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New York Times Plugs OpenOffice Suite 411

MrNovember writes "The New York Times (registration blah blah) describes a new choice for office suites. The writer seems a bit slanted toward OpenOffice but it's a fair discussion of its pros and cons. The article has identified some interesting compatibility issues to those who aren't using OpenOffice but might. Again we see major media discussing open source as an actual alternative to a longstanding standard. The article concludes amusingly with 'Every now and then, you get what you don't pay for;' just tack on 'Open Source' to the beginning for the perfect sig." We've gotten numerous submissions recently from people whose [company/school/whatever] is switching to OpenOffice.
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New York Times Plugs OpenOffice Suite

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  • perfect sig? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <> on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:15PM (#3736598) Homepage Journal
    'Open source every now and then, you get what you don't pay for'

  • this reminds me of an article that Nicolas Negroponte wrote back in 1995 in Wired. Once the initial cost of production is re-couped, the cost for another copy of software (or any digital artifact) is near zero. with colloborative software being written and distributed for almost nothing, I wonder how long proprietary software (or closed-source) can truly survive (and make money for the publisher). Open source gaming anyone?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I doubt programmers want to really give up the salaries they make now, and additionally, production costs for something like a game are astronomical due to the large corpus of people needed to put it together (artists, designers, etc. Thus, I do not see it likely that these initial production costs being recouped tending towards zero anytime soon.
    • You also have to take into account the possibility of failures and delays (sort of like drug companies). Although on a much lesser scale, how many DaiKraptana's can a game company experience before it has to jack up the cost of its decent games indefinitely. Without extended high game costs, how do you think 3DRealms could support a development schedule for Duke Nukem Forever that will probably provide employment for the current developers' children?
    • Open Source works great for common software. Specialized software will always be propriatery (Thinking of the Unicenter, OpenView of the world).

      How many geeks are going to write software they're not going to use themselves?
  • Sometimes I derive great pleasure thinking of Microsoft lawyers running around saying, "Hey wait, who can we sue!?" and MS lackies running around going, "Hey wait, how can we run those Open Source people outta business!?"

    Must be hard to compete with a good, free product minus draconian licensing. It's just beautiful man.

    • It brings a smile to my face too. MS is in a frustrating (for them) spot because they do in fact get it: they know that open source is a threat, they know why people like it, they are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to fight... they just can't figure out what to do. It's like the master buggy-maker watching Henry Ford set up shop.
      • The interesting thing about Microsoft is that until now, they've been able to beat their competitors without talking about them. They always compare the new releases of each software package to _their_ old releases, and just pretend the competitor doesn't exist.

        Until now, the customer has had little way of knowing there is competition.

        Now, with Linux/Open-source, Microsoft is in a position where they have to compete directly. This means their marketing material will probably have to mention Linux. And with each mention, Linux will gain more and more headway, because it is big enough to be in Microsoft's marketing material.

        It's pretty sweet for those of us in open-source.
    • Actually this is quite fitting. MS put Netscape out of business by giving away a web browser for free, which worked directly against their main source of income. Now OpenOffice, by giving away an office suite for free, is going to hit MS right in one of their main sources of income. MS can't complain, after all they proved how well it works! Goes to show - what goes around, comes around...
  • OpenOffice XML file (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RickHigh ( 576831 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:16PM (#3736614) Homepage
    I like OpenOffice. I like the fact the files are just xml files in a zip file. The fileformat is easy to reverse engineer and use. I am a big fan.
  • by hopews ( 450546 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:16PM (#3736617)
    There is a word for that. It is prepend []. If this were graded there would be a -1 Word Choice above that. Come on /. Editors.

    Sorry if I'm being pedantic.
  • by javajeff ( 73413 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:17PM (#3736627)
    I find the compatibility to be great with the exception of bullets. A bulleted list in will not appear like one opened in Word. However, a bulleted list in Word will appear as a bulleted list in Aside from bullets, performs great with tables, spreadsheets, presentations, and documents. I have not tested any documents that contain macros or advanced formulas, since I rarely use those features. is great for users with basic needs.

    Since my resume contains bullets, I have not been able to uninstall Word. is my default application for all Office filetypes.


    • There is a slight incompatibility between Excel documents that contain the "VLOOKUP()", "HLOOKUP()", or "LOOKUP()" commands. OpenOffice implements them exactly as Microsoft has described them, however, Excel has a slightly different implementation than described.

      If you're looking for a number in OO, and one of the cells in your range contains text, the LOOKUP command will return an error. But, Excel just ignores it. Since my company has a number of older Excel documents that use that feature, we'd have to change them all in order for OO to work for us. Until then, we have to stick with MS.

      I am working on changing those processes and spreadsheets, but it'll take a while before we're able to switch. I really do like OO, but until they either change the implementation (I submitted a bug, but the closed it as "RESOLVED"), or I change the files, we can't use it company-wide.
    • This is known and fixed on cvs. Just check 199 []
    • Resumes (Score:3, Informative)

      by MAXOMENOS ( 9802 )
      A couple of Resume points:
      1. Employers are often willing to accept HTML format instead of Word format for resumes.
      2. Microsoft doesn't take Word format resumes on their website .. they insist on ASCII only. Now isn't that interesting?
      • Re:Resumes (Score:3, Funny)

        by tclark ( 140640 )

        >Microsoft doesn't take Word format resumes on their website .. they insist on ASCII only. Now isn't that interesting?

