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Free and adequate looks enticing
compared with expensive and adequate.
Rob Pegoraro Washtech.com
If we can't afford the solution,
then it's not a solution ;-).
SAP marketing slogan
The selling point for Windows are applications and here MS Office is a really impressive set of well integrated programs with the common macro language. Contrary to views of many naive open source advocates (Eric Raymond is a good example) MS Office is a tremendously capable suit of software applications that is de-facto standard and that has capabilities perfectly suited for enterprise customers. Home users can generally benefit from simpler tools. For example only small percentage of home users can benefit from full power of Excel which is indispensable in the enterprise environment, I suspect that less then 20%. the same might be true for PowerPoint.
The only problem is that it is rather expensive outside the USA, and it is extremely expensive in Eastern Europe, if you compare the price with the average monthly salary. Like in SAP/R3 somewhat perverted ( judging from the cost of SAP software) slogan: "If we can't afford the solution, then it's not a solution" ;-). Therefore generally MS Office is a good solution for the US market, much less for Eastern European market, which needs to find the alternative. Here this page might be of some help as it touches alternatives that are rarely discussed on open source sites: other Microsoft packages (like Microsoft Works 8.0 ) as well as some licensing tricks available for small businesses (Microsoft partner programs that make the cost of set of Microsoft application (including Ms Office) plus OS approximately $3 a month per employee if the firm contains exactly 10 employees :-).
The key issue in application suits like MS Office is not the openness of code per se (its just too much code to be useful for 99.99% of the users ;-), but openness of the API and the underlying formats. The key advantage of the MS Office -- common macro language for all applications in a suit, is the advantage that is still unmatched by rivals. Also the level of support of MS Office (books, training materials, add-ons, etc) is far superior to the alternatives.
That mean that Office still makes sense in the open world. But if only if :
The main problem with the Office is that both MS Word and Excel documents formats are proprietary and undocumented. But you can export documents in Open formats including RTF and XHTML. The latter needs some postprocessing (see, for example demoroniser), if you want to publish it; raw Ms Word xhtml contains too many Microsoft styles).
Still absence of the internal representation accessibility somewhat limits what you can do in MS Word (and complicate debugging). That's probably the most severe shortcoming of MS Word.
The absence of the internal representation view limits what you can do in MS Word and complicates debugging of complex documents
Contrary to the opinion of typical Linux zealots, I am convinced that Microsoft Word was and still is a very good program that was innovative at the time of introduction and positively influenced the field previously dominated by somewhat backward WordPerfect (which, paradoxically, has an access to the view of the internal representation of the document). I would agree that from the point of view of supporting open formats like HTML and XML, MS Word still have room to grow, but I am surprised how Adobe managed to get the field of document viewers despite the fact that MS Word viewers would be clearly adequate (and somewhat superior due to the quality of MS Word as a tool for creating them) tool.
In the past (in the MS DOS environment) MS Word was always underdog to WordPerfect, but despite this second place that most PC magazines assigned to in in 1987-1994 (or may be due to it) it was always more innovative word processor than WordPerfect:
BTW it is funny that generally conservative WordPerfect's has "show the source" concept of showing raw source format similar to HTML editors of today. If you remember the days of character-based WordPerfect, you will remember the "reveal codes" feature, which shows an editable view of the current file with the internal formatting codes visible. This gave the user more control of the underlying text-processing than MS Word. That why lawyers always prefer WordPerfect and that's why many advanced users (including myself) for simple documents are now using FrontPage instead of MS Word (FrontPage is now part of Office Professional).
Inability of MS Word transparently show
its internal format
In addition to being rather expensive outside of North America, today's versions of Microsoft Office are huge and try to implement everything possible under the sun. The best original ideas are buried under the bloat of "me too" features. For example how many people use MS Word outlining capabilities. If you do not need all the capabilities you can probably use cheaper substitutes. What are the alternatives?
You get MS Word 2002, Money 2004 standard edition, Street Finder, Encarta and Picture It! for 1/5 of a price of MS Office Standard Academic Edition.
