Related link: http://porting.openoffice.org/mac/
I recently set about installing and configuring the X11 Final Beta of the OpenOffice.org productivity suite. Inspired by the recent release of Apple’s X11 package, I downloaded the 160MB image and ran the various installers. Thus far I’m fairly satisfied.
I’ve been using Microsoft Office for years; since back in the days when Microsoft actually used version numbers to differentiate releases and not years or letters. It’s easily the standard for businesses around the world and has been for many years now. Let’s face it, MS Office is an excellent product. Since it’s such a great product, pretty much every business uses it. Businesses now rely so much on MS Office that they won’t even consider shifting to another platform unless it has a version of MS Office available.
While Mac OS X has the advantage of having a port of Microsoft Office (and a better one than the Windows version IMO), it also has the advantage of having access to the wonderful world of open source software. Mac OS X has mastered perching atop this fine line of open v. closed and it’s great to see so many software choices. One of these choices is the OpenOffice.org productivity suite.
OpenOffice.org is an open source project based upon Sun Microsystems’ StarOffice. Essentially, it is an office productivity suite with all the usual culprits: a word processor, a spreadsheet program, a presentation app. While not as polished and featureful as Microsoft’s offering, OpenOffice includes most of the features you’ve come to expect from such a suite, with the added advantage of costing, well, nothing.
OpenOffice has been ported to many different platforms, the most recent of which is Mac OS X. The Mac OS X porting team is working on porting the whole suite (which is about 2GB of code resulting in 160MB of binaries) in stages. First up is getting it to run in X11, next will be rendering with Quartz and finally, a full-blown Aqua version. The beta I downloaded recently is the final beta for the X11 version. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks and have yet to find any major issues.
OpenOffice was able to open all of my Microsoft Office documents with minimal loss. For example: I first opened up a spreadsheet I keep around which contains my home budget. It has some basic formatting (bolds, cell borders) and formulas (averaging, SUMs). OpenOffice opened the file and rendered it much the same way I’d expect it to in Microsoft’s Excel. The next file I checked out was a letter I recently sent out. It again contained some basic formatting (bolds and italics this time), but also contained some bulleting. Here OpenOffice became a bit confused. It could tell it needed to have an unordered list, but it didn’t use the exact same graphic that Microsoft’s Word did. This was quickly remedied when I chose Numbering/Bullets from the Format menu.
The final document I tested out was the most complex. It’s my resume, which was done in Word and contains all kinds of formatting (bolds, italics, underlines, different font points, font faces, bullets, and alignment). I’m happy to report that the only problems I encountered were once again with the bullet graphics. This was quickly fixed the same way as above. Overall I’m quite satisfied with OpenOffice and I recommend it to anyone that either can’t afford Microsoft’s Office or is perhaps considering it for a corporate deployment. It doesn’t have all of the features of Microsoft’s suite, so if you’re a power Excel user your mileage may vary, but for the average user it has all of the features you’re used to.
The X11 Final Beta is not an Aqua application. To use it, you must install an X11 server and then OpenOffice. If you’re a novice, this is probably a 4 on the difficulty scale. For experienced users, well, you probably already have an X11 server installed :) You can find instructions for installing Apple’s X11 server at the URL listed above. When you go to the download page for OpenOffice.org’s X11 beta, you’ll find instructions for making it work with Apple’s X11.
Do you or would you use OpenOffice?