        They're probably worried about getting macro viruses.

    • I've noticed that about bullets, too, but I find that OpenOffice does a better job of them than MS-Office. I mean, it's more intuitive to use the bullets (if you're doing a whole lot of them) in OOo than in MS. But you're right, they could work on the OOo->MS compatibility in this area.
  • I think that this is one of the best ways to promote awareness of OSS. I know many people who are somewhat computer savvy, they know enough that they don't mind trying new things, but they don't seek this sort of stuff out. They don't read all sorts of tech sites, but they do read newspapers. If we could get more coverage of OSS in the tech sections of every day newspapers (most ones that I know have a small tech section in with the business section, or a once a week all-tech section), we could slowly increase awareness of stuff like OpenOffice and Linux.
  • by blackeye ( 248653 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:18PM (#3736638)
  • Reg Free Link (Score:2, Informative)

    link [] (it fills out the form and refers you, it's not a trick)
  • Every now and then, you get what you don't pay for

    This is close, but it's not quite right. The correct principle is: you get what the people you patronize want to provide.

    We often forget this in a world that's interested in repeating the "customer is king" mantra.

  • by josepha48 ( 13953 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:20PM (#3736655) Journal
    I downloaded this a few days ago and last night I finally installed it. I tested it out on the few word docs and excel spreadsheets I have at home. It worked okay, but then I do not do that much with word and my word and excel docs do not test many features. I do more with email and html.

    So far it starts up quicker than staroffice and there is no so desktop which is nice. It failed to recognize my jvm during the install, but I'm not that bothered by that just yet. I am using it on Linux and installed it as root, and ran into a problem with permissions it seems. I had to change ownership to (chown -R : ) to then run it as myself. It would start up and then crash right away until I did this. Or I could run it as root. Not sure why though, and now I dont care as it works. It does use lots of disk space but then so does MS office and SO 5.x. So far I am pleased with it, as it gives me yet another option to deaeling with MS docs and excel spread sheets... I give it a thumbs up ;-)

    • When you install it, the command you should type in is:
      setup /net
      Then go through the setup program, get it where you want it, and then log in as yourself and run setup again, this time without the /net option. It will set up a folder in your home directory that OOo uses when it starts up.
  • Businesses and people buy MS software mainly for the intergrated office applications, then are forced to buy Windows and networking applications to support it. If anyone could seriously dent this, then MS could be on its way out.

    Remember, MS changes stripes each decade. 75-85 it was a languages company, then became an OS company, then became a business software company. Lotus, Word Perfect, and Harvard Graphics "owned" the business app sector before MS did. Now MS is trying to become a personal entertainment company- games, digital TV, ISP ...
  • by bigjocker ( 113512 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:21PM (#3736662) Homepage
    It is a fact. I have helped almost all my family (no geeks in there) migrate from Windows + MSOffice to Linux + OpenOffice with no side effects. If you install a nice system, and add the OpenOffice icon to the KDE desktop, you are done.

    How many times does your mom install a new printer? even when she had Windows and she got a new LaserJet she called me!. We all know all the people and institutions that are migrating towards Linux and OO, its just a matter of time to see it as a mainstream.

    On the other hand, it would come handy if the WalMart Mandrake PCs come with StarOffice preinstalled and with a HUGE icon in the middle of the desktop for all users.
    • I just did the same thing, and I have major pains. I'm in it for the freedom, so it is OK by me. My parent's had an easy choice too: "well, you could stick to your old win95 computer, but you would not get any support from neither MS nor me"...

      I'm on Debian Woody, and I've been fiddling with both KDE 2.2.2 and 3. Configuring the HP OfficeJet T65 is a major pain. I have an ad hoc-solution now that works OK on PS files. But those PS files created by KWord look nothing like they did on screen, and often, some of the words are lost at the end of lines.

      I haven't got OpenOffice to import anything but it's native format. Is there some kind of subprocess that is supposed to do the filtering, that just dies? It's a hell to debug this stuff.

      The really bad thing is though that this box is not on the net right now, so it is too hard to get to the docs and to the updates. Last night, I burnt OO debs on a CD, and when I got home, it turned out that the CD was corrupted.... Arrrrgh!

      Well, I'm going to quite a lot of pain, some of it is definately not Linux' fault, but I think that if I hadn't been into it for freedom, I wouldn't have bothered.

      Freedom is still Linux major selling point.

  • by totallygeek ( 263191 ) <> on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:21PM (#3736665) Homepage
    I have been trying for a long time to get my office to consider Star Office, and now Open Office. We have continued licensing issues with Microsoft, and have even received (what I term as) threatening letters from law firms stating that we need to "double check" our licensing. Their suspect? Well, we purchased 300+ copies of MS Office 95, and upgraded them all later to MS Office 97, but we didn't jump to MS Office 2000 and now MS Office XP. So, Microsoft figures that we are using the new version and not paying....

