinkpad to my teenage daughter, and she handed down her ancient Toshiba notebook, which still insists on functioning, to my seven-year-old son. Everyone wanted a word-processor, so I had to review my Office licenses:
- I was (and still am) using MS Office 2000 for work.
- We had Lotus SmartSuite installed on the familly-room PC, which my wife mainly used.
- My daughter was using MS Office 97 on her notebook.
This was a mess! Already my daughter grumbled occasionally about not being able to create a document on the familly-room PC and then take it upstairs to her notebook for further work. My wife and daughter couldn’t help each other out, because they both used different programs. And now my son wanted a word processor, and I couldn’t see spending hundreds of dollars to buy a word processor for a kid who can’t type yet.
The solution came to me in the form of OpenOffice.org. Three of my authors are using it to write their books, and we’d had good success with it, so why not standardize on it at home?
I installed OpenOffice.org on all the PCs. My son now happily bangs away at his keyboard, and has created a huge document consisting entirely of random letters. My daughter writes her journal and does her homework, and all her existing Word files have converted over just fine. They can even help each other. My son learned how to password-protect OpenOffice.org files and he shared that knowledge with his sister.
The only glitch has been on the Windows XP machine. There I can only get OpenOffice.org to run for one user, the user who did the install. I hope there’s a fix, but I haven’t had time to track it down.
Like any program, OpenOffice.org has its annoyances. But it’s very capable. That I and several authors use it to collaborate on book projects is proof of that. My kids are also both very happy with it.
It occurs to me that OpenOffice.org is just the right introduction to Open Source for the vast majority of people who currently run Windows. It fills a need almost everyone has, it plays well with Microsoft Office files, the price is certainly right, and it doesn’t require someone to make the jarring switch from Windows to Linux.
We need to get the word out. Last fall I helped a friend buy a new Dell. When he configued the PC, I had him include Microsoft Office Small Business. I feel terrible about that. Tell your friends, when they configure that new Dell, to leave out Microsoft Office. It’s highly likely they don’t need it. Use OpenOffice.org instead.
Have you tried OpenOffice.org for Windows? Do you use it on a regular basis? Have you had success with it? Any problems with it?