Home > Office > OpenOffice Gets Some Mainstream Press OpenOffice Gets Some Mainstream Press Submitted by Aaron Benedict 2005-05-06 Office 50 Comments The Associated Press has run a short review of OpenOffice.org 2.0 Beta. They ran into some beta-type problems with installation and stability, but overall found it to be a good alternative for casual Office users. About The Author David Adams Follow me on Twitter @david_adams 50 Comments 2005-05-06 5:03 pm I see danger lurking arround the future of OpenOffice with its heavy reliance on JAVA. Suppose SUN changes the JAVA license in a way that affects OpenOffice, what will Linux users do then? Remember that SUN has never blamed SCO for its actions on Linux, and is currently seen [by many], to “be in bed” with M$. These two have some agreements signed that directly affect OpenOffice and JAVA. If JAVA is indeed free to use, why won’t SUN let ISVs package JAVA at least with a distro, why? In any case, this would popularize OpenOffice. Let’s wait and see. I am ready to support and participate in a fork of the GPLed code components of OpenOffice if SUN does anything to JAVA that is unfriendly to OpenOffice. 2005-05-06 5:18 pm >>The chief drawback of OpenOffice is that it still lacks an equivalent to Microsoft’s excellent Outlook e-mail and calendar program.<< I have to agree with this. I was upset that they had pulled the mail client out of StarOffice when working on OO0. The old client wasn’t too bad. On Linux, you can use Evolution, a great Outlook-style mail app, with a lot of the same features. But on Windows, what else is there featurewise, especially if you need to connect to an Exchange server? 2005-05-06 5:40 pm >pulled the mail client. But on Windows, There are lots of mailclients on windows, but if you want to stay with opensource give Aethera a try. Or if you still want the mailclient from I’d guess you have to buy StarOffice. 2005-05-06 5:47 pm Let’s remember that OOO 2 is at the alpha, or “beta candidate” stage. I tried to use it for my thesis and corrupted my document, so i am back to staroffice 7 (which is free for students anyway) 2005-05-06 5:55 pm As you will can see in the link next, since the end of 1999, the “Companhia do Metropolitano de São Paulo” (aka Metrô), started migration from M$-Office to OpenOffice.org. Link to translation from brazilian portuguese to english: http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fww… The employees aren’t casual users, certainly. 2005-05-06 5:57 pm I thought MS Office XP/2003 had one ugly interface, but damn the Openoffice.org dudes have _again_ managed to create something far uglier! Just try to look at http://www.stellingwerff.com/o-o-o.png without either falling on the floor laughing, or shredding a tear. And the gtk-wannabe look is even worse with most themes. As least it works a hell of a lot better than it looks. 2005-05-06 6:06 pm Just use gcj, brought to you by GNU. Now if you want to complain about performance, that’s valid. But don’t spread the myth that one of these days Sun will suddenly make every Java program unsusable by most people. NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN! 2005-05-06 6:13 pm If you read the article, you’ll see that it says the beta software is ready for casual use. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying that serious users shouldn’t use it until a final release is ready. 2005-05-06 6:18 pm There is no e-mail client in StarOffice. I don’t know what you think was pulled out, but as far as I know, StarOffice hasn’t had an e-mail client in quite a long time, if ever. 2005-05-06 6:24 pm Chris: I used a version of StarOffice with an embedded email client on OS/2 before Sun bought StarDivision, that does not means that I want an email client with my office suite, let id do one thing well. Other projects can do that (Mozilla Thunderbird, Evolution, etc…) 2005-05-06 6:31 pm After a quick search I found my old copy of SuSE’s 6.2 Linux Suite, which came bundeld with StarOffice 5.1 Personal Edition back in (I guess ?) 1999/2000. This version of Star Office had an email client (and I have to say, a rather good one, because I can remember that my family liked it better then the alternatives, netscape for example). I believe they even included a rudimentary browser in Star Office 5.1, but I’m not sure about that. 2005-05-06 6:34 pm I’ve been using beta 2 since 1.9.79 (I’m on 1.9.95 now), and it’s been rock solid for me. So much so, that I even installed it on a few of my clients’ machines. Where I work we’re still stuck on Microsoft Office 97 (*very* slow upgrade procedure), so I decided to install it and I’ve been using it exclusively for a couple of months. No one has noticed that the files that I’m editing and sending back to the authors are NOT being edited with Microsoft Word. It’s a beautiful thing 2005-05-06 6:36 pm That’s just what I thought. Sorry I didn’t articulate it well, but when I said ‘in quite a while’ I should have said ‘since it’s been in Sun’s hands’. 