Thursday, October 20, 2005


OpenOffice 2.0 Released, and More of My Software Favorites

OpenOffice 2.0 has been released today, after quickly going through three release candidates since the beta was released in September. I've used OpenOffice for about two years, and have been using developer versions for over a year. Since I'm tired of MS Office, and even WordPerfect Office (does anyone remember Lotus SmartSuite?), this suits me just fine.

I am multi-office. I prefer writing straight text in WordPerfect, I use Word when other people send me those files but I never initiate anything in it. Lotus WordPro (and its predecessor AmiPro) never caught my fancy. I still think Lotus Manuscript was one of the best word processors ever made, and was ahead of its time. It was the internally developed tech documentation software that Lotus let "escape" into the marketplace. Word did not really catch up until Word95, long after Manuscript died when Lotus bought Samna's Ami Pro. WordPro would have been great, but it was such a memory hog. Lotus really blew it, especially when Freelance was so far ahead of Powerpoint (heck, they blew it when they let 1-2-3 get trampled by Excel!). Lotus SmartSuite still works (I bought a copy for $29 a year ago from a closeout site), and Freelance is still smooth to work with.

WordPerfect kind of just sits there. Novell ruined QuattroPro, which was way ahead of Excel until they mangled it, and Corel really has not done much to it other than introduce new bugs that they fix with some of the old ones. Excel's charts are the best of them all, and that's OpenOffice's weakest point. Corel Presentations is one of those programs you want to like, and then you start using it, and "like" turns into frustration. At this stage, unless software has keyboard shortcuts that are similar to MS Office that are either built-in or easily recreated, it's a real burden. OpenOffice Impress does a superb job of opening PowerPoint documents, but there are occasional minor formatting issues when saving them in that format. I've been using it for all of my presentations of late unless someone I'm working with is firmly entrenched in PowerPoint.

As far as data bases go, OpenOffice has a free one that I won't be using. Filemaker is head and shoulders above MS Access, Lotus Approach (does anybody use that?), Paradox (in the dictionary, it's listed under "user-friendly" as an antonym), and a lot of the other data base programs. Filemaker is made for the "un-geeks," so OpenOffice doesn't have a chance with me in this area anyway. Filemaker may be one of the best, sturdiest, programs ever written for the PC (and that's ironic because of its Apple and Mac roots!)

Two nice features in OpenOffice: built-in PDF and Flash file making. It was really funny a few days ago when I read that next year's MS Office will include PDF file making. WordPerfect has had it for years. I've recommended people download OpenOffice and open their Word files in it to make PDFs. Flash is handy if you want to save a presentation and put it up on the Web. Really neat.

Another benefit: OpenOffice is available for Linux, Solaris, and Macintosh.

OpenOffice is free at
I use Sun Microsystems' StarOffice, which is based on a slightly earlier build than this OpenOffice release today, just by a few weeks. I found a couple of bugs, but the StarOffice version has a better thesaurus, more clip art, and other goodies. A free 90-day evaluation version can be had at

eWeek article about OpenOffice,1895,1874157,00.asp
Interview with Louis Suarez-Potts, community manager of
TechWeb story about the release

Another favorite, AbiWord is great when you just have to do something simple, like what a lot of us refer to as "dumping text." It loads fast and does not have a lot of overhead. Be sure to download the extra features (there are three files to download from the site).

For my other software picks, see this blog posting:

I do not understand (I am roumanian) :
Filemaker is bad or very good ?
(I use the friendly one, Paradox, and i am looking for a free one language)
Thank you
Dumitrescu Silvian
1) Filemaker is excellent, especially for people who are new to data bases. For professionals, it has become a significantly better product, with many capabilities similar to paradox (such as parent-child data base structures). I would not recommend paradox as it is not likely to be continued or updated.

2) OpenOffice has a data base built on MySQL (i believe that's correct) but they made it look a bit like MS Access for the OOo implementation. I like Filemaker so much that i won't be using it, though. The reviews of OpenOffice Base appear to be quite good, however.

Thanks for your question!
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