For the last three years, I've been using a version of OpenOffice.org on all of my systems. I'm sad to say that I'm going to move back to Office 2007 on Windows XP and Office 2008 on Mac OS X this week. I'm going to continue to use my Linux system for projects, just not for content creation.
Why OpenOffice.Org?When I started down this path, I needed to have the same tool on all of my systems so that I could work on projects using whatever system was available. I also needed to make sure that the failure of any one system would not stop my work dead in the water. I chose to deploy OpenOffice.org and it's cousin, NeoOffice, because the the software was available on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows. Furthermore, the developers claimed that they were highly compatible with Microsoft's Office 2003 and Office 2007 file formats.
CompatibilityThe open source software had Office 2003 compatibility down pat. The interchange of documents (.doc formatted files) and presentation decks (.ppt formatted files) was easy and I faced only a few complaints. I found that I could address those with little or no effort.
Office 2007 compatibility, however, was spotty at best. Office 2007 formatted documents (.docx formatted files) demonstrated occasional problems with font and paragraph formatted. Presentation decks were a growing problem - fonts were formatted incorrectly, builds went all over the screen and other formatting issues were constant companions. (See File format blues for more details)
Presentation to the team - a tipping pointWhat forced me to change tools was the creation and delivery of a presentation deck that would be shared with the wonderful sales people at The 451 Group and Tier1 Research. I created a deck, sent it off for review and learned that OpenOffice had substituted some strange (from an Office user's point of view) font. Twelve point text came out as 39 point text. Graphic images were not sized correctly either. Builds were strange and exciting in ways that I never had time to analyze or fix. So, I said goodbye to builds for the time being.
Saying goodbyeI just don't have to time or inclination to deal with feature or operational challenges. Content creation is an important part of my work, but it is only a part of my work. When the time it takes to create content and deliver it in a usable form gets in the way of other responsibilities, it's time to make a change.
Microsoft's Office seems to work with just about everyone's system (if I stick to Office 2003 formatted documents). So, I'm going to install it on my systems albeit reluctantly.
Please, a moment of silence for OpenOffice.org and NeoOffice.