2005-05-06 6:39 pm I stand corrected. I remember StarOffice 5.1 having a bunch of other stuff back then. I just thought it was so awful that I forgot about it. StarOffice and OpenOffice are so much better now that those days seem like light years ago. Cheers everyone! 2005-05-06 7:01 pm I would say that OO 2.0 is turning out to be one great product. Yes I do not like the L&F as much but oh well cant beat free! 2005-05-06 7:43 pm Personally I would like to lay my hands on the IBM editors used in Workplace that run embedded on the Eclipse RCP. They are a fork of OOo. I have a suspicion some stuff might get into the free software world this summer judging by some Eclipse conference contributions. I hate the menu etc fonts on OOo even 2,0 Beta, theu are bad enough on Windows but they are much worse on Linux. I like the the fonts used for the menus for Eclipse on Linux/GTK2. There are lots of Eclipse/SWT based applications out there that look really nice on Linux: RSSOwl, Azureus and Vex just to name a few. IBM has a few menubar shots in its Workplace editors howto PDF – lots quite nice but a bit Spartan 2005-05-06 7:50 pm To me, that screenshot looks like AbiWord. I managed to look at it without laughing just fine. 2005-05-06 7:56 pm My opinion on OOo2: – Looks much better than OOo1 both on w32 and x11. The screenshot that was posted before is old and shows an incomplete implementation of GTK vcl integration. It’s quite complete now. – Has a much better presentation module. It was completely reorganised and is more usable now. – Is much friendlier to system admins now. The native installation method (MSI for Windows, RPM for Linux) is much more professional than the previous self-made setup program. – Implements the OASIS OpenDocument specification -> I don’t care because I use only OOo and MSO, but it might be important to others. – The PDF exporter was improved, it keeps indexes and bookmarks intact now and offers lossless image compression. Very good. And now the bad things: – Relies heavily on SUN JAVA, *not* GCJ. The multimedia components are using JMF (Java Media Framework) and can *not* be used with GCJ, they are simply not built when using GCJ. I really dislike that because JMF is very difficult to install, but I need at least MPEG-1/2 support for presentations. SUN’s installation instructions for JMF are incomplete and do not work! I got it working by setting billions of environment variables and spending a whole afternoon on it… – Performance improvement equals zero. OOo is still s-l-o-w. Startup is slow, the menus are slow, opening documents is slow, saving documents is slow, rendering a presentation slide is slow, everything is slow. I can accept that because it’s not that extreme, but it’s absolutely noticeable compared to other products, especially MSO. Hey, it’s the first thing that new users see, please improve that! – The PDF exporter is still poor, despite its improvements. Please don’t flame me for that, try it yourself. Export 150 pages (formatted text, no images) to PDF (medium quality) and you will get several Megabytes. Now download this GPLed command-line tool: http://www.accesspdf.com/pdftk Do the following with it: pdftk <inputfile>.pdf output <outputfile>.pdf compress The document will shrink to 20%. Please don’t misunderstand it: It’s a lossless compression! The quality is not touched, the document streams are only compressed with LZW. Why doesn’t OOo implement that? LZW patents expired one year ago! (Little Joke: Perhaps OOo does not implement LZW compression because only Acrobat 6 and above can open it, but only Acrobat 5 is available for Solaris, so SUN, the true manufacturer of OOo, does not want that.) Generally, I’d say that upgrading is useful. There are improvements, there are not as many improvements as advertised, but there are enough improvements in order to justify an upgrade. OOo becomes nicer (slowly, as everything…). 2005-05-06 8:00 pm I actually rather like that look Compare to this: http://www.softpedia.com/screenshots//OpenOfficeorg-for-Windows_1.p… 2005-05-06 8:18 pm Just use gcj, brought to you by GNU. Now if you want to complain about performance, that’s valid. But don’t spread the myth that one of these days Sun will suddenly make every Java program unsusable by most people. NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN! No, Sun would never do that. But what about a potential successor who buys the rigths to Java if sun goes belly up? What if that successor was Microsoft, what would they have to gain from an easily available java? This is the problem with non free software. You never know if the product is going to be there for you tommorow. Sure, gcj will still be there, but that is still not close to the maturity of the Sun product. 