OpenOffice.org 2.0 is here, but is it a pig?

OpenOffice.org 2.0 is finally out with much fanfare, but is it a memory and resource hog?
Written by George Ou, Contributor on

OpenOffice.org 2.0 is finally out with much fanfare, but is it a memory and resource hog?  This is what I was wondering when I did this shootout last month between Microsoft Excel 2003 and OpenOffice.org 1.1.4 Calc.  The backers of  OpenOffice.org immediately complained that I didn't test their new OpenOffice.org Beta2.  I immediately added the Beta2 results, and then the backers of OpenOffice.org complained that I was comparing Beta software to production software.  Now that OpenOffice.org 2.0 is finally out, I've put it to the test again to see if the shipping version really makes a difference.

File creation and file load times for Excel and Calc:

 Calc 2.0 ODSCalc 2.0 SXCExcel 2003 XLSExcel 2003 XMLExcel 2003 ZIP XML
Create179 sec184 sec1 sec13 sec18 sec
Load141 sec161 sec2 sec38 sec47 sec
RAM used234,496 KB232,932 KB89,164

Note: ZIP XML isn't an actual file format, it's just a zipped Microsoft XML file.  The next version of Office 12 will use a compressed XML format so ZIP XML is meant to simulate compressed XML.  Since SXC and ODS are compressed XML formats, this also makes the comparison times fair.  You can download this compressed 16-sheet MS-XML file and run the tests on your own.  OpenOffice.org users can download this 16-sheet SXC if they just want to test OpenOffice.org Calc performance.  Both files have identical data.

As you can see, OpenOffice.org and XML in general is extremely slow compared to the native Microsoft XLS binary file format.  Not only is it slow, it also chews up the CPU.  My computer happens to be a 3.4 GHz hyper threaded processor and the physical CPU was being taxed at 100% during the 2 to 3 minutes it took to open the OpenOffice.org Open Document files.  Had this been a lesser CPU, the file load and creation times would have been much lower.

The other big issue is how much RAM OpenOffice.org Calc takes to have the exact same data loaded as Microsoft Excel.  OpenOffice.org is clearly a CPU and Memory hog.  To get an idea of how much memory the entire OpenOffice.org suite takes, I did this memory footprint comparison of all the Office applications.

Memory requirements of base application (no data load):

ApplicationMemory footprintProcesses measured
Write37,660 KBsoffice.bin & soffice.exe
Calc37,544 KBsoffice.bin & soffice.exe
Impress44,788 KBsoffice.bin & soffice.exe
Base36,036 KBsoffice.bin & soffice.exe
Word9,812 KBWinWord.exe
Excel7,102 KBExcel.exe
PowerPoint6,884 KBPowerPNT.exe
Access7,302 KBMSAccess.exe

As you can see, OpenOffice.org takes up a lot more RAM to load than Microsoft Office applications.  While it's true that the OpenOffice.org applications will share memory with each other, Microsoft Office applications will also share RAM with each other.  RAM consumption rises rapidly for both Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org as soon as data is loaded, OpenOffice.org still takes significantly more RAM than Microsoft Office.  The difference in memory utilization is shown in both the bare application comparison and even more so with the large 16-sheet spreadsheet loaded.  Also note that the Base application requires Java Runtime Engine for many of its features so the RAM requirement shoots even higher.

I've emailed OpenOffice.org last month asking them if they would like to explain the severe performance difference but I haven't heard anything back yet.

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