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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Open Office

Yesterday PogKnits requested that I review Open Office, so I thought I'd give it a try.  Disclaimer:  this probably isn't going to be much of a "real" review, but I'll let you know how it's worked out for me.

Open Office is a word processing, spreadsheet, and other things type of program that you download free from the Internet and it works on either Macs or PC's.  (I've only messed with the word processing and spreadsheets part of it so I can't remember what other things it does, but they are all very businessey and I'm sure very helpful if you need them.)  I grew up using Word Perfect as a word processor and then switched to Microsoft Works which has a word processor, spread sheet and other types of helpful things if you use them.  Microsoft Works is different from Microsoft Word, but Works has always been free on whatever PC we had, so that's what I used.  When I made the decision to switch from our family's PC to a Pink Lemon Mac, I decided that putting Microsoft programs on it would probably defeat the purpose of the switch and decided not to get Microsoft Office for Mac.  I realize if you work for an actual company that uses Microsoft programs for their TPS reports or what have you (bonus points for knowing the movie "TPS reports" comes from), you will have to run Microsoft Office even if you use a Mac.  I am my business, so I get to make these kinds of decisions for myself.  There are also Mac word processing programs out there, but they aren't free like Open Office is, so I decided to start with Open Office and see how it worked and if I needed to make changes, I'd go from there.

It's very easy to download and install Open Office (I did it on the PC right before I got the Mac, so I've done it on both systems).  As far as working with the word processing program part of it, some of the symbols are different from what I'm used to and while nothing was really difficult to use, there was a learning curve to using it due to switching from one word processing program to another.  The thing that really threw me for a loop was that I would be typing a word and Open Office kept trying to finish the word for me.  Unfortunately, Open Office had no real idea what word I was planning on using so it kept guessing wrong and it really got on my nerves.  I was able to turn this "feature" off, but for the life of me, I can't remember how I did it.  (I just went into Open Office to try to find where I went to disable this but it's not in preferences and it's not really showing me anything that looks like what I used to turn it off.  I think it's called word completion or finishing something or other - hey, I warned you this was going to be a squirrelly review.)  Adding pictures was different from anything I'd used before (the resizing is tricky and it seems to add all pics at full size).  I had to go into the Format menu to resize the pictures, but there is a box you can check to keep the ratio the same so you can make the picture smaller without distorting the image.  Also, if you purchased Flamenco, you can see in the Footer that the weblink for Pink Lemon Twist is blue.  I wanted it to be black, but I haven't found where to fix that yet - I'm pretty sure it's doable though.  Finally, I prefer for the Footers to start on Page 2 (I realized I messed this up on Atlantis for some reason, and I should have caught it then), and I can't figure out how to get them skip the first page and start on the second.  It might be something I need to set, or I might just have to live with Footers starting on Page 1 now.

Overall, Open Office is pretty similar to the other word processing programs I've used - when you get down to it, there just aren't that many different ways to do a word processing program.  It just takes a little bit of playing around to get used to the different menus and symbols.  One really nice thing in Open Office is that it publishes directly to pdf format (the format I use for my pattern files).  Lots of computers come with pdf converters and all Macs have them, but our family PC did not have one and I was using a freebie downloaded from the Internet (Cute PDF).  It worked just fine, but that was one more thing I had to download to the PC in order to write a pattern.  With Open Office, it's already in there.

As to the spreadsheet part of Open Office, I really have no idea how to use a spreadsheet other than they are really important in real businesses and can do calculations.  I use them to chart knitting patterns, which I don't need calculated so I really can't comment on how great a spreadsheet program Open Office has.  I also really can't comment on how it is to draw knitting charts in the Open Office spreadsheet because I drew the charts in the Microsoft Works spreadsheet thingy and then transferred them into Open Office.  I edited a few things on the chart, but clicking a square on the chart and changing a / to a \ and adding a YO really didn't tell me much.  

I realize that you have just read the most helpful and thorough review you've ever read.  (Yeah, I know, sorry about that, but I did warn you.)  Anyway, I'd say if you've been thinking about using Open Office, go ahead and download it and give it a whirl.  If you hate it, delete it and go on with your life.  For myself, it works pretty well and the few issues I have with it, I should be able to reset somehow, it's just a matter of figuring out where to fix them.  If I can't reset or fix it, I think I'll be able to work around them or just live with them - having a weblink in black instead of blue in the Footer just isn't enough of an issue for me to go out and purchase some other software.


Blogger Trillian42 said...

I switched to Open Office when I went from Windows to Ubuntu (Linux) - it's a great program, and I'm totally thrilled with it.

And does the TPS reports comment mean you are going to design a "Jump to Conclusions" mat next? :D

10:26 AM  
Blogger punkin said...

I started using Open Office as my main office suite last summer when I switched from a Windows pc to an IMac. The college where I teach uses Windows, and I have found that I can go back and forth with documents and spreadsheets fairly easily. Occasionally I will lose a little formatting in the Word documents, but it is easily fixed.

11:52 AM  
Blogger PogKnits said...

This is exactly the sort of review that is helpful to me - a real person's impressions on how easy it is to use! Thanks!

6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK I get bonus points...it comes form Office Space, I do believe. I love the new Flamenco shawl, and will be ordering it after I get back in town in a couple of weeks.

4:11 PM  
Blogger NeptuneNancy said...

If you have a Mac, but still have plenty of Windows- only programs you don't want to give up, you can install Parallels on your Mac, install Windows now have the benefit of two operating systems on the same hardware.

No rebooting the Mac to access Windows, either. I've been using Parallels ever since I got my MacBook Pro 2 1/2 years ago and I love it. (I don't think I'll ever go back to a PC, either!)


8:29 AM  
Blogger Lizardknits said...

Are you sure Open Office is free? Because it came on the new PC I just got, and every time I've tried to use it, it's told me to buy a code before my free # of uses runs out. (I'm also on Ubuntu now)

9:22 AM  
Blogger tich said...

I didn't know you could use Open Office on a Mac, so I use Neo Office instead.

2:38 AM  
Blogger Catlady said...

I've been using Open Office since last year some time, and I like it - but like you, Melanie, I chart in MS Office Spreadsheet, since I've been using that longer, then copy past to OO spreadsheet, so I can save as a pdf.

I do like your review, too - as someone else commented, a "real person" review, that is much more relevant to the real people who are reading it :)

9:31 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

Lizardknits: absolutely Open Office is free. If you have something preloaded on your PC that wants you to pay for it, it isn't OOo. Check www.openoffice.org
And enjoy.I use OOo on Ubuntu on a Eee PC, it's great.
Thanks for the review.

5:49 AM  

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