Kicking Microsoft out of the office: 4 alternative suites tested

Kicking Microsoft out of the office: 4 alternative suites tested

Summary:  Office suites  Software reviews: Lotus SmartSuite 9.8 OpenOffice.

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 Office suites

 Software reviews:

 Lotus SmartSuite 9.8
 OpenOffice.org 1.1
 StarOffice 7
 WordPerfect Office 11

 Specifications
 How we tested
 Sample scenario
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT


Kicking Microsoft out of the Office: 4 alternative suites testedMicrosoft Office may be the standard, but there are a variety of competitors--old and new--that look like giving it a decent run for its money.

If you were to randomly ask any 10 office workers which office suite they use, odds on at least nine out of the 10 will answer Microsoft Office. Yes Microsoft owns over 90 percent of the market! So what does this mean? Are the alternatives more expensive or pretty lame in the features and functionality department?

Well after looking at this collection of Microsoft Office alternatives, we can safely say the answers to the above questions are a definite no. As a matter of fact some of the packages are very serious and valid competitors to the Microsoft solution. And there is no need to retrain staff who are familiar with MS Office, as the interface and functionality of each package is very similar, and at times identical, to Microsoft.

Editor's note: before you shout at us about Microsoft...
Throughout this review, you will no doubt notice numerous references to Microsoft Office: the Labs not only compare the functionality of each package with that of Office, but they also test each suite's ability to import Office files.

So before you send us hate mail about our Microsoft-centredness, may we recommend you take a look around outside the server room or IT department.

You will most likely find people all over the building using Microsoft Office. And even if your company is one of the few that doesn't, chances are your business partners, suppliers, or customers almost certainly do. Most people don't tend to wonder which office suite you're running before they send out Word documents or Excel spreadsheets. If you come back with "I'm sorry, I can't read Microsoft Word, could you perhaps send a PDF or maybe an RTF document", chances are you will be met with annoyance or a blank stare. No matter what you think of Microsoft, as the de facto standard, you will need to read files in Microsoft's formats.

But that's not all. Office is not only the most popular suite, it's the most feature-rich and arguably the best understood by most users. How many end users really need more than 20 percent of the features Word offers? But is it unfair to criticise another package for not including those features? For those users who need mail merge or table of contents or even more esoteric gimcracks, removing that functionality would seriously impact on their ability to do their jobs.

We eagerly await your opinions: what's your office preference?

Topics: Software, Government, Microsoft

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5 comments
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  • Database access http://dba.openoffice.org/
    anonymous
  • An alternative title '...three office suites...'
    OO and SO are the same product with a different name (and cost). Please tell me you knew this?
    ROTFL
    anonymous
  • What about sending OpenOffice, Smartsuite, StarOffice files to someone with Microsoft Excell, Word and so on? Will they be able to open my files with Microsoft Office?
    anonymous
  • What about sending OpenOffice, Smartsuite, StarOffice files to someone with Microsoft Excell, Word and so on? Will they be able to open my files with Microsoft Office?
    anonymous
  • OpenOffice.org fooled colleagues for 18 months

    I downloaded and installed OpenOffice.org to Windows 2000 and used it for 18 months. I set file options so that double clicking a *.doc, *.xls, *.ppt, etc. file opened in OpenOffice.org. I changed the options in OOo to save only in Microsoft Office compatible formats, not in its own native formats.

    Over the 18 months, I originated files and sent them to others for revision and return. I also opened colleagues' files, revised and returned them. No accidents or misformatting occurred and none of my colleagues knew or noticed that I was not using Microsoft Office.

    So, unless you are a macro freak or using the API in a shared environment, OOo can completely replace Office.
    anonymous