    Long and short, articles like this help my case that Open Office is becoming more mainstream. I love it!

  • Sleeping giant? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sneftel ( 15416 )
    Interesting that the reviewer chose to focus on the OpenOffice flavor rather than the StarOffice flavor, given that large corporations (Sun's sugar daddies) would be much more likely to stampede for corporate support--and corporate name recognition.

    I think OpenOffice shows a lot of promise in the windows world, but I wonder how long it'll take for Microsoft Word to obfuscate its file format (it's pretty obfuscated as is, but I get the feeling they have not yet begun to fight). Far too often, it's convenience that rules the day; despite the fact that RTF is still a darn good format, people save in Microsoft Word 2008.324 .DOC format and then kvetch when Word 2008.323 can't read it. OpenOffice is trying to beat Word at its own game, but I frankly don't think all of that is sustainable. We will see encrypted document files, and even more draconian EULAs from Microsoft; I only hope that some corporations are willing to take the plunge and become vendor-independent.
    • Free is a helluva lot more interesting than cheap. Same reason nobody gives a fuck about Opera but Mozilla 1.0 (which actually works, shocker!) is getting tons of press.
    • We will see encrypted document files

      hmmm, that's interesting. You mean files that could only be opened with MS Office? I can certainly envision a cat and mouse game of office documents between MS and open source, much like the RIAA / Valenti vs. practically everyone wars going on now. Wonder who would win?
      • Who would win?

        Certainly not the users, and someday they may realize this.
      • We will see encrypted document files
        hmmm, that's interesting. You mean files that could only be opened with MS Office?

        Even more interesting will be the litigation that would ensue if a large corp. decided to migrate from, say, MSOffice to and MS refused to assist them in decrypting their documents ...

        BigCorp CEO: "Mr. Gates, what do you MEAN that your right to keep my business overrides MY right to have access my own company's files?"

  • by dlur ( 518696 ) <.ten.wi. .ta. .ruld.> on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:25PM (#3736700) Homepage Journal

    We're a small tier OEM, and myself and another tech have convinced 'those that be' within our company to include Open Office on our low end systems instead of MS Worksuite 2002 OEM.

    Unfortunately the systems still come with MS Windows XP Home on them, but at least it's a step in the right direction. All of us techs now have Open Office installed on our computers and use it for pretty much all of our office app needs except for a few Excel quote sheets that have embedded macros that don't seem to function properly.

    So far we've had no complaints from any customers that have purchased these systems, but then again we've gotten no rave reviews either. I would definately say that it is an option though, at least for people who aren't tied directly into the MS specifics of the different file formats. Anyone who just wants to use a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software and do thier work from scratch should be more than happy with this software.

    • Actually, that's a big step in the right direction. That means that you can move between OSs without any document conversion (doesn't it? Or are there font problems?)
  • by Bollie ( 152363 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:26PM (#3736706)
    1. Ugly fonts
    2. Can't read ALL the Word documents
    3. Still a bit sluggish

    Three! I mean three major gripes!

    Seriously, font ugliness is a big problem under linux and it's all X's fault. You've seen the hundreds of people gawking at anti-aliased desktops, it just looks cooler.

    I believe there are many articles on exactly why fonts are ugly in linux... I also believe that the lack of cool, MS-compatible fonts (let's face it guys, Truetype was one thing MS carried from Win 3.1 to Win XP for a reason) are because of licensing issues.

    The next time a big company wants to donate money to open source, get them to design or fund fonts! That'll get Linux on the desktop. That'll cause secretaries to use OpenOffice and that'll make me happy.

    'nuff said.
    • That'll get Linux on the desktop.

      How often have we heard this phrase.
      • How often have we heard this phrase.

        Yes, but it's happening. A couple of years ago, the idea of Walmart selling linux boxes as desktop machines was laughable. Not now.

        OSS evangelists saying this is like kids on car journeys repeatedly asking "are we there yet?" Just because they're annoying - and we're not there yet, dammit - doesn't mean we're not going to get there.
    • I'm using mandrake 8.2, and I'm a compulsive font freak (I do web design work). We used to have Windows at work but then switched to linux, and I installed the truetype fonts I had in Windows (hundreds). 95% of them installed correctly and I use them everyday with the gimp. OpenOffice does support antialiased fonts, but for some reason it didn't grab the fonts installed in my system automatically (haven't fixed that yet, since I don't use it that much) and you're right, the fonts it has off-the-shelf are really ugly.

      Also, have you checked out nautilus? if you don't mind the occasional crash (it's improving) those fonts look nifty!

    • About the uglyness of the fonts. Im a (proud) Red Hat user and the fontserver that comes with it knows how to handle TrueType fonts. M$ distributes some TTF fonts for free (ms-webfonts something) plus you can use the TTF fonts from your windows install (you can technicly, but Im not sure legally). With this setup, I have the exact same fonts as the typical M$ user. Im typing this in Opera thats configured to use the TTF Helvetica font and it looks great.
    • 3. Still a bit sluggish

      Last I looked, the Linux version of Microsoft Office didn't exist. When given the choice between "cake or death", most everyone will choose the cake.
    • I seem to remember that TrueType was an Apple product with MS collaboration.

