Monday, June 13, 2011

Open Office vs MicroSoft Office - What Am I Missing ... ?

Or, gaining?

Microsoft Office currently is £110 - minimum. OpenOffice is free. And so is LibreOffice. So what does OO lack? Or LO?

Well, not much. Not really anything, actually.

The well though-of LifeHacker site article addresses some concerns people seem to have about transferring their allegiance to Open Source software. After all, if it's free, how can it be any good? If the Microsoft product is expensive, surely it's better? Well, it's a little bit prettier...
Mainly, Microsoft Office is glossy. Very glossy. When it comes down to it, the problem has always been a matter of gloss .... most people will choose it just because it looks nicer .... All that gloss doesn't necessarily mean it's better, though.
Microsoft entire department of graphic designers have made their Office suite very pretty, and sadly - mysteriously, I think - that seems to be actually a criteria for some people. But ...
... when it comes down to it, both OpenOffice and LibreOffice can do, more or less, everything MS Office can do. There's really only one exception, and that's Outlook, and the free offerings just don't have anything to match that.
Frankly I'm not actually a big Outlook fan anyway. I'm more a fan of Thunderbird or even Evolution. BoWhich is why I was pleased to read this bit, which cancels out Microsoft's are more flexible and just work better. And again, they cost nothing, as the article goes on to point out ...
[The free offerings] do, however, have the rest of the open source community - which means you've got apps like Mozilla's Thunderbird to fill the gap. So, If you pull an outside app into the mix, the two sides are even again.
The only other advantage mentioned by Lifehacker is the support that Microsoft gives. However this support is described as "convoluted, unhelpful, and difficult to navigate or contact."

In response, OO and LO have 'forums' and 'communities' where "you can usually find the answer to your question by searching through each suite's forums for the answer - or by just asking other users on those same forums."

In the end the article finished with this :
All three will read and write MS Office formatted documents. All three can make and read spreadsheets and presentations. They can all handle images and special formatting for text. They're all full-fledged office suites, one of them just costs a lot of money. Just don't let the glossy interface and large user base make you think you're the oddball by not buying it - free options get the job done, too. 
So if a respected site such as LifeHacker can't find a significant difference between the suites - apart from price - you have to ask yourself why you - and so many corporate bodies - continue to pay MicroSoft for licences?

In the UK, the Government waste millions on these licences. Last year this article highlighted the potential savings that could be made by switching to Open Source software - but no action has been taken as yet.