2005-05-06 8:21 pm >>OOo is still s-l-o-w. Startup is slow, the menus are slow, opening documents is slow, saving documents is slow, rendering a presentation slide is slow, everything is slow. I can accept that because it’s not that extreme, but it’s absolutely noticeable compared to other products, especially MSO. Hey, it’s the first thing that new users see, please improve that!<< It’s not THAT bad compared to Office 2003 on the same hardware, maybe a second or two slower – but not as extreme as you imply! ************************************************************ I have a question for any devs out there – Is the slowness caused by using that big monolithic soffice binary? 2005-05-06 8:21 pm The only piece I am missing is proper video support in the presentation app. Using embedded videos in presentations is becoming common so there should be an easy way to do this in OO2. Otherwise it is a really nice release with muched improved looks and better import/export filters in particular. 2005-05-06 8:28 pm It always irks me off when reviews from so called industry experts acknowledget that OO is an excellent program but then qualify that with “if you aren’t a heavy user”. WTF is that? OO is, I dare say damn near as powerful as MS Office and has a bunch of advanced features that I bet most folks don’t need. To say that it has limited appeal if you are some office suite “power user” is a cop out. The fact is, OO is more than enough Office Suite for most users and the only limitation is the need for compatibility with office. Meely mouthing the issue just infuriates me. Office has a lock on the file format, pure and simple. Next point. Who cares about E-mail. Since when the hell is E-mail a part of an OFFICE PRODUCTIVITY SUITE. Evolution, TBird folks? Its time to whelp the servers off the cash cow. Lets focus on the problem, not the symptoms. ANALYZE FOLKS! Rant over. And I do love you all! 2005-05-06 9:01 pm “Next point. Who cares about E-mail. Since when the hell is E-mail a part of an OFFICE PRODUCTIVITY SUITE. Evolution, TBird folks? Its time to whelp the servers off the cash cow. Lets focus on the problem, not the symptoms. ANALYZE FOLKS! ” FYI: MS Office comes with Outlook. PS: I have Outlook, but I don’t use it. Sylpheed-claws and Thunderbird rock. I just wish Sylpheed-claws had some HTML support for windows. *nix can use dillo as a plug-in. Unless someone can give me some advice. 2005-05-06 9:08 pm I thought MS Office XP/2003 had one ugly interface, but damn the Openoffice.org dudes have _again_ managed to create something far uglier! Just try to look at http://www.stellingwerff.com/o-o-o.png without either falling on the floor laughing, or shredding a tear. And the gtk-wannabe look is even worse with most themes. As least it works a hell of a lot better than it looks. I don’t know whether you are a moron or just a troll. I’ll settle for moron (along with the moderator). You don’t even have the gtk part of OpenOffice installed. So it’s using the regular VCL stuff. If you installed the right package (openoffice.org2-gnome in Ubuntu) then you’d see it uses GTK to use native widgets. There are screenshots here: http://www.openoffice.org/screenshots/ooo20/index.html 2005-05-06 9:16 pm “It’s not THAT bad compared to Office 2003 on the same hardware, maybe a second or two slower – but not as extreme as you imply!” How do Office 2003 load times compare to Office 97 load times? On my comp, Word 97 loads up in a second or few in Windows 98. OpenOffice 1.1.x takes over a minute to load in Mepis Linux >.< See, old computers have their uses 2005-05-06 9:28 pm @FH: No, it’s not because of the monolithic soffice binary. In fact, soffice is not even monolithic. soffice is tiny (just some 100 kB). The reasons are: – OOo does all the drawing itself. It does not use MFC or Windows Forms or GTK or Qt, but does all the drawing itself and imitates the look of MFC or Windows Forms or GTK or Qt at the same time. – OOo does not use the system’s native TrueType renderer, but has its own TrueType support. – In General, OOo implements many features that are already present on every system on its own, so that they have to be initialised separately when the application starts up. This is a general problem of cross-platform software. BTW: I already said that it’s not extreme, but I can notice it. It’s acceptable, but definitely not nice. But it’s notably slower on non-w32 systems. OOo’s codebase is very w32-centric. In fact, it was written for OS/2 and then ported to w32 and then again ported to x11. OOo has a lot of old code in it. @Anonymous (IP: —.dip.t-dialin.net): OOo has video support, but you must, as I already said, install Java Media Framework in order to use it. The only exception is w32: Here all the multimedia stuff works out-of-the-box because OOo uses DirectShow on that platform instead of JMF. 2005-05-06 9:34 pm What about abiword-2.2. 