Is OpenOffice good enough?

Yes.OK, obviously there's more to this story than my tongue-in-cheek answer.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor


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 OO.org 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.

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