Most people need MS Word which is a de facto standard in document
processing, but an average user seldom needs Powerpoint or Excel. At
home one can benefit from such useful programs as Money, Street Finder,
and Picture It. The last is Microsoft's publishing photo program
and it alone usually costs around $60. This makes MS Works suit a real
bargain and the best alternative for MS Office, especially for family
use or student use.
See also Amazon and Epinions.com reviews.
The main attraction of Open Office is that it is free. Also support of open formats is better that in MS Office. Open Office is a just a renamed Star Office that Sun bought and re-licensed. Star Office was from the beginning designed as a cheap MS Office emulator. Before Sun acquired Star Division GmbH in 2000, the original vendor, StarOffice already had 30% of the German market and it was even rated superior to Microsoft Office among users surveyed by Germany's largest computer magazine, ComputerBild. In October 2000, Sun change the license to dual with GPL as a second license, renamed the product to Open Office and organized a special site for the coordination of development OpenOffice.org.
Due to financial problems, currently many municipal governments play
with the idea of saving money moving to Open Office and it does make
sense as a regular municipal worker usually does not need any macro
There is somewhat better version from Sun called StarOffice 7 (for ~$80), but it is overpriced in comparison with the MS Works Suit which contains MS Word 2002 (street price of MS Works suit 2004 is ~$25). Therefore it mainly makes sense if you are limited to Solaris and Linux.
In late June 2001, the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) chose to implement 25,000 units of Sun’s StarOffice software. This sounds like a significant gain until you discover that StarOffice was replacing Applix on Unix workstations as well as Windows based software. DISA’s requirement was for “an open office productivity suite to work on multiple platforms, including Linux, Solaris and Windows."
By May 2001 Sun was reporting that five million copies had been downloaded and that more than 20 million copies of the software were distributed worldwide with the major users in the education community, government, and small-to-medium-sized businesses. In 2002 Sun promised to release version 6, which will support XML. StarOffice has good compatibility with Microsoft Office formats. It already has language support for Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish, but version 6 will add Chinese, Japanese and Korean to the mix.
Five million downloads does not prove any specific number of users
and the only way of guessing it right is the impact of OpenOffice on
MS Office revenues. the fact that MS Office is ridiculously expensive
in poor countries (Eastern Europe, India, China, South America...) can
Nue - a derivative of Netscape Composer based on the Mozilla platform and its Gecko layout engine. Primarily made for Linspire and other Linux flavors, its cross-platform architecture makes it available on a wide variety of other platforms. Nvu binary test builds are now available for Linux, Windows, Mac OS X and FreeBSD. Check out the latest features and screenshots for Nvu:
- WYSIWYG editing of pages, making web creation as easy as typing a letter with your word processor..
- Integrated file management via FTP. Simply login to your web site and navigate through your files, editing web pages on the fly, directly from your site..
- Reliable HTML code creation that will work with all of today's most popular browsers..
- Jump between WYSIWYG Editing Mode and HTML using tabs..
- Tabbed editing to make working on multiple pages a snap..
- Powerful support for forms, tables, and templates..
- The easiest-to-use, most powerful Web Authoring System available for Desktop Linux, Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh users.
Theoretically XML-based tools looks more viable than TeX, and OpenOffice seems to be a leader in this category. I just do not like XML and consider XHTML quite adequate for most purposes.
Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov
Microsoft has quietly released a tool to scrub leaky metadata from documents edited with its software.
The Remove Hidden Data Add-In will permanently remove hidden and collaboration data, such as change tracking and comments, from MS Word, MS Excel, and MS PowerPoint files. For Office XP/Office 2003 only, we should add.
There are a lot of great freeware products out there. Many are as good or even better than their commercial alternatives. This list features my personal pick of the "best of the best."
All these utilities in this list have been featured in past issues of of my free monthly newsletter "Support Alert" More freebies are featured in every new issue. If you are interested in great utilities and freeware you really should consider subscribing. It's free.