2005-05-06 9:47 pm > What about abiword-2.2. That’s not an office suite and replaces neither MS-Word nor OOo-Writer. It does not even have a formula editor and it does not export MS-Word documents, it exports only RTF documents whose file name extension is renamed from .rtf to .doc, which means that you cannot export headers and footers into a format that MS-Word can read because RTF does not support them. AbiWord is something else, it’s more a rich-text-editor than a word processor. 2005-05-06 11:25 pm As much as it pains to me to do so, I must point out that OpenOffice is not even close to what MS Office was when it was MS Office 97. Too bad their OS is not nearly as mature as Office. But then again MS Office on Mac 2005-05-06 11:30 pm What are you talking about the interface of OOo is just plain ugly, in my opinion. It is just a wannebe MO look and a good one too, I hate them both equaly. What is wrong with using a unified interface style instead of every goddamned program using it’s own way of implementing “the best” interface skin, is it so hard to stay to the native shell instead of following your design weener and invent a new GUI-look on every app you write. There is nothing wrong with a little eyecandy, but this interface looks real ugly on some systems, it looks real ugly on the classic win2000 look. And maybe I’m alone in this, but I find the way OOo 1.x looks way better and it blends in with my theme of choice much better. Next to that, I just want to say I use OOo as my main office aplication and that interface was enough to delete the 2.0b installation. A part from the interface (and a little speed) I love OOo, keep up the good work and don’t try to copy MO to much but dare to take that risk and inovate. 2005-05-07 12:25 am What are you talking about? OOo2 does no longer have a “proprietary” look. OOo1 had, OOo2 has not. OOo2 uses native themes of the platform it is running on. If you are running Windows 2000, you are using OOo on the only supported platform that does not support themes on its own. This is not OOo’s problem. Windows XP, GTK and KDE/Qt support themes and OOo2 uses them. 2005-05-07 12:29 am > As much as it pains to me to do so, > I must point out that OpenOffice is > not even close to what MS Office was > when it was MS Office 97. Too bad > their OS is not nearly as mature as > Office. Congratulations to the very first posting in this forum that does not contain a single argument. You say that you must “point out” something, but in fact you don’t even “point out” anything. Where are the details? Did you lose them when your Office crashed? 🙂 2005-05-07 1:06 am > As much as it pains to me to do so, > I must point out that OpenOffice is > not even close to what MS Office was > when it was MS Office 97. Too bad > their OS is not nearly as mature as > Office. Yes, details. I think OOo 2 is pretty equivalent to MSO97. What’s missing or nonfunctional? 2005-05-07 1:40 am “Yes, details. I think OOo 2 is pretty equivalent to MSO97. What’s missing or nonfunctional?” A quick startup 2005-05-07 3:11 am Ouch. Seriously, though, just because it’s slower doesn’t make it “not even close to what MS Office was when it was MS Office 97.” 2005-05-07 4:10 am “But on Windows, what else is there featurewise, especially if you need to connect to an Exchange server?” Lotus Notes 2005-05-07 4:21 am As much as it pains to me to do so, I must point out that OpenOffice is not even close to what MS Office was when it was MS Office 97. Too bad their OS is not nearly as mature as Office. But then again MS Office on Mac – Try to open a doc file from MS Office XP or MS Office 2003. Great chance to lose some details on MS Office 97. – Available on any platform. Mac version of OOo-2.0 is not available yet thought. – Open source i.e. any OS developers can recompile the source code for their own OS, also bugs can be fixed quickly. – Support most extensions (.doc, odt, sxw, etc.) 2005-05-07 5:57 am And now for a taste of madness… The entire Industrial icon set: http://jimmac.musichall.cz/openoffice-icons.php And the progress on the Crystal icon set: http://artax.karlin.mff.cuni.cz/~kendy/ooo/icons/status/ Dear God, that’s a lot of icons O_O I still think the Industrial ones are actually quite attractive… 2005-05-07 8:25 am When is open office 2.0 going to be released on the mac, neo office is ok but it reminds me of the early 90’s and that a while