adventures in dysthymia

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Open Office ~ is free worth it?

I've been using the free Open Office programs for a while now and thought I'd make a few comments. Nothing in depth-- there are better sources if you want to know more of the nuts and bolts of these applications.

There are several components to the Open Office suite, some more useful and usable than others. First, I'll mention the less useful -- to me -- offerings.

Let me say that I have no idea how well their spreadsheet program, Calc, works. I've never used it and don't know if I ever will. Is it an Excel killer? I don't know. Maybe someday I'll have some money to count and find out!

But if you also have no money to count, keep in mind that it and the rest of these applications are free.

My same lack of experience would apply to the Math program. This would appeal to a rather small user base, anyway; most of us aren't going to be working with mathematical formulas on a regular basis (if at all).

Impress is the Power Point analog. As I've never had much use for PP (nor had it installed for several years), I don't know if it's any better or worse. It seems to create perfectly good presentations, so it would seem an alternative. And, like the rest of Open Office, the free thing makes it more desirable.

So, on to the other components: Base is, to me, the best thing in Open Office. It's certainly superior to the free Works database formerly bundled in Windows. Is it as good as some that aren't free? I don't know but, honestly, it does everything I need quite well. It's main problem, as with the rest of this suite, is that it is not always completely user-friendly.

I use Base to keep track of my writing as well as my publishing-- nothing very complicated, admittedly. It can also be used to create mailing lists and such. Whether that is even needed in this day of online management, I do not know. If I ever have any fans to mail, I'll let you know.

Draw copies another program named Draw: Corel Draw. It is not as good but it is an awful lot cheaper! My impression is that it would work quite well enough for layout duties but is not nearly so nice for editing the graphics themselves. It is clumsy in this role.

In that I have and use Corel's offering, I haven't much recent experience trying to work with OO Draw. Incidentally, if you might be looking for an Photoshop-like program to edit your graphics, I would highly recommend the free GIMP application. Neither Draw has that sort of focus.

I could very much see laying out pages in OO Draw if need be. Advertisements, posters, even brochures or small books.

This leaves the main attraction (for most Open Office users), the word processing program Writer. I like Writer. I like it better than MS Word. The biggest drawback, to me, is the somewhat clumsy (but logical, in its way) approach to formatting. That's a negative for me as a writer; in an office situation it might be meaningless.

That is why I prefer -- slightly -- to use Corel Word Perfect for formatted manuscripts. I could easily live and work with Writer. I do appreciate its excellent PDF conversion.

Open Office is a big program. If one is on a slow connection (as I am), it can take a while to download! Unfortunately, one can not choose and pick which apps one wants from the suite. It's a package deal.

And it's a good deal, really -- the best money I never spent!Available at www.openoffice.org .

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