Since the beginning of the OpenOffice.org project the software has become increasingly popular. This popularity is rising not just among developers but among end-users, those who actually use the application as a finished product. It is said that as of 2004 OpenOffice.org had a market share of 14% in the large enterprise market. Its market share is also steadily rising in the personal computing market.
I have been using OpenOffice.org 2.0 for about 6 months now, since I first heard of the project. I have not been disappointed. OpenOffice.org delivers on its promise to be a free, easy-to-use and fully compatible alternative to Microsoft Office, the king of the PC office suites.
That is not to say that OpenOffice.org 2.0 is limited to PC’s or the Windows platform. OpenOffice.org is a multiplatform application that can run on Windows, but is also designed to work on Mac OS’s, Linux and Unix. Thus not only does OpenOffice.org provide compatibility with other software applications, it also eases compatibility of documents across platforms.
Component Programs Offered In OpenOffice.org 2.0
Like any good office suite OpenOffice.org 2.0 has a number of component programs, meant to rival its commercial competitors. The component programs offered with OpenOffice.org 2.0 are:
Writer: This is the word processor of the OpenOffice.org 2.0 suite. Its equivalent to Microsoft Word.
Calc: OpenOffice.org’s spreadsheet program. The equivalent of Microsoft Excel.
Impress: Impress is similar to Microsoft’s PowerPoint program. It allows users to create presentations.
Draw: Draw is a vector graphics program. It has no ready counterpart in Microsoft Office, however it is comparable to CorelDRAW. It also allows for the export of PDF files.
Math: Math is used for the creation of mathematic formulae that can then be easily transported to other applications within OpenOffice.org.
Base: This program is a basic database editor, similar to Microsoft Access. Base is new to OpenOffice.org 2.0 and is not found in previous releases of the software.
Using OpenOffice.org 2.0
It is very easy to begin using OpenOffice.org 2.0. Its interface is highly intuitive, particularly if you already have experience with similar office applications. The component programs with the highest learning curve are Draw and Base.
If you are like me, however, your primary interest will be in the word processor and the spreadsheet program, and these are incredibly simple to use. Writer works just like you expect any word processor to work, and unlike some rivals such as Corel WordPerfect, it has popular features such as word count. (Lack of word count has long been a thorn in my side when using Corel WordPerfect).
Using some of the other programs might take a little bit of getting used to if you are new to these types of software. OpenOffice.org’s Base was my first experience in using a database program, and it took me a little while to feel my way around. Even here, though, the interface was still highly intuitive making it much easier to find my way.
Base is also the one area of the program where I have noticed a technical flaw. While the other component programs are highly stable it has been my experience that Base is highly unstable. It often crashes, particularly when in the process of creating reports. The exact reasons of this I do not know. Because all of the applications in the suite are interconnected, this crash causes other OpenOffice.org programs such as Writer or Calc to close as well.
Fortunately OpenOffice.org has an excellent automatic backup feature and when such crashes occur most if not all of my data is preserved. When opening any application in the OpenOffice.org suite, if there is unsaved data in any of the OpenOffice.org programs you will be prompted to open up these files so that they can be properly saved.
The interconnectivity of programs does make life a little easier. You can open any document of any type supported by OpenOffice.org from any of its component applications and it will immediately direct you to the proper application. You can also create new documents of any type from any of the component applications. For example, if you were working on a document in Writer then wished to create a new spreadsheet, you could do so straight from Writer without having to open up the Calc application on its own.
For cost-effectiveness there is no beating OpenOffice.org 2.0. It has the best price tag available: free. The power of its applications is hard to beat.
There are some bugs still in the system, particularly Base’s tendency to crash. The application is still usable, but it could be the cause of some frustration. As the technology continues to develop these bugs should go away, but until then OpenOffice.org remains a strong, free office application that is a boon to any user, especially one operating on a budget.