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The usability of openoffice in industry
The usability of OpenOffice in industry
In 2002 the OpenOffice.org community released the first version of their office environment available for major platforms and can for this not only be used on Windows machines, but also on Linux and Macintosh.
But is this project progressed sufficiently for its application in public and private environments? Can the free OpenOffice software packet offer an alternative to Microsoft’s proprietary MSOffice?
In the report will be explained initially today’s situation on the open source market and after the focus will be put on the last OpenOffice suite. Advantages and disadvantages will be shown up to give a better understanding in which sectors of today’s business environments OpenOffice.org might be applied efficiently.
Table of contents:
Difficulties on the software market and the position of Microsoft
The role of communities in the open source world
The power of OpenOffice.
org Examples of interested customers Expectations for open source and OpenOffice.org Introduction: The use of a Personal Computer has become a completely standardized component in a business environment of today. With this change also the basic knowledge of how to operate a computer has become an essential requisite to apply for a job. In this context we understand the ability to use a Windows operating system of the last generation and to know the three most important Microsoft Office applications; Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Main body: Difficulties on the software market In the last years Microsoft was able to reach a strong market share on the software market with their Windows® operating system and the office suite Microsoft Office®. The movement towards today’s standardization of Microsoft’s proprietary software in public and private environments began in the 1990s and strengthens with Windows95® in 1995.
Through the strong market position, Microsoft is able to influence many software projects, because of the need to be compatible with Microsoft Windows®. From this point of view Microsoft was always able to anticipate their competitors for the simple reason of their knowledge on Windows. In the planning situation of a new software project, Microsoft was always up to date on how the architecture of the next Windows® operating system will be. Since the last few years Microsoft has been forced to make parts of their Windows® project public, in order to go a step towards a more equal market situation. The role of communities in the open source world In contrary to proprietary software open source software is freely accessible, including also its source code, for everybody. Open source software solutions have been developed by communities since the early days of computers.
Over the time, and nowadays mainly through the use of the internet, communities have grown to strong groups providing valuable software solutions where one of the last projects in this movement is the well known OpenOffice.org software suite. It represents an alternative to Microsoft's ubiquitous Office® application with similar word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. The development of OpenOffice.org is partially backed by Sun Microsystems with the support of international communities helping to implement great ideas and powerful functionalities. The power of OpenOffice.
org OpenOffice has two advantages for its applicability in business environments. The first is the usability on both Unix/Linux and Window platforms and the second is the license of the software under the LGPL (GNU Lesser General Public License) and SISSL (Sun Industry Standards Source License) that allows users to use and also reproduce this product at no licensing costs. On the other hand Microsoft is getting criticized for their high licensing costs for their programs. The corporation is defending their position with the argument, that quality of today’s OpenOffice or StarOffice packages lack the sophistication of Microsoft's latest offerings, and would just replicate the Microsoft Office® of six or seven years ago. Perhaps Microsoft’s argumentation might Fig. 1: OpenOffce.
org for Linux not be completely wrong. Sun started in the 1996 with the StarOffice project and continued in 2003 on top of the StarOffice distribution with the foundation of the open source project OpenOffice.org. StarOffice has never enjoyed that popularity as Microsoft’s Office. Here must be also taken in consideration that Sun’s investments into the development were much lower. Nevertheless of the fact for how little time the OpenOffice.
org project is at live, quality was improved very fast and the number of companies, institutions and privates willing to try this new alternative rose up quickly. Ý Fig 2: The utilization of OpenOffice.org all over the world. Above is shown the Japanese version of the presentation, spreadsheet and paint software. In the background the word processor is visible. OpenOffice.
org released a 1.1 beta version of its open-source productivity suite at the end of November. In Version 1.1 features for saving documents in PDF, the availability for saving to and opening files from FTP servers, and options for exporting files in XML formats have been added. OpenOffice.org includes also support for MySQL databases in its data source dialog, which offers interesting possibilities for advanced uses.
Ý Fig 3: Scalc, the spreadsheet software, running on an Apple OSX environment. While Microsoft does not release a version of its Office suite compatible with open source distributions, OpenOffice.org has compatibility to import and export documents created using the MSOffice® standard. Examples of interested customers Although a certain lack of quality, there exists already a number of companies and public institutions that took the decision to shift their software installations from MSOffice® to OpenOffice.org. In fact, the actual trend of public institutions goes toward replacing the Microsoft Office installations with the OpenOffice.
org productivity suite. This continues a worldwide trend of governments attempting to cut costs through open-source software. The first institutions to go this direction are the Israel Department of Commerce and the City of Austin, Texas. The Department of Commerce has made a strategic decision to reduce government dependency on Microsoft and to replace most of its Microsoft Office desktops with OpenOffice. On the other hand the City of Austin is planning the migration of several hundred desktops, running with Microsoft Office installations, to OpenOffice.org.
The IT management will start this movement initially as a test program beginning in January. In the case of a satisfying performance the city has the technical ability to uninstall MSOffice from 80% of their 5000 desktop PCs, which as a consequence could shrink the licensing expenses by 3 million dollars over 2 years. An important aspect to point out is that open source software is not accessible by everyone, because it requires a certain level of technical expertise. On the contrary the advantages of this kind of software are that vendors cannot accuse you for software theft and that software is much cheaper or free. But to be able to apply it in production support for IT-management and special trainings for employees are often needed. The expectations for open source and OpenOffice.
org Many groups of IT experts are convinced that open source is the way of the future. Already today over 90% of the web is powered by open source software, and that software is at least as robust as that produced by commercial vendors. Experiences and solutions for problems are exchanged within communities, usually groups of people staying in contact through online forums in a very collegial way. Those virtual discussion platforms are an essential part for the improvement process for open software and represent a great possibility to throw projects to a merited status of competition to proprietary software.Just till now OpenOffice.org has reached almost 19 million downloads from its official sites.
Since the software can be given away freely, this total could mean that some 60-80 million copies are floating around. In comparison, the unofficial word is that StarOffice has sold some 50 million licenses. These are respectable figures for software whose release history is less than two years old. If the development proceeds as fast as till now it seems likely that, long after StarOffice has overcome in general obscurity, its real competition won't be Microsoft Office, but could be OpenOffice.org. Conclusion: Summarizing all points, there can be found many apparently convincing arguments for OpenOffice.
Thanks to the fast growing community of OpenOffice.org it was possible to reach such a success. New ideas and functionalities have been implemented to this project in a very efficient way. Already today OpenOffice is delivering a collection of valuable applications for standard office requirements. If the quick improvement of quality and usability keeps going on, it is predictable that in a few years OpenOffice.org will gain a highly popularity on the international software market and maybe brake Microsoft’s monopoly.
Recommendations: Interested users, willing to give a try to this open source tool, have the advantage do not to have to leave their familiar operating system i.e. Windows. OpenOffice.org can be installed on any operating system and can as such be used by everyone without mayor effort. Initially, as any new and unknown software, OpenOffice might look a bit unusually to a user familiar with Microsoft Office®.
I recommend to not to uninstall it immediately, but instead trying to create some simple documents with this environment and to get familiarity with the provided tools. Obviously not all functionalities have already the maturity of Microsoft Office®, but it is predictable that all remaining bugs will be eliminated in the following editions, that hopefully will come out soon.
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