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Kirt's Cogitations™ #236
OpenOffice.org - What's in It for You?

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OpenOffice.org - What's in It for You?

Windows, Linux, Solaris, MacOS, these are all operating systems that are supported by the OpenOffice.org software suite that is meant to compete with Microsoft's Office package. The price is certainly right, too. Unlike the MS products, this effort from Sun Microsystems is free to everybody. Since so many different major operating systems are supported, it means that you can generate documents on your favorite OS and just about everybody in the world can use them exactly as you created them.

The most recent version of OpenOffice, as of the time of this writing, is 2.3. Not too long ago, I downloaded and installed an earlier version and attempted to port my RF Cascade Workbook spreadsheet to OpenOffice. Since my Excel spreadsheet has a large number of custom functions written in the built-in Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code, it did not import well into OpenOffice. Re-writing the entire spreadsheet either without custom functions (or creating new ones from scratch) or by placing full equations in each cell was out of the question. I did not have the time or the will. The many people who have contacted me over the years about making some of the RF Cafe spreadsheets available for other operating systems would have to wait even longer.

Well, the waiting is over - I think. OpenOffice v2.3 has thus far done an amazingly good job at importing RF Cascade Workbook 2005, including all the VBA code. There are some minor incongruities, but have been easy to resolve. Adjusting for a couple minor formatting and syntax differences has rendered a spreadsheet that appears to be fully functional except for the charts. I have not even begun looking into the chart usage, but based on the success with the rest of the porting process, it will probably not be a problem. As a result, sometime in the near future, RF Cascade Workbook 2005 will be offered for use in the OpenOffice environment, finally giving the Microsoft haters ;-) a venue for using this outstanding spreadsheet.

Unlike Sun Microsystems (JAVA), I cannot afford to give RF Cascade Workbook away, so it will be priced at the same ridiculously low price as the existing Excel version.

Something that I have not tried yet is exporting the OpenOffice spreadsheet to an Excel file format to see whether the resulting file can be opened in Excel without any modification. That would be very nice, because it would mean that any future spreadsheets could be designed in OpenOffice, and then simply exported for Excel users. It would be a twofer (that's a real word, by the way).

OpenOffice contains word processor, spreadsheet, vector drawing, database, and presentation elements meant to compete directly with Word, Excel, Visio, Access, and PowerPoint, respectively. Word documents that I have tested appear to import perfectly, including all the formatting. With Excel files, even the background fill patterns for charts are replicated correctly without any adjustment. OpenOffice will not import a Visio file directly, but if you save the Visio file in WMF or EMF format (vector), it does a reasonably good job of importing. According to the OpenOffice website, Visio imports will eventually be supported. I have not tried opening an Access file yet. The couple PowerPoint files I tested imported correctly, including a large one (41 slides) with many graphics.

It definitely looks like OpenOffice 2.3 will give Microsoft Office a lot of competition, provided that Sun can get the word out. This is my small contribution.

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