      Whatever, the basic idea is so good that its worth is obvious. And I beleive that progress is underway. Don't both KDE3 and Gnome2 support "anti-aliased" fonts? That's a partial answer. Now what is needed are some decent tools for building those fonts. If I recall correctly, the idea of a font is a collection of objects that know how to draw themselves are various sizes and resolutions and which can be mapped to a keyboard. One way to specify this is with Bezier curves (+ hinting), but I don't see any reason that it shouldn't be possible to specify programs that would do the same thing:
      draw(char#, rect=(top, left, height, width), weight, color=false, solid=true, underline=false, ...)

      FontMaker used to show one a rectangle and allow one to specify which dots were black for which letter (rather like an icon designer). Fontographer, it's sequel, changed this to specifying the same thing in terms of what appeared to be Bezier curves, with hints for things like how lines ended, how you specified holes inside of letters, etc. These programs allowed the Mac to have MANY custom fonts that did just what was needed. The pixelated fonts looked ugly at every size but the design size, and appropriate reductions, but the bezier fonts looked good at many sizes. (There were scaling problems with things like serifs, size of dots, etc. which created esthetic problems if you deviated too far from the design sizes, so even scalable fonts look better at appropriate sizes.)

      I haven't gone searching for projects like these, but they would certainly be a "good thing(tm)".

  • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:29PM (#3736720)
    Somewhere in a Microsoft meeting room there's a whiteboard with this written on it:

    Defeating Linux and open source apps - strategy
    • identify strengths and weaknesses of opponent (done)
    • ???
    • Defeat linux and open source!
    They must be tearing their hair out. Nelson "Ha Ha".

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:32PM (#3736746) Homepage Journal
    here [] is a page I made showing how Windows/MSOffice, Windows/OO, Linux/OO, and Mac/MSOffice handle the same document--a document, as it happens, that comes straight from Microsoft.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:33PM (#3736747)
    It's, not OpenOffice, OpenOffice is trademarked.

    From the faq: 8. Why should we say "" instead of simply "OpenOffice"? []
  • "We've gotten numerous submissions recently from people whose [company/school/whatever] is switching to OpenOffice."

    Hopefully some of those companies that are now saving many thousands of dollars by running OpenOffice (Especially the largeer firms/localities.) will consider hiring a developer to kick in some work on OpenOffice. Even if only a dozen companies worldwide did it, OpenOffice would suddenly get a huge boost of forward momentum.
  • great trick (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kallahar ( 227430 ) <> on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:34PM (#3736754) Homepage
    One great trick I found for converting excel files to HTML files. Excel does an awful job, writing an html page 10 times the size it needs to be, and the code is IE-centric. However, openoffice can open .xls files, and then save as html, and it outputs nicely formatted, standard HTML at very respectable sizes.

  • Has anyone ever done a survey of what percentage of Microsoft Office users fit into the category of "power" users; i.e. consistently using what most consider the obscure tools/scripts/functions?

    I don't use Word much and I personally probably approach 5% of the potential functionality. I just recently was sharing a Word doc that I had added comments with (using their functionality for, not just writing them in). None of the recipients knew how to find my comments and they wanted to know why I had hilited some words (mousing over the hilite brings up my comment).

  • Working at a large Sun shop we have been evaluating Star Office 6, but even at a cheep $76 a copy price it still gets expensive when you are talking about 1000+ licences. Open Office 1.0 is looking like a better deal everyday.
    • Re:Well... (Score:3, Informative)

      Sun has Enterprise licenses that drops the per-user cost the more licenses you buy. They have various levels from $50/user for 150 users to $25/user for 10,000 users. At 1,000 users, a company would pay $40,000 ($40 per user). (SOURCE: ogovw.html [] click on "StarOffice 6.0 Licenses")

      I couldn't find MS's volume licensing, but even if they gave a huge discount from retail (say 75%off the retail price of $450 for Office XP Standard), the 1,000 user company would still wind up paying $112,500.

      In other words, Star Office would save the 1,000 user company $72,500. (Companies might shy away from the free Open Office because there's no official support channels whereas you can call up Sun with tech support inquiries.)
      • One good thing about compulsory licensing is that it forces you to evaluate some interesting questions.

        I consulted for an organization with a 1200-station PC based network. Licensing changes and the threat of an audit got them sheepishly admit to me that they had *no* licenses for any Microsoft products, despite the products being installed on like 99% of the workstations.

        Every machine had: Win2k, Office2k, a few addons, Adobe Photoshop, Visual Interdev, and a bunch of other stuff.

        The bottom line is that out of 1200 users, they all used e-mail, all needed to be able to look at (though not necessarily edit) Word documents, and also use a proprietary app. About 100 needed a full copy of Word. About 200 more needed just Word.

        The good thing about licensing is that you can evaluate what you need as opposed to what you would install.

