Is OpenOffice good enough?

Is OpenOffice good enough?

Summary: Yes.OK, obviously there's more to this story than my tongue-in-cheek answer.



OK, obviously there's more to this story than my tongue-in-cheek answer. This came up after one of our supercool, power user secretaries (who is an Office 2003/2007 wiz) ran a training session for the other secretaries in the district. The other secretaries are largely using OpenOffice (NeoOffice, actually, since for OS X still isn't where it needs to be). It's also worth noting that these secretaries have quite a spectrum of abilities from quite proficient to looking for the "any key."

The training session actually centered on our student information system, but touched on OpenOffice as a tool for manipulating data extracted from the SIS. Whether it was for a mail merge or simply easy sorting and reporting of various fields, Excel (and OpenOffice Calc) is a necessary tool in most secretaries' bag of tricks.

My uber-secretary leading the training had only recently begun using OpenOffice and really prefers the slick, polished interface of Office 2007 (and the utter simplicity of mail merges and labels that OpenOffice just can't match). She raised the question of whether OpenOffice could fully meet the needs of a secretary or if it lacked the automation tools that they need to maximize productivity.

The other secretaries largely consider OO "fine." They don't love it, they don't hate it, but they appreciate that I was able to buy an extra computer for what I saved in licensing costs among the secretarial and nursing staff. Of course, they simply aren't as proficient as the secretary I had doing the training.

So there it is: Is OpenOffice good enough?

I still stick with my original answer: yes, it is. For the vast majority of users (students, teachers, and administrators, especially), OpenOffice is more than good enough. The price is certainly right, too.

Even for the most savvy power users, OpenOffice will suffice. However, secretaries, as we all know, run our schools. Anything we can do to keep them happy and make them as productive as possible should probably be a high priority for us. For some of them, Microsoft Office (especially its latest iteration which actually is a very nice piece of software) just might be worth the licensing if it meets their needs better.

Topics: Open Source, Collaboration, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • For the vast majority of users, it works fine.

    For the vast majority of users, it works fine. There are occasional features that it doesn't do so well at, but it has all of the standard word processing features that most people need.

    If you need to use some specialized feature most people don't normally use, Word might work better. But if all you're doing is basic word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations, OpenOffice works great. In college, my instructors couldn't tell that I was using it.

    I did recently get Office 2007 with an educational discount, though.
    • And, if people had been using OpenOffice for years and were presented with

      MS Office, they would make similar complaints. But, as we move away from huge office suites for printing on 8.5x11 paper, OpenOffice is a lot more than "good enough", it is all we need.
      • You can drop that line of malarky now, DonnieBoy

        [i]But, as we move away from huge office suites for printing on 8.5x11 paper[/i]

        I understand you are attempting to compensate for Google's lack of such capabilties, and to disguise the fact that Sharepoint server is doing quite well, thank you.

        Kepp it up, one person might actually believe you.
        • Just the facts. As more the web improves, and more people use it every day,

          the amount of printing we do will go to zero. People spend less and less time using bloated office suites for printing on 8.5x11 everyday.
          • No wonder OO sucks. You can only print on an 8.5 x 11 paper?

            Damn how sucky can that be?
          • It is just that us gringos use 8.5x11 for almost everything. Yes, in Europe

            it is typically A4. But, yes, OpenOffice supports all the sizes. Well, you probably knew that.
        • And, funny that one of the important applications people site is from LAST

          century when everything was printed out and mailed via snail mail, using what they called "mailmerge". Nowadays, we use this new technology called "email" whenever possible. Or, we just publish on a thing called a "website", where they can check it whenever they want, and also see the latest version.

          Have you ever heard of these new technologies?
          • Do you have any idea what you're talking about?

            The only binding document accepted by the majority worldwide is a signature on a piece of paper. Delivered by mail in many cases.

            What percentage of the world owns a computer?
            I guess the majority of people in this world won't be able to read your documents.

            The paperless office? 15 years and I'm still waiting.

            I get flyers in the mail all the time for new store openings or services. How do I find out about them if they stick it on a website someplace. What website would that be?

            I'm gonna' go with everyone else on this, your so blindly bent on supporting Google no matter what, that'll you excuse the lack of feature in their products as "focusing on the future".

            Yeah, MS Office 2007 sales thru the roof, and other people downloading Open Office (at record rates by your own words), yeah, I can see that the world is quickly moving away from "Big Office suites".
          • Do you have any idea what you're talking about?

            The time, money, and fuel cost of printing documents.

            "The only binding document accepted by the majority worldwide is a signature on a piece of paper. Delivered by mail in many cases."

            Does that make it the right or best way? Wasting billions of dollars.

