OpenOffice is dead

OpenOffice is dead

Summary: You have Google Apps and Office Web Apps on one side and Office 2010 on the other. Why bother with OpenOffice when the free web-based suites are so good?


As I mentioned over on the Google blog last night, I'm headed to the Office 2010 launch tomorrow. While Office in particular and Microsoft in general are hardly my beats, productivity and groupware software in the face of Google's Apps and education's need to extract every last bit of value from our investments certainly are. This is why I've thrown myself so completely behind Google Apps. For educational institutions, it's free and it works very well, both as a document collaboration solution and as an email/calendaring suite.

It's also why I've been a big proponent of OpenOffice. Again, it's free and provides a perfectly workable alternative to Office. It's mature, stable, and works cross platform. And it's free. What's not to like, right?

But here's the thing: If someone needs a desktop office suite (and I mean they don't just think they need one, but actually need to do things that can't be done with Google Apps), then they aren't going to be satisfied with OpenOffice. I don't blame them, actually. Given my choice of Office 2007/2010 or OpenOffice, I'd pick Office. It's polished, it's easy, and it's powerful. To be honest, I'm not even satisfied with Office 2008 on the Mac; I run XP in a virtual machine to get to Office 2010 when I need it.

For users who don't need Office, it's a rare occasion that Google Docs doesn't suffice. And yet for those who need Office, it's rare that they're happy with OpenOffice. Where does that leave Our district is fairly rural and there are still plenty of homes with only dial-up or without Internet access entirely. For these families, OpenOffice is a great choice since they rarely have access to academic pricing on Office and can't get online to access Apps. As reasonable access to the Internet becomes ubiquitous, though, Google Docs or Office Web Apps (even via Facebook) will meet the majority of student and teacher productivity needs.

Am I wrong? Am I so dazzled by the pretty lights in Office that I've lost sight of the value of OpenOffice? I don't think I am. The majority of the time, the students and staff I support tend to make use of Google Docs. Same for me. On my Linux machines, it's rare that I'll fire up OpenOffice, despite it being a solid choice for desktop productivity. That's what the Internet is for, right? Because in addition to Google Apps, there is Zoho and Office Web Apps, all of which work quite well.

I just don't see much of a place in mainstream education for OpenOffice anymore. Pre-loaded on laptops and netbooks in developing countries where Internet access is unreliable or non-existent? You bet. But why use OpenOffice when most of your users can work quite well with Apps and licensing costs for Office are low for the small number of users who need a full-blown desktop suite?

Topics: Collaboration, Browser, Open Source, 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.

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  • poppycock

    Open office is great when internet access is limited. In spite of what you think, there are still lots of folks without access, let alone high speed access.
    • I think that's what he said

      [i]Our district is fairly rural and there are still plenty of homes with only dial-up or without Internet access entirely. For these families, OpenOffice is a great choice since they rarely have access to academic pricing on Office and can??????t get online to access Apps[/i]

      I think he was saying the same thing you did.
      John Zern
      • One Problem, John . . .

        If you don't have Internet access (or Dial-up), how are you supposed to get a copy of Open Office?
      • RE: OpenOffice is dead

        Grab a copy from a friend. Or like I did, visit a public wi-fi hotspot and download the bits.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • Get a Copy of OOo

        Or just order a free disc. Comes in the mail, no problem.
      • Getting a copy . . .

        @Nstalnecker & JM1981:

        I guess my point is/was that NORMAL people aren't going to know to do that, or even that OO exists . . .

        Besides, I think that most people may be getting their copy of office when they buy their PC, which explains the huge number of people running older versions of Office (and Windows, as well). They won't upgrade until they buy a new PC again . . .
        • I'm never . . .

          gonna get used to the new posting system . . . . :(
      • @JLHenry

        @John Zern can you say five dolla jump drive and public library? ok... good.
      • No, I don't think that's what he said

        @John Zern
        quote: "If someone needs a desktop office suite, then they aren??????t going to be satisfied with OpenOffice."

        quote: "For users who don??????t need Office, it??????s a rare occasion that Google Docs doesn??????t suffice. And yet for those who need Office, it??????s rare that they??????re happy with OpenOffice"

        I agree with you that's OO is a good app but Christopher more or less says it's useless.
        Bryan G
      • @shadfurman

        Once again, someone has to KNOW about the program, AND want to drive to the library to download (and have the time to waste sitting there while it downloads . . . ).

        Please note, My comments have nothing to do with OO's quality, etc. It's just that you will NEVER see wide spread adoption of it as long as it lives in the shadows. They would be better served if they could convince someone to put free copies of the CD @ Wal-mart and Grocery stores, etc. People might actually pick it up and try it before buying MS Office. The key here is making it super easy to obtain. Putting it on an installer disc would allow it to make that jump and actually make inroads . . ..
      • RE: OpenOffice is dead

        @JLHenry: [i]They would be better served if they could convince someone to put free copies of the CD @ Wal-mart and Grocery stores, etc.[/i]

        That's going to be tough to make happen. Wal-Mart is in it for the profits. What profit would there be if the disc's were free? Compare that to the amount of profit they'd get from selling a copy of Office 2010.
      • @JLHenry - Is OpenOffice ready for market?

        I do not think that free CDs are needed as much as better advertising. However...

        It would help, tremendously, if some creatively adept developers were to bring OpenOffice (OO) out of its Word for DOS 5.0 days (okay...<i>maybe</i> Office for Windows 4.3) by adding functionality at least equivalent to Office 2000, XP, or 2003.

        I have OO 3.1.1 available and use it when necessary (i.e. working in LinuxMint) but otherwise avoid it because it is so clunky, functionless, and a pill to figure out. (I am not sure that OO 3.2 is any better, functionally, and it is not yet packaged for Ubuntu or LinuxMint, according to Synaptic Package Manager).

        Google Docs is quick and accessible, and it works.

        Nonetheless, before I turn in finished documents, I login to Windows XP and complete them in MS Office (2007, currently).
    • RE: OpenOffice is dead

      Havent you all forgotten the 500Mb download of Open office that no-one on a dial-up or slow line is going to bother to download. I don't think OpenOffice is dead - alive and kicking in the academic world where people can't afford Office - but it wont work for those on slow connections.
      • RE: OpenOffice is dead

      • RE: OpenOffice is dead

        Open Office is available by free CD, and available by ordering on line, or they can be found where other software and IT magazines are sold.
      • RE: OpenOffice is dead

        Just go to your local public library. Get on one of the free access computers. Then download the OpenOffice installer and copy it to your USB memory stick. And grandma can have one of the grandkids do it. It's worth saving $400 for Office Standard edition
      • Open Office on disc.

        Most PC mags that come with a monthly disc provide Open Office and it's major updates on a regular basis (Maximum PC, PC Tools, PC Utilities and PC Pro to name a few).
      • RE: OpenOffice is dead

        @rdevereux Of all the comments I like this one the very best!
      • RE: OpenOffice is dead

        @rdevereux Makes more sense to me than the others
      • @George67 - What might be

        the reason or logic for your opinions of RDevereux's inaccurate statement?