        All the machines got re-installed, but this time with legal software. The base machines got a copy of Word Viewer, Outlook, and a whole bunch of free/site license tools (plus the vertical makret apps that are really important). The "power users" (basica;ly managers who needed things for spreadsheets, presentations, etc). The developers (about 3 or 4) got development tools. The bosses were thinking "ohh crap, its 1200 x ($cost_of_Win2k + $cost_of_Office + $cost_of_AdobeStuff + $cost_of_DevelopmentStuff) = 7 figures (I think the number was about $4 million).

        After we really got it all figured out, the cost was a minor fraction of that - like $300k or something tiny like that.
      • Yes I realize this. We actually could get the $25 a copy. But my point was that $0 $25. Don't matter, we will end up with the Star Office instead just because of the Sun support we would get with it.
  • Not surprised... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pinkpineapple ( 173261 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:39PM (#3736794) Homepage
    I spent already a couple of times registring my legit copy of MS Word 2002 talking to MS droids on the phone to get a new activation key. The people were nice and all was done smoothly (for the exception of spelling 2 numbers of 50 digits each on the phone which took 10 minutes each time) but the pain it takes just to be able to reinstall a software I pay for is just one last drop I can think would move people to Open Source. It's this feeling of making me look like a thief begging for a new key that tells me that MS is not making it easy for people to stick with their products. Not to mention the time you have to waste each time just to be "granted" the right to you MS products.

    PPA, the girl next door.
  • by Platinum Dragon ( 34829 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:42PM (#3736825) Journal
    To my fellow OOo users running under GNOME, you may have encountered a problem where the program will often fail to start properly. This is not a crash. OOo is simply being purged by the GNOME session manager [] due to its relatively long startup time. I was a bit surprised to encounter this problem in 1.0, having thought it an OO bug. However, this article led me to search Issuezilla for a solution, which thankfully was determined.

    There are a couple ways around the purge. The easiest one is to add "unset SESSION_MANAGER" to the soffice startup script. One file, all GNOME users happy. A somewhat more intrusive and wide-ranging solution is to add "exec $PATH_TO_GNOME-SESSION/gnome-session --purge-delay=0" to ~/.gnomerc. Supposedly, this will solve a similar problem with Opera, according to the bug comments.
  • Stellar Product (Score:3, Informative)

    by behrman ( 51554 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:43PM (#3736832)
    I wind up doing a lot of work with some larger spreadsheets (storage system implementation documentation), as well as some fairly massive CSV imports from perl scripts. I haven't needed to do a lot of formulas/macros in the spreadsheet (since most of my spreadsheets are a result of perl scripts, I just make the script do it!), however, I've found that OOo has wound up working much much better than Excel for me. It's faster, it has better importing, great interoperability with my cow'orkers using Office, and the file sizes are smaller. Plus, I can install a copy on my laptop, both work desktops, and my three PCs at home (running Win2k, WinXp, and Linux across the 6 boxes that I use) without any fear of Microsoft Visual Gestappo Suite XP coming down on me, or my employer. I've been playing around with StarOffice for the last few versions and found it a bit cumbersome and broken (imports not working right, limited versions of Office formats to export to, really slow on my dual P2-233 linux box). OpenOffice, however, has completely impressed me.
  • Economics 101 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:44PM (#3736845) Journal
    One wonders why the high-priced lawyers and accountants at MS and the BSA gestapo haven't figured this out.

    Econ 101 - consumers purchase things because they perceive value > total cost. If the VALUE of MS Office lies in its perceived ubiquity (since the software functions of the two products are practially the same), the moment that this "value" the opportunity or real costs of BSA Audits, harrassment, and the fear of that 'disgruntled employee' narc'ing sometime in the future, well DUH people are going to move away from these 'excessive costs' whenever they can.

    It's my conviction that the widespread piracy of Win95 (and thus its widespread adoption) KILLED an arguably better competitor, OS/2. If every single copy of Win95 had to be paid for (the theoretical goal) it would not be the dominant OS. The tighter they squeeze, the more systems will slip through their fingers, indeed.

    Sure piracy costs Microsoft; if IBM had recognized this at the time, and been handing out FREE OS/2 versions MS probably wouldn't have to spend the $$ to buy the Justice Dept today.
  • by pubjames ( 468013 )
    I find it amazing that people can be so blind about how the Internet/web is affecting the fundamental economics of the software industry.

    I remember back when Microsoft were backslapping saying they had 'turned-on-a-dime' with regard to the Internet, and 'won' the browser wars by giving away IE. I remember thinking - this is the beginning of the end for you, mate. The day MS gave away IE was the start of a new epoch in the software industry which will result in the death of MS. Ironic.
    • Why has this been moderated as off-topic? I'm talking about how free software distributed over the internet like OpenOffice is changing the face of the software industry. I fail to see how that is off-topic.
  • by Yekrats ( 116068 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:51PM (#3736895) Homepage
    The article poses the question, "Who do you call for tech support?" if your office suite breaks.

    That's the big bugaboo question with corporations: Who do we blame if something goes wrong? That's the question that MS wants to stick in your craw, to give the perception that open source software is unreliable.

    However, if you're using Microsoft products, when is the last time you got tech support from Microsoft? I've been supporting Microsoft products in a Helpdesk environment for over six years now. I have never even thought of support from Microsoft as much of an option. Am I missing something?