            Think about the cost of that document. If you ask the majority what you have to pay for to print and deliver a document they will only scratching the surface.

            The time, money, and fuel cost of printing documents.

            Buying, shipping, and connecting the printers.
            Installing software that slows the computer down just so the computer can use the printer.
            Paper & ink cost + buying, shipping, and loading the printers with paper & ink.
            Electricity, and time to print.

            That's just to get a document printed and now you have to get it delivered.

            Envelope cost + buying, shipping, and loading the printers. (or time to address by hand)
            Time to stuff document into envelope.
            Postage + ink to print or time to lick & stick stamps.
            Time to get into mail box.

            You might think that's it done, but not so.

            You still have to spend time and money to take out the trash. The shipping materials and boxes. Then when that printer get old you have get rid of it and start all over.

            There the billions wasted on fuel, electricity and time to sort and deliver that snail mail!

            Oh and what about the environmental impact that's is costing all of us.

            Maybe if Pliny the Elder and many other elder would pull there heads out of the sand and not be so afraid of change. We could use the technological we have had for many years now.

            More food for your brain.

            From what I see most of those that have the power to change this are elder. Not that this make they right for the job it is because they have seniority or they have money. Many just don't like change or believe that you can not teach an old dog need tricks.

            By the way I am 50+ years old an elder to many. I have used computers daily for almost 30 years. The printer I have HP T45 it will also fax, scan, and copy it was old when I got it from the thrift store payed $5.00 for it. The last set of ink cartridges I use lasted almost 2 years had to change them because they dried out. I load it with paper maybe twice a year. About the only time I print something is when someone has to have me print it for them. Other wise I email it and they print it. Sometime I fax it but I protest this because it is slow and very poor quality. I refuse to pay for or use MS Office. I use OpenOffice Writer, Calc, Impress, and Base. I have not used Math because Calc does my mathematical formulas and don't use Draw because my drawings are done by 3D CAD programs.
          • Legal documents will be the last to go, but that is a small fraction of all

            documents. But digital signatures will take over eventually.
          • Actually . . .

            A lot of Legal Documents are already in E-Format only. That's why Sarbanes-Oxley deals with retention and securing of them in case of a legal proceeding.

            And I'm pretty sure that almost NO ONE actually prints out a EULA, but the Software firms are actually filing lawsuits based on them as a legal, binding document . . .
          • Thank you, yes, we already DO have many electronic documents that are

            legally binding. The EULA is a good example. Since you can not install software without agreeing to the EULA, it is legally binding, without even an electronic signature. But, as time goes on, the use of Electronic Signatures will grow to the point, that you will have to be able to do electronic signatures to do business. It will start with bigger companies like Walmart mandating it.
          • You'd be surprised

            How many parents don't have email, don't have any phone number that works, don't have Internet...

            The discussion is about A SCHOOL DISTRICT, not a high-end, high-tech corporation.


            Listening to Billy Bragg's "Waiting for the Great Leap Forward"...
          • The switch to ALL electronic documents will not be instantaneous. People DO

            resist new technology. But schools will be able to reduce expenses by sending via snail mail, only to those parents that do not have email. And, the current generation of students will all have email when they grow up, and their kids are in school.
          • And that number is going down...

            The school district my children attend now sends >90% of all communication via email or displays on the school website. Flyers are pretty much a thing of the past.

            But the origial discussion, whether OO is good enough, whether we should use MSO, one point I have an issue with for the school system my children attend, their computer work is predominately done on Macs.

            For this reason they have pretty much stopped using OO. A number of the assignments they need to work on will not save exactly as the teacher requires with the ability to re-open correctly in school (they are using MSO on iMacs). Home work - they use MSO which always opens correctly.

            A side affect of this, the use of OO for other computer related activities has dropped and they have adopted MSO - all due to one class.

            So OO - a bit to go. And as result the kids are learning to adopt MSO.
          • you do not seem conversant with

            common business needs and practices.
      • DonnieBoy, are you in fact Larry Page or Sergey Brin?

        I could swear nobody would worship a company as much as you do if they are not its owner.
        • Right, I am Larry Page, but we did not have anything to do with OpenOffice

          that was another company called Sun.
        • Which company...he's got dedicated knee pads...nt

      • Yup, that's why office suites will remain the norm.

        The whole point of the word processor is that you don't need to print. The whole point of a spreadsheet was that you don't need to do tables by hand. The whole point of the database is you don't need a set of cards to manage information.

        Print functionality is kinda considered secondary to word processing - the whole point of it is that you [b]can[/b] avoid going to a printer and send it directly to other people electronically.

        The whole point of the word processor was to avoid those pieces of paper.