Thursday, April 10, 2008 is better than Microsoft Office

Well, that is not really true. You still have to consider the type of user that will be using the office suite.

Your typical home user will probably find (hereon referred to as OpenOffice) sufficient in everything they have to do. Sure there is a learning curve if they are used to using Microsoft Office, but for the price you really can't beat it. So what is the price? It's free. Yes, that's right, it is open source software created by hardworking people to share with the world. It allows add-ons and extensions as well (although I don't believe many basic users would use this feature.)

But what about in an office setting? That is where my first experience with OpenOffice comes into play. In an office full of Nurses, Caregivers, and other Administrative staff. This is where I believe that Microsoft Office shines and OpenOffice falls short. With so many different staff members performing different duties, everyone uses the office suite differently. Many of them are also using Microsoft Office at home. Some of them don't even use computers at home and what little word processing experience they have, came from Microsoft Office many years ago. Now, the staff members are busy people without time to learn a new piece of software and that's to be expected. They have duties totally different from an IT or computer guy. Then support is a key issue. You need to have someone around that can occasionally show people how to do certain things. Sure the same thing can be said for Microsoft Office, but I have probably had 10-15 times more questions with OpenOffice.

The next problem I have come across in the office setting is deployment through GPO (group policy objects.) I don't know why it is made so difficult to get a proper GPO installation and MSI transform setup for OpenOffice. What I had to do was to scour the Internet looking for MSI settings (or setup settings) that I could change to get it to install without causing headaches for our staff. The first thing I ran into was an article telling me I could edit the XML file in the administrative installation folder. Well it seems that route was deprecated and they made it more difficult to edit. In the end, I had to use Microsoft's Orca software to create a transform. To make a long story short, I spent days configuring and testing the settings just right to get it to install, not create different versions in different directories, not to have first start wizard pop up and people call me when they don't know what to do with it, and to get it to associate with .doc, .ppt, and .xls files correctly. With Microsoft Office, I can use their Custom Installation Wizard to create perfect installs that don't have any annoyances.

So, I have come to the conclusion that neither OpenOffice nor Microsoft Office is better than the other, just different. With non-computer savvy people (the ones that don't want to be hassled with getting to learn new software), I would recommend Microsoft Office for it's ease of use and flexibility. But for some users (the ones that like to experiment and LOVE saving money) OpenOffice is great. Oh, it is also great for the small office that can't afford 30 licenses for Microsoft Office but can afford to have their IT guy solve everyone's problems.

P.S. the picture comes from deleket @

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