You'll get the most from this list by browsing through it at leisure. The pathologically impatient can consult the index.
10 Best Free Software Suite
The Open CD site offers for free a wonderful collection of just about every application software product you need to run a PC including the latest version of OpenOffice. Many of these freebies substitute admirably for expensive commercial products. There is Abi Word as an alternative for MS Word, OpenOffice for MS Office XP, Thunderbird for Outlook, The Gimp for Adobe Photoshop, 7-zip for WinZip and many more. If you then add to this collection some of the other utilities from my "46 Best-ever Utilities" collection you will have all the software you'll ever need without spending a cent. Note: All of the Open CD utilities can be downloaded for free as a CD ISO image. If you have a slow connection you can purchase the CD for a as little as $1.99. In addition to the Windows versions, the CD also contains the same collection of programs implemented under a version of Linux called Ubuntu that can be booted and run directly from the CD. That way you not only get to try all these great programs you can try Linux as well, without interfering in any way with your current Windows installation.
25 Best Free Hotkey Utility
Hotkeycontrol XP is a free utility that allows you to define your own hotkeys so that a single key press can launch an application, insert commonly used text, change your volume, or just about anything else. Hotkeycontrol works with all versions of Windows from 98 onwards, though some features will only work with Win2K or XP. Some folks with slower PCs have reported that Hotkeycontrol can be a little slow to react. If you experience this, you might like to try PS Hot Launch VVL as an alternative. It works on all versions of Windows and is an excellent performer even on slow PCs. A third alternative is not really a hotkey utility at all but achieves the same result by using "magic words." It places a tiny text box on your screen and when you type specially assigned words into the box, they will launch a program, go to a web site or whatever. For example if you type "mail" it can launch your mail reader. Type in "46" and it can take you to the web page of the "46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities." Of course, it's up to you to define these magic words and you can have as many as you want. It all works very neatly with some really nice touches like auto-complete for your magic words which means you only have to type in two or three letters and SlickRun will complete the rest. Nice too, is an eyedropper tool that allows you to identify a program you want to "hotkey" just by clicking in its application window. There's also a built-in note jotter and a calendar date display. It requires Win 98 or later.
45 Best Free Outliner
I'm not a great fan of outliners - my brain doesn't work that way. Some folks however, swear by them and if that includes you, then you should check out Keynote, an Open Source freeware program that has a dedicated band of followers. Its major design attribute is its ease of use. Words like "natural" and "seamless" come close to the mark but really don't capture the essence of what is really a great design. What do you do with it? Well to quote the web site “KeyNote is used by screenwriters to draft screenplays, by medical doctors to keep patient databases, by developers to store source code snippets - and to everyone it serves as a place to put all the random pieces of information that have no particular structure of relationship to other data, and do not fit easily in task-specific applications such as word-processors, databases or spreadsheets.” (1.7MB)
ZDNet's George Ou has been writing a series of posts about Open Office bloat. Includes some interesting system usage comparisons"
From the article: "Even when dealing with what is essentially the same data, OpenOffice Calc uses up 211 MBs of private unsharable memory while Excel uses up 34 MBs of private unsharable memory.
The fact that OpenOffice.org Calc takes about 100% the CPU time explains the kind of drastic results we were getting where Excel could open a file in 2 seconds while Calc would take almost 3 minutes.
Most of that massive speed difference is due to XML being very processor intensive, but Microsoft still handles its own XML files about 7 times faster than OpenOffice.org handles OpenDocument ODS format and uses far less memory than OpenOffice.org."
OpenOffice.org 2.0 Has Edge over Its StarOffice 8 Cousin
OpenOffice.org 2.0 and StarOffice 8 share the same code base and are nearly identical. The primary differences are in packaging and certain non-free software components that come bundled with Sun's suite.
The purchase price of StarOffice 8 also includes support from Sun, where OpenOffice.org 2.0 support comes at an additional cost.