back. 2005-05-07 2:26 pm You’re not going to notice OO.o’s speed problems on small documents. When you have a spreadsheet which uses all 256 columns and around 6,000 rows as I do, you start to notice OO.o’s speed problems when the document takes over five minutes just to load. When you start to use StarBASIC to manipulate that data you discover that StarBASIC is cripplingly slow. StarBASIC should be benchmarked against GWBASIC, not C++. Then when you import that spreadsheet into Excel and the document loads in mere seconds, and VBA finishes in less than one hour jobs which had to be run overnight on StarBASIC, you become a convert to Excel in a real big hurry. Because this data is “mission critical” to me, I will cheerfully pay whatever price M$ asks for the superior performance of Excel over OO.o. On Linux I wouldn’t even dream of using OO.o for this database but would readily entertain the notion of running Excel under Crossover Office. 2005-05-07 6:12 pm Another advantage of OO: it is slower than M$ Office but using OO with Linux you can use a solution like LTSP to use very old computers (like Pentium 1xx) as X terminals and run OO in server and visualize in terminals. With M$ Office you will have to trash your old computers to run windows XP with a recent version of M$ Office. And it will be worse when Longhorn arrives… 2005-05-07 6:37 pm Ever heard of Terminal Serivces? 2005-05-07 6:46 pm @G. W. But all this doesn’t excuse them. Mozilla software is cross-platform as well, but, unlike OOo, it doesn’t suffer from poor performance when compared to Windows-only equivalents. Is there a solid reason for implementing all this stuff internally instead of using the OS-provided libraries? 2005-05-07 7:01 pm I know that it does not excuse anything, it’s more meant as an explanation rather that as a justification. The only reason I can think of: It’s easier to maintain a single source tree for all platforms instead of using native libraries, although using native libraries is more elegant. But in the end, I have to say that I don’t suffer that much because I use OOo primarily for documents and presentations, not for spreadsheets. It’s a well-known fact that the spreadsheet is OOo’s weekest component. 2005-05-07 9:11 pm I’ve heard that OOo is much slower with MS Office formats than with its own. So if you haven’t tried using the native formats the speed might be quite a bit better. (I can’t vouch for this because I don’t have any large spreadsheets to test with) On the other hand, maybe you were using them and it was still way to slow. That wouldn’t suprise me. 2005-05-07 10:11 pm MS Office 2000 will load in about 5 seconds on a 266MHz computer with 32MB of RAM, running Win98SE. On a 500MHz computer with 256MB RAM running Linux, OO.o 1.1.x takes over 1 minute to load. Then try minimizing it and leaving it sit for a few minutes. It will probably take >5 seconds to maximize it and re-paint the screen. I really like OO.o 1.1.x’s capabilities, but its performance is absolutely sick, especially on Linux. I hope 2.0 improves. Doesn’t look promising, though. 2005-05-07 10:17 pm I’m sure the spreadsheet’s internals work the same whether the saved file format is OOo or Excel. I’d been using the OOo file format, and the importation to Excel went OK, but all of the StarBASIC code had to be rewritten. The big pisser was that Excel uses (row, column) addressing whereas OOo uses (column, row) addressing, so EVERYTHING had to be reversed. Would it have killed them to use (row, column) in OOo? 2005-05-08 2:06 am I must say, the view is pretty gloomy from here There doesn’t seem to be a big emphasis on speeding up/slimming down OpenOffice, and the huge codebase means contributors are scarce. Even if the project has a sudden change of heart, it’s likely gonna take a while for tangible improvements to show. KOffice OTOH apparently lags in maturity/functionality, and AFAIK isn’t available for Windows. So it’s looking like a long haul before we’ll see a really nice Office alternative 2005-05-08 11:01 am So it’s looking like a long haul before we’ll see a really nice Office alternative That could actually be a good thing. If you look at the hardrives of any company today you will find a lot of office documents that nobody knows who owns them, if they are valid, in what context they was created. Office workers need more powerful tools to keep track of whatever informaition they handle. E.g. there needs to be connections to project management systems, customer databases, various workflow systems. When you look at the tools *office users use today it seams like time have stood still for 20 years. A more MS-Officelike OpenOffice is not going to solve that. Perhaps it would be better to concentrate the efforts on things that would.