    I do know that every time I have submitted bug reports to Microsoft (which I've done on multiple occasions) the report seems to disappear into a black hole. I've never got even so much as an automatic confirmation or anything. And always, the suggestion to correct the bug has gone unanswered, with no bug fix. Yes, I rather resent the poor service back to me, when I was trying to help them.

    Every open source project I've submitted bug fixes for have almost always sent feedback back to me. Usually in the form of a personal email from the author. Now how's that for service?

    • When you buy Microsoft the tech support is crap. Crappity-ass crap. Now it's probably not if you buy the expensive $200+/year premium support or many-$10K/yr helpdesk-to-helpdesk support for corporate buyers, but that's not in the typical individual's budget.

      So I say this is a total red herring, and one that will bite the commercial vendors in the ass real soon now. As soon as OpenOffice hits Mac I'll definitely try it (and I'm using Mozilla now).

    • As a personal user, even if you purchase MS Office you don't get support. You can go to a web page and look up info or call them at $??? per call for support. If you want a company behind your office productivity suite spend the bucks and get it from Sun. Most coporations would be inclined to do it this way.

      If you are a personal user and the kind to go to the MS website to get your support then searching or google to get help isn't much of a stretch. The only stretching will be from the money left in your wallet.
      • As a personal user, even if you purchase MS Office you don't get support. You can go to a web page and look up info or call them at $??? per call for support.

        This isn't accurate. Quoting from MS's Product SUpport page, for Office XP:

        If you purchased this product at a retail store, you are eligible for unlimited no-charge Installation Support and two no-charge Personal Support incidents. Personal Support is designed to provide support for everyday product usage to help U.S. consumers, home users, home office customers who use Microsoft consumer products.

        After that, its $35 an incident, again quoting:

        In addition to no-charge support: If you purchased this product at a retail store, you are eligible for Paid Personal Support available at $35 U.S. per incident and billable to your VISA, MasterCard, or American Express credit card.

        Does that seem so unreasonable? Unlimited help installing the package, 2 normal support incidents, and after that its $35/incident.

        Sounds extremely reasonable to me.
        • Yeah, and I bet the kids all like that $35/incident thing a whole lot. Why would you pay MS $35 more for something they didn't cater for you, when you could pay the kid down the street $5 to fix it for you and teach you how to use it.
      • every time I have submitted bug reports to Microsoft (which I've done on multiple occasions) the report seems to disappear into a black hole

      Amen to that. I recall trying to report a bug in MSVC 5.2, and drawing a complete blank. It wasn't a new version with a beta program, there was (at that time) no links on their site that we could find to report bugs, and whoever we got through to on the 'phone eventually ended up putting us through to tech support, who wanted to charge us $75 to ask two question.

      Think about that. You are talking to someone in Microsoft. You say to them "I have a bug to report. A bug. Not a technical support issue. I know how to use it, and it doesn't work. It hangs the machine if you try and compile an MFC collection class inside a double nested namespace. The product doesn't work, and I'm trying to provide feedback to help you fix it. Don't put me through to tech support. Do not put me through to tech support."

      "Transferring you now... Hi, welcome to tech support. My name is Mindy, and I'll talk to you for ten whole minutes for only $75 dollars. Mmm, you sound like a real stud. What's your credit card number, you hot stallion?"

      OK, I'm perhaps paraphrasing slightly at the end, but they really seemed to go out of their way to make it hard to help them.

      • That was apparently a long time ago. All tech support with MS now, through Product Support Services is 100% free of charge if it is relating to or caused by a Microsoft bug.

        I've used this numerous times, and have found the support and help to be great (and free).
    • My other favorite is "Who are you going to sue?"

      As if ANY software licence (GPL included) allows you to sue the maker. MS, Oracle, Lotus/IBM, Sun, etc all license their software such that they are absolved if anything goes wrong.

      Honest question here, when was the last time anyone's been sued for COTS software defects? I can't recall any.
    • I have never even thought of support from Microsoft as much of an option. Am I missing something?

      I think it really depends on what amount of risk you associate with time lost trying to figure it out yourself.

      For example, I have been working in a proprietary development environment (high-end CAD), where the total cost of my software is probably $40,000 (just one seat!). The API documentation is sketchy at times, and our contract is definitely time-constrained. So, is it best for me to burn $100/hour of the contract to figure stuff out, or should I call up our support line and get an expert's answer quickly? In my case, the our software vendor is pretty good, and the support is well worth it.

      The same is true for some super-high-end server installations. I believe Sun sells a support option, where Sun actively monitors your servers. If something goes wrong, they know before you do, and begin figuring out a resolution! Is it possible to beat this? Again, a lot is at stake, here.

      I don't have experience with M$ support, so I'll stop talking, now.
    • If OO.o gets more popular, it might be worth somebody's while to start a tech support call center for it. Consider: everyone has as much access to the source as anyone else, so in theory anyone could provide support for the product.

      The "There's no tech support for Open Source Software" is a glass-half-empty way of looking at it. The upside is that a situation could arise where several companies are providing support, each with their own competitive advantages. They could charge for individual cases, as well as selling service contracts to corporations.

