SINGAPORE--A local software company has developed a free online training tool for OpenOffice to bolster uptake of the open source business suite.
Developed by open source software house Resolvo Systems, the Flash-based tool OO.CBT aims to equip users with basic skills in using OpenOffice and at the same time, increase market awareness of the open source software.
Resolvo also worked with the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises, to engage prison inmates in the software's development process. Resolvo poured in S$25,000 (US$15,673) to develop the training tool as part of the company's social responsibility initiative, said Yap Boon Leong, the company's business development director.
During the development period which lasted nine months, a handful of inmates who had IT skills worked closely with Resolvo's developers to produce the graphics used in the online tool. The inmates also contributed basic Web programming skills.
According to Yap, engaging outside contributors also underscores the collaborative spirit of the open source movement. At some point, Yap told ZDNet Asia he would consider contributing the training tool to the open source community to develop versions that are localized to the markets it is used in.
"One of the big hindrances to OpenOffice adoption is the cost of training new users," he said. "We've also received enquiries from commercial entities that want to find out what it takes to get on to OpenOffice."
"We thought the solution might be to create a self-learning portal, so that there's no reason for people to avoid OpenOffice because of training costs," he added.
Resolvo's training tool covers most functionalities of OpenOffice such as creating documents, tables, charts and modifying spreadsheets, among other things. "It's also interactive, and not like a training video that you only watch and follow," Yap said.
Apart from Flash-based content, the online tool also includes static text-based training materials sorted according to topic areas. Yap said users who have some basic experience with OpenOffice can easily zoom into specific topics, complete with accompanying screenshots. At the end of each training session, they can also participate in a quiz to test the knowledge they have gained.
Resolvo is already in talks with Linux vendors to include the training tool as part of their software distributions, Yap revealed. The company also offers an enterprise version of the tool which would allow businesses to track the progress of their employees during the training process.
While OpenOffice has surpassed the 50-million download mark since the project started in July 2000, Gartner said it would be difficult to achieve enterprise-wide adoption of OpenOffice.
In a research note last year, Garter agreed that while OpenOffice is sufficient for many users at most companies, compatibility with Microsoft Office, support and ease of deployment remain as barriers to adoption.