OpenOffice.org 2.0 and StarOffice 8 use the same native file format, OpenDocument, and the same macro language.
Organizations that mix the two suites, therefore, can expect complete compatibility. (The OpenOffice.org Project recently made available an update to its earlier OpenOffice.org version, 1.1.5, that includes the capability to open, but not to create, OpenDocument-formatted files.)
Read more here about why StarOffice 8 rivals Microsoft Office.
We tested OpenOffice.org 2.0 on Ubuntu Linux 5.10, SuSE Linux 10 and Windows XP, and the suite performed similarly on all three systems. One difference we noted while testing OpenOffice on SuSE 10 was the way that the suite took on the appearance and functional qualities of the GNOME and KDE desktop environments, depending on which we were using.
Unlike StarOffice 8, OpenOffice.org adopted environment-specific dialogs for opening and saving documents, a nice integration touch.
Another benefit that OpenOffice 2.0 offers on Linux systems is better integration with the various packaging systems with which different Linux distributions ship. Sun ships StarOffice 8 as a set of RPM packages.
NewsForge Basic button-pushing with OpenOffice.org macros
There are two ways to create a macro in OOo. One is to use OpenOffice.org Basic to write the macro. The other is to use the macro recorder. That will be the approach we focus on.
The macro recorder is great, because it lets you create a macro without any programming, and when you're done you can look at the code it built and add your own enhancements.
We'll sort a grocery list to illustrate how to build macros. I update my OpenOffice.org Calc-created grocery list spreadsheet weekly before trudging off to the store. I don't know how some of you shoppers do it with your handwritten random lists.
Before I run my macro, I delete the quantity of each item from the previous week. I sort the list alphabetically by grocery item (column A), then enter the desired number of each grocery item (column B). Once I've done that data entry, I want to sort the list from lowest to highest according to aisle (column C), filter the list so only non-zero-quantity items show up, then print the filtered list.
I created a macro to sort by item name using the macro recorder:
- Select the Tools menu item, then Macros.
- Click Record Macro to begin to record your keystrokes.
- Left-click on the first item in column A.
- Drag the mouse down to the bottom of the list, then across to include columns B and C.
- Click the Data menu item, then Sort.
- Select Column A and Ascending.
- Click OK to do the sort.
- Click the Stop Recording button that popped up when you clicked Record Macro. The recording box will close and open a menu for specifying the macro name. Click My Macros, then Standard, and finally Modules1. Move the cursor up to the upper left input box and give the new macro a reasonable name. Since I was sorting on the A column, I called the macro "sorta."
- Finish up by clicking OK.
Why macros? Why would you want to use macros? If you do repetitive jobs, like moving data around in a spreadsheet or regularly deleting old data from a column, some simple macros can save you lots of time and reduce your error rate. Automating tasks in OpenOffice.org might just turn you into the departmental macro guru, and managers and business owners like people who can make using spreadsheets faster and easier.
Running the macro is even easier than creating it. Step through the Tools menu, Macro, and Run Macro. Pick the macro out of the list and push the Run button at top right. In my case it was My Macros, Standard, Module1, and "sorta." The spreadsheet flashed briefly and then it was sorted alphabetically by column A.
Creating a macro to sort by aisle was the same process, except I sorted on Column C instead of Column A and named it "sortc."
I also created a "finddeli" macro that looks for all instances of the word "deli" in my list. You can record just about any sequence of actions or key clicks and turn them into a macro.
Attaching macros to buttons
Clicking through the Tools, Macro, Run Macro sequence is almost as much effort as just sorting manually. A worthwhile upgrade I made was to attach the sorta macro to a button that could be placed right on the spreadsheet:
- Turn the control toolbar on with View, Toolbars, and Controls. The floating toolbar will appear.
- Click the Design Mode On/Off button (the ruler with the little draftsman's triangle) on the Controls toolbar to light up the various controls. Click the pushbutton and then move down to the spreadsheet and use the mouse to drag out a rectangle.
