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November 21, 2003

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OpenOffice 1.1 -- A Complete Office/Productivity Software Suite

It's a free office suite for GNU-Linux, FreeBSD, MAC, MS-Windows, Unix, and more

Mike Angelo -- 21 November 2003 (C) -- Page 1

Article Index
OpenOffice.org Note

Due to some trademarking concerns, the OpenOffice software suite and its development organization both are officially named OpenOffice.org. However, it's lots easier to say, write, and read just plain OpenOffice rather than OpenOffice.org which is somewhat more cumbersome to say, write, and read. Thus, in this article we use the easier to deal with name of OpenOffice -- in pursuit of linguistic efficiency.

Academic Multi-Platform Note

In an interesting comment posted to PcLinuxOnline's annotation of our SUSE Linux 9.0 Professional Only $50 for Students, Teachers, Schools article, the poster noted that Linux and Mac users at Texas A and M University were unhappy because their tuition includes the cost of MS Office software they cannot use on their Linux and Mac computers. There is a link to the complete post and discussion in the Resources section at the end of this article on page 3.

The problem noted in this post is a very good example of another reason that colleges and universities ought to switch from MS Office to OpenOffice. Here is an excerpt of that post.

At Texas A&M, we can purchase [MS-Windows] XP Pro, Office 2003, or VS.Net 2003, for $5 per cd (sic). That five bucks covers the cost of media.

However what the poster does not understand, is that he/she is paying for the software wether (sic) he/she had gone and actually phsically (sic) bought it or not. MS works out deals with schools, where the school charges you a fee through your tuition. That covers the price of the software. The cost of the media, is just more money on top. There were some unhappy people here at A&M when the deal was signed because if you are a linux (sic), or mac os x (sic) user, then you are paying for MS software that you can't use. You have no choice in the matter.

If you are a college student, you might want to check to see if your college is charging you for software that you do not use.

To learn how to run MS Office and other Windows-based software and accessories in GNU-Linux, please see our article Crossover Office 2.1 Runs MS Windows Software on GNU-Linux Systems
OpenOffice is a free, multi-platform, office/productivity, software suite that is comparable to the Microsoft Office suite in what it can do. OpenOffice includes Writer (word processor), Calc (spreadsheet), Draw (for drawing vector graphics), Math (for generating mathematical formulas), and Impress (for creating presentations).

Sun's StarOffice is a commercial version of OpenOffice. Thus, it is not free. Because OpenOffice and StarOffice are so very similar in form and function, much of what is said in this article about OpenOffice 1.1 also applies to StarOffice 7. There is a link in the Resources section at the end of this article to Sun's document, Comparison of OpenOffice 1.1 and StarOffice 6.1. Sun's StarOffice 7 will be discussed on its own in an upcoming MozillaQuest Magazine article.

About OpenOffice

  • Multi-Platform

Standing on its own, OpenOffice is a darn nice suite of office/productivity applications. Moreover, since OpenOffice is a multi-platform applications suite, it looks and feels the same whether you are using it with GNU-Linux, FreeBSD, LinuxPPC, Mac OS X or X11, MS Windows, Unix or any of the other platforms upon which it runs.

That can be particularly important to IT/IS managers and administrators where their organizations have computers running on different platforms. By deploying OpenOffice, their people need to be trained on only one office/productivity suite of applications.

Once so trained, those people then easily can adjust to any computer in the company or organization for their office/productivity tasks. That's because the very same office/productivity software is on all the enterprise's computers -- regardless of what operating system is installed on them.

OpenOffice's multi-platform compatibility also is important for students, teachers, schools, and colleges for many reasons. Because OpenOffice is free, any student can afford to install it on his or her home computer.

Yet because OpenOffice is multi-platform, if schools and colleges use it in their classes and laboratories, then all students can then do their homework on the very same office/productivity applications they use in classes, the OpenOffice applications. That's because whatever major operating system students have on their home computers, they can run OpenOffice on their home computers.

Please see the Academic Multi-Platform Note in the right-hand sidebar.