      Another idea: start a database of issues/resolutions. Any support company can use it, provided they feed back new solutions to it. It would not only lower the cost of providing service and eliminate redundancies, but it would provide the OO.o hackers with valuable data about their product.

      I'm starting to like this idea, and if anyone has a few million to spare, I'll gladly implement it. Or change my name and make for the Bahamas.
    • This would be funnier if it weren't so accurate: Microsoft Technical Support vs. The Psychic Friends Network []

      And I'm not just MS bashing. I've had experiences with MS tech that closely resemble these. Every time I hear a PHB say "We have to use MS, becase we need the support" I just laugh and laugh and laugh. Then I go back to my office and cry.

  • by Platinum Dragon ( 34829 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @01:15PM (#3737101) Journal
    A couple quotes from the article that made my jaw drop simply due to their mention:

    OpenOffice can't run macros written in Microsoft's programming language, either. (On the bright side, you're therefore safe from Word and Excel macro viruses.)

    I don't know if macro viruses are still floating around in the wild, but in a computer-illiterate, yet paranoid user culture, this may prove to be an important selling point. Time will tell if StarBasic can be used for similar abuses.

    The article notes a few things that, if I understand correctly, OOo does better than MSO:

    It's nice to have a proper Font menu (showing font names in their actual typefaces) at the top of the window, instead of on a toolbar that may not be open. It's also a pleasure to be able to open any kind of OpenOffice document (text, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing) from the File menu of any of its programs. [...] Both Word and OpenOffice Writer let you set up abbreviations that when typed expand into longer words or phrases. But only OpenOffice offers to complete frequently used long words automatically, which quickly becomes a huge timesaver.

    If you listen to Bill's Legions, MSO is the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world that can do everything you can think of and more. I would appreciate being corrected here if MSO does the above, and I'd be surprised if it didn't.

    Fortunately, the open-source nature of holds tantalizing promise for improved versions. Anyone is permitted, even encouraged, to submit bug reports, wish lists of features and other feedback via the Web site. As a new droplet in the tidal wave of the open-source movement, you may even experience the thrill of watching your tiny input have an effect on the next version.

    *jumps up and down like a moron on speed*

    This is what keeps me coming back to OSS efforts. I may not be able to program worth a lick, but I can still directly contribute to the improvement of a program I use and interact with the programmers as if they're human beings, instead of distant gods on top of a mountain of C code somewhere. I think this aspect of the Mozilla project should have been screamed to the heavens even more than it was to the users, the idea that Joe User could make a solid, tangible contribution to making their computers easier and better, rather than waiting for God Gates to bestow His latest Blessings upon the unwashed masses. Maybe it's due to my anarchist leanings, but I think we're better when we work together and listen to the people affected by our decisions and our work, instead of assuming I, and I alone, know what's best for everyone else.

    Give a person a taste of the power, freedom, and agency s/he can have as an individual among many, and that person will never want to give it up. It's a liberating feeling.
  • Admittedly this is just my own experiences, but all of the users I've had to support in an office environment, as well as my own use of office suites says that the functionality in OpenOffice and StarOffice should completely replace MS-Office with about zero user impact. It's good to see that OpenOffice is getting the kind of press coverage needed to make it a real challenger to Microsoft's dominance. The NY Times article is exactly the type of thing any product (not just open source) needs to become accepted as mainstream. Bravo!

  • by jilles ( 20976 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @01:20PM (#3737161) Homepage
    I downloaded and installed OOo right after it was released. I generally like the software. However, there is one show stopper issue that keeps me from migrating completely. It is currently not possible to make crossreferences to paragraph numbers. If for instance you have a document with a numbered list of references at the end, it is not possible to insert a cross-reference in the text to one of these numbers. The same applies to tables, figures, sections, formulas and headings.

    Since I write scientific articles and need to be able to do all of the above, I can't use OOo (I use framemaker right now). I checked with issuezilla and this is something they are aware of, even though there doesn't seem to be much activity on the issue. I really hope they fix this soon.
  • Okay, so I've contributed many hours as a developer to OpenOffice (hypothetically)? How do I get paid? Seriously. Sure, it's fun. Sure, I benefit from all the other cool free applications that others are working on. But, how, as a programmer, do I pay my bills and my family? Sure, some things like a companies e-commerce system will remain proprietary, but I'm honestly afraid that the ubiquity of OS's and productivity applications will threaten my ability to make a reasonably comfortable income.
    • Well, as I see it, the better places to work are for companies that serve business or a game company. OS and 'mundane' apps like Office and stuff could easily be replaced by reasonable open source equivalents for home users because the differences don't matter that much and they don't care much about support at purchase time.... Now companies *want* to pay for stuff and support, it feels more secure to them, and they are the ones that put down the big cash. Similarly, games enjoy a great deal of customers because each game offers something different and even if the engine and everything perform equal, two games may be differentiated by artwork and story, and even if both are equally good, that difference may cause both to be used...
  • I work as a web developer, so my main need for .DOC files exists in creating proposals, contracts, letters and similar for correspondence with my clients. Like many other Windows users, I've been using the various Word products for as long as I've been using computers.