- Right-click on the new button, then select the Controls menu item to bring up the button properties menu.
- On the General tab fill in an appropriate Label for the button. In my case it was "sort a."
- On the Events tab move down to the Mouse Pressed item and click the triple dot button on the right.
- On the Assign Menu, click the Assign button to bring up the Macro Selector menu, where you can choose the macro to be actuated by the button. In my case I chose My Macros, Standard, Module1, and the sorta macro.
- Click OK to complete the assignment.
- Again click the Design Mode On/Off button to allow the button to be pushed in the spreadsheet.
You can now run the sorting macro by clicking on the button.
Creating buttons and macros for simple repetitive jobs like this can save you loads of time. You might look at your spreadsheets and make a list of the tasks that you do over and over, then record a macro and run it to see if it saves you some time. Any situation where you flip back and forth between some spreadsheet state is a candidate for some pushbutton automation.
If you want to get more sophisticated with your spreadsheets, you can also use text boxes, radio buttons, and list boxes. Controls like buttons and list boxes on forms are another way to interface with macros.
For a thorough education on OpenOffice.org macros be sure to get "OpenOffice.org Macros Explained" by Andrew Pitonyak. Don't let the book's massive 476 pages intimidate you. It has vast sections of basic programming practice that explain things in minute detail. It could be a knowledgeable silent companion for anybody who wants to be a departmental OpenOffice.org macro guru.
... ... ...
- "OpenOffice.org" - http://www.openoffice.org/
- "OpenOffice.org Basic" - http://api.openoffice.org/docs/DevelopersGuide/BasicAndDialogs/BasicAndDialogs.htm
- ""OpenOffice.org Macros Explained"" - http://service.bfast.com/bfast/click?bfmid=2181&sourceid=39391960&isbn=1930919514
- "Rob Reilly" - mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Softpanorama hot topic of the month
****+ Document/Word Processing on Linux -- Christopher Browne's (who is also the author of anti-raymondist paper Linux and Decentralized Development) has a very good discussion and list. I disagree with some of his opinions, but the page is well worth reading. This web page enumerates the available word processors better that this one and should be used as a primary reference. It also provides opinions on why there isn't a "free" clone of Microsoft Word for Linux...
This document discusses the document processing software that is available under Linux. Word processing software has been a matter of great interest for those that wish to see Linux more widely adopted for use in business.
There is a fairly sizable assortment of free software packages for this purpose. Unfortunately, they are not generally considered to be terribly ``credible'' particularly they do not generally read or write the data formats used by Microsoft Word, which is widely considered the ``industry standard.'' Furthermore, many projects to build ``free word processors'' tend to get started, but, unfortunately, few ever reach any degree of completion.
There are, in contrast, a number of commercial software packages that do a reasonable job of ``understanding'' various proprietary word processor formats.
This document also includes an opinionated discussion about word processing. I feel that the actual thing that people wish to do (doing stuff with documents) is not generally well understood and that peoples' expectations and use of word processing software is hence impeded.
MozillaQuest Magazine - AbiWord - A Free, Decent, MS Word Clone for Linux, MS Windows, & Other Platforms
AbiWord has its own file format, .abw. However, it can import plain text, HTML, RTF, Word 97 (.doc), XHTML, and other formatted document files too. Export-wise, you can save your AbiWord documents as plain text, ABW, HTML, LaTeX, RTF, and other file types.
AbiWord does not have the rich set of language tools that MS Word has. However, it does have a decent spell-checker and also a word-count tool.
MS Word has lots more tool bars and is much more-fully featured than is AbiWord. On the other hand AbiWord is leaner than MS Word and mean enough for many word processing tasks. The AbiWord download binaries run about 3.5-MB (MS Windows) to about 5-MB (Linux tar.gz).
Installed, AbiWord sucked up less than 6-MB of hard drive space in Windows 98 SE. MS Word eats up 22.9-MB of Windows Memory compared to 5.37-MB of Windows memory for AbiWord.