  • OpenOffice Writer for Document and Word Processing

Document-processing software includes everything from

(a) simple text-writing software such as to-do lists, letters, and simple reports

(b) to applications for creating more complex reports that include indexes, tables, and images

(c) to desktop publishing (DTP) software, which includes using columns and frames plus the complex report stuff.

It is likely that document-processing software is installed on just about every desktop and laptop computer today.

OpenOffice Writer is a document-processing application that does all of the above very nicely. That puts OpenOffice Writer right up there with Lotus AmiPro/WordPro, Microsoft Word, and WordPerfect as a document-processor.

There are several important reservations to that statement. On the downside, OpenOffice Writer does not have a grammar checker whereas Word, WordPro, and WordPerfect do have grammar checking. On the upside, OpenOffice Writer is the only major word-processing/document-processing application that is free and also available for all the major computer platforms -- GNU-Linux, FreeBSD, LinuxPPC, Mac OS X or X11, MS Windows, Unix and more.

We asked OpenOffice.org's Community Manager, Louis Suarez-Potts, in an e-mail discussion why OpenOffice 1.1 does not have a grammar checker?

Louis replied: It's being worked on. There are open-source grammar checkers and there is the will to do it, so it will be done. Kevin Hendricks and Richard Holtare are leading this effort and have the support of many contributers and their project, "lingucomponent," is popular. But one problem is that OpenOffice.org supports many languages -- several dozen, at least -- and so the task is not trivial.

Thus, it appears that OpenOffice will eventually have a grammar checker. Hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.

Another plus for OpenOffice Writer, and all the OpenOffice components for that matter, is there are some very good, comprehensive books available to help you learn how to use OpenOffice Writer and all the OpenOffice applications. Please check the Resources section at the end of this article for a list of OpenOffice and StarOffice books and links.

In essence, StarOffice is a commercial version of OpenOffice. Thus books about StarOffice also pretty much are books about OpenOffice too.

  • DeskTop Publishing

Figure 1, on page 3, is a simple newsletter created to test OpenOffice Writer as a DTP application. As you can see, OpenOffice Writer handled all the basic DTP elements of a newsletter. It can do columns and moreover it can mix columnar formatting with non-columnar formatting.

The publication title in the Masthead and the main headline were done in a non-columnar section of the page. The date-bar for the Masthead is a one-row table inserted into that same non-columnar section of the page.

The About OpenOffice and OpenOffice v MS Office Money articles are set in a two-column section of the page. The OpenOffice.org 1.1 image was grabbed from the OpenOffice.org Web site and inserted into the first column.

Next, the OpenOffice Demo Newsletter was exported as a PDF file and then opened with Acrobat Reader. That worked well. Moreover, the OpenOffice Demo Newsletter as opened in Acrobat Reader was such that the text could be copied and pasted to another document.

KDE's KSnapshot was used to make the screen-shot of the OpenOffice Demo Newsletter in order to produce a PNG version of it for this article about OpenOffice. (That procedure was done in order to get the file size down from 136-KB to 47-KB thus conserving substantial bandwidth.)

For more details about how the OpenOffice Demo Newsletter was created, please see our OpenOffice Writer tutorial article, Creating a Simple Newsletter with OpenOffice/StarOffice Writer. (To be published tomorrow.)

Incidentally, OpenOffice 1.1 comes with SUSE Linux Professional 9.0. So this article as well as the OpenOffice Demo Newsletter, plus the screen-shot of it, were written and done using OpenOffice 1.1 with SUSE Linux Professional 9.0. The test box is a 300-MHz AMD K6 system with only 128-MB of RAM and a 256-MB Linux Swap File. (You can run a GNU-Linux desktop distribution with only a 128-MB RAM and a 256-MB Swap space. Nevertheless, we recommend that any Linux desktop system have at least a 256-MB hard RAM and a 512-MB Swap space.)

However, because OpenOffice does not have a grammar checker nor is it able to provide word counts of selected text blocks, MS Word 2000 was used to put the finishing touches on this article before it was moved to the layout phase. Fortunately, the same 300-MHz AMD K6 system running SUSE 9.0 Professional mentioned above has CrossOver Office 2.1 and MS Word 2K installed on it. Thus the article was written completely on a Linux-based computer system.


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