18 September 2008
The Dell SX260 desktop computer in my basement shop does
not have Microsoft Office installed and a couple months ago, I downloaded and
install the current (version 2.4) free Open Office suite.
I've used Microsoft Word, Excel and other members of
Microsoft Office since Windows 3.1 and have found them to be solid products,
almost never resulting in data loss. I don't care at all for the needless
changes in look and feel Microsoft made in Office 2007, but it's still a solid
Using Open Office has been an interesting experience.
Until today, my view has been that OO is a useful alternative to Microsoft
Office. Although OO has fewer features, it seemed to be in general a stable
As I mentioned, I've been working on a detailed study of
harmonic distortion of several audio transformers and rather than write the new
web page directly into the web composer I use (Microsoft Front Page), I decided
to write the document in OO and then transfer it to Front Page after completion.
I used OO instead of Microsoft Word as I worked at the computer in the shop,
next to the test gear and with ready access to my notebooks.
This is the first long document with integrated images
that I've tried with OO. I did a few OO experiments with the Z100 manual,
importing the Word file into OO and seeing how it handled the text---reasonably
well, as a matter of fact. My transformer composition went moderately well with
OO yesterday. Today, I decided to work from a different PC, installed OO on it,
and loaded my draft web page text and imbedded graphics. At this point, the
draft was about 25 pages, with perhaps 50 graphics. After a couple of hours more
work, OO lost all the embedded images in the first half of the document. Closing
and reopening the file didn't restore the missing images, and re-launching OO
It's not a total disaster, as it shouldn't take more than
a couple hours to restore the missing images, but it is irksome. Needless
to say, I've exported the document to Word and will finish the task in Word. I
no longer trust OO for long documents, or work that I can't afford to have
I'll mention another serious shortcoming of OO for the
type of writing I do. Word comes with a reasonably serviceable equation editing
program add-in, Microsoft Equation 3.0 is the version in Word 2003. OO comes
with a program SMath that is said to perform a similar function to
Equation 3.0. However, SMath is a pale shadow of Equation 3.0 and is essentially
useless for my purposes. It's possible that my unfamiliarity with SMath is
causing me to unfairly rate it as unusable, but I've not found a way to prepare
a simple equation.
Open Office version
(The Microsoft version appears as a blocky bit-mapped image when I copy and
paste it into Front Page for publishing to this web site, but it looks very good
in Word or documents printed from Word.)
I can't find support for things like integral signs, etc. in OO.
Considering OO is free, and Microsoft Office costs several hundred dollars,
there's a "you get what you pay for" component of usability, features and
stability. Still, I expected more of OO.