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It is a threat to Microsoft Office!
Leslie D'monte | May 26, 2006
At the outset, this article was written in OpenOffice Writer - a word processor comparable to Microsoft Word. The Writer is just one part of the suite called OpenOffice.org - touted as "open source" competition to Microsoft Office.
The original version was slow and clunky. However, with the latest version (2.0), OpenOffice.org has made it worthwhile to be written about.
Best of all, it's free. One may also note that the OpenOffice.org project, even though open source, has the backing of Sun Microsystems (that also has a complimentary product called 'Star Office'). In fact, the base source code of both these software is the same.
The OpenOffice suite includes word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, vector drawing and database components. You can install the suite on different platforms, including Microsoft Windows and Unix-like systems with the X Window System.
As you may notice, the office suite aims to compete with Microsoft Office and emulate its look and feel where suitable. It can also read and write most of the file formats found in Microsoft Office, and many other applications.
The ability to read and write Microsoft Office documents is an essential feature of the suite for many users. OpenOffice.org has been found to be able to open files of older versions of Microsoft Office and damaged files that newer versions of Microsoft Office itself cannot open.
Writer: You can use it to write a letter or produce an entire book with embedded illustrations, cross-references, tables of contents, indexes, bibliographies. The auto-complete, auto-format, and real-time spell check can make light work of the hardest task.
Writer is powerful enough to tackle desktop publishing tasks such as creating multi-column newsletters, brochures. The word processor is similar in look and feel to Microsoft Word and offers a widely-overlapping range of functions and tools.
It also includes the ability to export Portable Document Format files with no additional software - not in Microsoft Word - and can also function as a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) HTML editor for creating and editing web pages.
Calc: is a spreadsheet similar to Microsoft Excel. It provides a number of features not present in Excel, including a system, which automatically defines series for graphing, based on the layout of the user's data. Calc is also capable of writing spreadsheets directly as a PDF file.
The powerful spreadsheet has tools to calculate, analyse, summarise, and present data in numerical reports or graphics. A fully-integrated help system makes entering complex formulas a breeze. Sophisticated decision-making tools are just a few mouse clicks away.
You can pull in external data using the Data Pilot, sort it, filter it, and produce subtotals and statistical analyses. You can use previews to select from 13 categories of 2-D and 3-D charts including line, area, column, pie, XY, stock and net with dozens of variants.
Impress - is a presentation program similar to Microsoft PowerPoint. It can export presentations to Macromedia Flash (SWF) files allowing them to be played on any computer with the Flash player installed.
It also includes the ability to create PDF files. Impress suffers from a lack of ready-made presentation design. However, templates are available on the Internet.
Draw - a vector graphics editor comparable in features to CorelDRAW. It features versatile "connectors" between shapes, which are available in a range of line styles and facilitate building drawings such as flowcharts. It will produce anything from simple diagrams to dynamic 3D illustrations and special effects.
Base - Added to Version 2, this is a database program similar to Microsoft Access. Base allows the creation and manipulation of databases, and the building of forms and reports to provide easy access to data for end-users. As with Access, Base is able to work as a front-end to a number of different database systems.
Math - is a tool for creating and editing mathematical formulas, similar to the Microsoft Equation Editor. Formulas can be embedded inside other OpenOffice.org documents, such as those created by Writer. It supports multiple fonts and can export to PDF.
Quickstarter – This is a small program for Windows that runs when the computer starts for the first time. It loads the core files and libraries for OpenOffice.org during computer startup and allows the suite applications to start more quickly when selected later.
The program surely can't do everything that the Microsoft Office suite can. For instance, there's no online collaboration or Smart Tags, no grammar check, no highly flexible outlining, smart table formatting or decent hot keys.
Being free software, it has no tech support in the traditional sense (though given the vast Web resources, this argument does not hold much water). Besides, anyone used to Excel is bound to face difficulties with OpenOffice's Calc.However, these teething problems are common with any new software (how many of us can exploit even one-tenth of Excel's features?) Finally, anyone who wants a feature-rich but free office suite should give this option a try.