Earlier this week, Stephen Shankland reported that Google would hire a couple of programmers and donate a few KLOCs (Kilo Lines of Code) to OpenOffice.org. Most of you who have been following my series on OpenOffice.org performance know that performance and bloat are my biggest gripes with OpenOffice.org so this is definitely welcome news. Google, if you're listening, put OpenOffice.org on a memory diet and fix the speed issues!
While my tests focused on Memory footprint and the extremely slow file load and creation times for Calc, reader Martin Dobsik, who uses an old computer, reports that OpenOffice.org was unusable for him and has a laundry list of complaints. While it's always tempting to just say "throw more hardware at it," faster hardware should never be justification for sloppy code because people buy new hardware to run their software faster, not so that they can run bloated software at the same speed. Among Martin's top complaints, Impress (PowerPoint alternative) was very slow when dealing with large numbers of equations, clip art, and images. I tested this on my 3.4 GHz Pentium 4 and even then the Equation editor was very slow in rendering the equations so I can only imagine how bad this is on a slow machine.
One other reader mentioned that rendering charts with large amounts of data in Calc was painfully slow so I decided to try this for myself. I generated 10,000 lines of data with two fields and plotted the results in Excel. Trying to import this file or even something with only 2,000 lines of data along with a chart completely locked my fast computer up for long periods of time. I checked to see if this was an import/export issue or if OpenOffice.org simply doesn't handle charts well by saving the file to a native ODS OpenDoc format file and then reopened the ODS file. Fortunately, this didn't cause any problems and behaved normally so this was clearly a file import issue. While this isn't a problem when you're strictly dealing with native ODS files, this could be a huge problem if you're trying to import large Excel files with lots of charts. Since Microsoft Excel is the de facto standard, having the ability to open up Excel XLS files without having your computer lock up would seem paramount to me. If Google's contribution can do anything to fix these problems, it would make OpenOffice.org a much more viable business class product.