Spilled Latte Leads To OpenOffice.org Experiment

by Erica Driver.

On Friday morning I ventured out in the newly-fallen snow for my morning latte. The tree branches were heavy with wet snow. It was gorgeous. But promptly after settling in at my desk I miscalculated the length of my arm and spilled about 12 oz. of coffee and milk all over my laptop. Little red lights blinked a few times and my screen went dark. That was it. Done. Gone. Dead.

I got on the horn with Forrester's top-notch IT group and I had a new laptop at my doorstep in about 24 hours. Forrester IT rocks. But I'm not here to bemoan my clumsiness or sing kudos to our help desk. I'm here to tell you what happened when I took over my husband's laptop for the remainder of the day. He doesn't have Microsoft Office installed on his machine; he uses OpenOffice.org 2.1.

I had no choice -- I gave it a shot. I was able to get some of my tasks done, but not all. And the learning curve was not insignificant. For example:

  • I couldn't open Office 2007-formatted documents (.XLSX, .PPTX, and .DOCX) in OpenOffice.
  • The keyboard commands are not all the same (for example, the CTRL+SHIFT+ down arrow key combination didn't let me select entire rows of text -- I had to select across, word by word).
  • In OpenOffice I hover over comments others had embedded in Word 2003 docs, but I couldn't figure out how to delete them.

My main takeaway: Don't expect people to switch back and forth between OpenOffice and Microsoft Office -- especially Office 2007 users. And people who are used to Microsoft Office 2003 or higher will have a hard time adjusting to OpenOffice. OpenOffice is best suited to users who don't currently have access to Microsoft Office, or who have very old versions.


re: Spilled Latte Leads To OpenOffice.org Experiment

Hi,I had to chuckle at your recent blog posting about your latte-splattered laptop. But I was glad to hear you had a chance to work with OpenOffice 2.1. Of course, with Novell being a large contributor to this project, and having our own shipping version - a few folks here wanted to set the record straight on a couple of things:1. Prior to February 2nd, no other software than Microsoft Office 2007 was able to read .XLSX, .PPTX, or .DOCX files. Not Microsoft Office 2000, Office XP or Office 2003. Novell and Microsoft are currently working on bi-directional translators for documents, spreadsheets and presentations between OpenDocument format (ODF), used by OpenOffice.org, and Open XML, the default file format for Microsoft Office 2007. On Feb. 2, Microsoft announced the availability of the Open XML/ODF Translator for the 2007 Microsoft Office system, Microsoft Office 2003 and Microsoft Office XP. Later this month (February), Novell will release an Open XML / ODF Translator for the Novell edition of OpenOffice.org. Both Novell and Microsoft will continue to work on the translator project to extend the interoperability to spreadsheets and presentations. (No more trouble with file compatibility!!)2. Although the features are not 100% identical between Microsoft Office applications and OpenOffice.org applications, the keyboard commands, menus, and overall user experience are overwhelmingly similar between the respective office productivity suites. At least if you compare OpenOffice.org and MS Office 2003. However...The user interface in Office 2007 is so different from prior versions of Office that most users will find it to be a foreign experience. Unlike with OpenOffice.org, users migrating to Office 2007 will likely require significant re-training to become productive with elements like the ribbon and Office Button.3. Any minor initial learning curve is more than offset by the dramatic reduction in license and maintenance fees to the organization. The thousands of knowledge workers relying on OpenOffice.org for their daily work at these companies and many others are people who had been using Microsoft Office previously. They are people who in many cases had been power users of Microsoft Office and made a relatively quick adjustment to OpenOffice.org. The overall value proposition of OpenOffice.org ‑ based on flexibility, pace of innovation, and of course cost ‑ is strong and arguably becomes even stronger with the release of Office 2007.Remember, the price is right with OpenOffice.org. Suggested MSRP for 2007: $499 as opposed to ... nothing for OpenOffice.org.It is our corporate standard at Novell and we are seeing more and more customers buying it. (Peugot being the most recent in Europe.) It works well for us and we have been able to reduce our licensing costs with MS.Carey