    I've always found Word to be one of the least-intuitive, poorly-supported applications that I've ever had the displeasure of working with. To say that I hate Word with a passion would not be an understatement. To make matters worse, with each new release, the number of Word's "features" seems to expand nearly geometrically, while my ability to use nearly ANY feature decreases by some sort of evil inverse proportion. Microsoft needs to hire Jacob Nielsen [] to conduct some usability studies on the app, seriously.

    So for me, ANYTHING that can help me to escape from the grasp of Word sounds good. I've got the 1.0 release of OpenOffice and I love it. Sure, it's got bugs vis-a-vis opening and saving Word files perfectly, and the bulleted list thing is really annoying (although some Windows people think they look really cool! LOL), but since most of my documents need to be created for hardcopy printing only, I'm learning to love OpenOffice.
  • If one of these reputable sources did a whole series of articles (or a long article) on a group of Open Source applications/OS's. They could group, Mozilla, Linux distros, etc., and present it as a complete solution to Microsoft software.
  • by browser_war_pow ( 100778 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @02:18PM (#3737704) Homepage
    If 1.5-2.5M federal desktops switched it would be disasterous for Microsoft. Go write, now
  • I'm writing a big course-pack for a class that I teach. I debated about using Latex or Word and, mainly for "free" reasons, settled on I'm running this on an XP box and hope to be running it on my Linux box at work also.

    So far I'm pretty happy. The UI is okay, and things are pretty nice. However, I've had a lot of problems. (all in OO writer)

    • I had serious problems with bullets. They all just changed to bullets with the number 10 in them. After spending about an hour on this, I found it as a fixed bug [] with a workaround.
    • I've had the program crash once and my machine crash once (due to something else.) Both times I've lost work because there is apparently no crash recovery.
    • Saving as HTML doesn't seem to work very well. In this directory [] you can see the HTML [] file has had some of its graphics messed up pretty badly, while others are just fine. I think that if I group each drawing into one drawing this problem will go away. But still...
    • The spell checker is nice, but I can't see away to get it to ignore punctuation. So everytime I have two puncutuation marks back-to-back it calls it an error.
    • You can't change the default bullet that is generated by hitting the "bullet on/off" button. You'd think it would use the list1 style or something, but it doesn't.
    • If you want to contribute to you have to sign your code over to Sun. As far as I can tell, this means they can use it for whatever they want (StarOffice for example...)
    I've also found that the bib. tool needs a lot of help. Also, right-clicking seems to cause menus to pop but based upon cursor position, not mouse position. I guess that is okay, but it seems like I have to click twice to get the right-click menu that I want (once to move the cursor, once to pull up the menu.)

    Given all of these complaints I still expect I'll finish this using OOo. It seems to work well enough and I'd like to move away from MS tools if possible.

  • databases and OO (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jd142 ( 129673 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @02:21PM (#3737731) Homepage
    Yes, it is technically true that OO doesn't ship with a database program.

    However, it has some darn nice database features. If you have existing odbc sources defined in windows, you can access them. However, unlike word, which let's you access them via the mail merge function only, OO goes one better: you can see and edit the tables as tables. You can create new queries, that are then available to all the OO components.

    Let me say that again another way. You get everything MS Access gives you except for the ability to create custom forms. And they say that OO doesn't have a database.

    You can also use jdbc or just link to an existing excel file. That's right, you can access an excel file as if it were a set of records and columns. I just linked to an excel spreadsheet with 17,000 rows and 30 columns, viewed it as if it were a table in a database, wrote a custom query that will now be available to all the OO components.

    And they call this not having a database.

    I've got users using OO to edit mysql tables that hold data for our website because MS Access couldn't work correctly with the myodbc drivers.

    I really wish people would cover that aspect more in their reviews. It's a very important feature to us here. Our hidebound faculty will never move to it of course, but for some tasks like basic mysql database entry, that's what I'm going to have them use.

    • Re:databases and OO (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Micah ( 278 )
      > If you have existing odbc sources defined in windows, you can access them

      or with unixODBC in Linux. I had never touched unixODBC before, but there's a HOWTO PDF (I don't remember the URL, but it was in LinuxToday last week) that explained the process. I had talking to my Postgres database in minutes! (And the Howto was for mysql!)

      > You get everything MS Access gives you except for the ability to create custom forms.

      BZZT. File | AutoPilot | Form...

      ok, it might not be quite as complete as Access (maybe it is, I don't know how they compare), but it's there! I know you can write events for DB updates from StarBasic, and they can supposedly access form widgets, so it probably has all the functionality of Access. No reports though, that I'm aware of -- Access may lead there.

      > I really wish people would cover that aspect more in their reviews.

      Agree 100%.

      Really, is SOOO close to being The MS Office Killer it's not even funny. It just needs 1) more end user documentation, especially for the macro language (which is quite powerful), 2) maybe a reports system like Access has, 3) fixes for a few little bugs that have been mentioned here and elsewhere.

      All this should be done in a few months. Combine OOo for most uses and LaTeX for books and technical writings, and there will be absolutely no reason whatsoever to pay for MS Office.

Never say you know a man until you have divided an inheritance with him.