The Windows version of AbiWord installs easily and in a snap. AbiWord seems to behave nicely when running in MS Windows.
(Note: in Linux, it's generally not a good idea to change libs or other system files or packages merely to accommodate an application -- unless you are a very experienced Linux user. Even if you are an experienced Linux user, you should proceed with caution before changing system critical files. Those changes could negatively affect other applications that are working nicely on your Linux system, or your Linux system itself. So, if you find that you do need to change libs or other system files or packages merely to accommodate an application, forget the application.)
On the other hand, we encountered (mostly lib) problems when trying to install, to upgrade, or to run the Linux version of AbiWord on Caldera OpenLinux eDesktop 2.4 and Red Hat Linux 7. Those are the only Linux distributions on which we tried AbiWord.
For more information about the status of features already implemented in AbiWord, please check the AbiWord Feature Matrix and the AbiWord User Interface Matrix. If you want to sneak a look at what features are planned for AbiWord but not yet included, check the AbiWord Roadmap. (Links in the Resources section below.)
You can customize AbiWord to your keyboard-picking heart's content. It's open source. That means you can change the widgets, modify features, or even add your own features. If you are into creating themes and skins for programs, you can use the AbiWord customizability to make your own AbiWord theme.
For more information about building your own customized version, check AbiWord Personal in the Resources section at the end of this article.
AbiWord is off to a darn good start. Even though it is still in the pre-release, beta stages, AbiWord is worth downloading, installing, and using. However, it's a preview release not a final shipping version. So expect to find that all AbiWord's features are not fully implemented -- or in some instances not implemented at all, yet.
It is not nearly as heavy duty as its commercial counterparts such as Microsoft's Word, Sun's StarOffice, or VistaSource's Anywhere Desktop (formerly Applixware). However, AbiWord's lighter features-package also makes it lighter-weight resources-wise. It takes less hard-drive space and less RAM.
Although AbiWord is a darn good MS Word clone, it is not MS Word. It is doubtful that MS Word users are going to part with their MS Word and flock to AbiWord. However, where resources or budgets are tight, AbiWord can be a nice supplement or alternative to MS Word on MS Windows PCs.
On platforms such as Linux and the other *NIXs where MS Word is not available, AbiWord has the makings of a very nice substitute for MS Word. As development continues and more features are added to AbiWord it might well become as good as the heavy-duty word processors -- perhaps better.
Of course the heavier word processors are getting better all the time too. Moreover they are becoming available for more platforms also. The bottom line here is that all this means even more choices for software consumers and users.
Ted is a text editor running under X Windows on Unix/Linux systems. Use RTF as native format. Can be used as as an RTF viewer in Netscape. Developed by Mark de Does. Home page is http://www.nllgg.nl/Ted/ Distributed under GPL license.
Ted was developed as an operating system accessory like Wordpad on MS-Windows. In our opinion, the possibility to type a letter or a note on a Unix/Linux machine is clearly missing. Only too often, you have to turn to a Windows machine to write a letter or an e-mail message. Teds function is to be able to edit RTF documents on Unix/Linux in a wysiwyg way.
Compatibility with popular MS-Windows applications played an important role in the design of Ted. Every document produced by Ted should be accepted as a legal .rtf file by Word without any loss of formatting or information. Compatibility in the other direction is more difficult to achieve. Ted supports most basic text formatting, as supported by the Microsoft applications. Other formatting instructions and meta information are ignored. By ignoring unsupported formatting Ted tries to get the complete text of a document on screen. Ted can be used to read formatted e-mail sent from a Windows machine to Unix, or as an RTF viewer in Netscape.
In line bitmap pictures.
Annoyances.org - Hidden Settings in MS Office 2000
p-nand-q.com Python MS Office
Here are some hints on using the Win32COM extensions for Python to write scripts, that use Microsoft Office Components. Thanks to Mark Hammonds excellent work, you don't need to bother with VB any longer and can automate Office from THE BEST PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE IN THE WORLD.
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