There has been a lot of buzz in the industry lately about OpenOffice and other office suites and how their going to challenge Microsoft Office's market share. I was starting to buy into the buzz, until I downloaded OpenOffice. I had been meaning to download OpenOffice for some time now because the only word processors that I have on my home machines is WordPerfect due to the fact that I was too cheap to pay the extra money to get Microsoft Office.
Certainly this has been a nuisance when trying to open Word docs, epically documents for my girlfriends homework assignments. For the most part, I can get by with the so-so document conversion that WordPerfect performs. I was excited about OpenOffice, I keep hearing about how well it can open Microsoft Office documents, and makes conversion real simple.
So I finally got around to installing OpenOffice the other day. With great excitement, I went about checking out the programs that the suite provides. OpenOffice provides similar programs to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access. They even have an additional program called Math for creating math formula representations.
First thing I tried was Writer (equivalent to Word). When I first started it up, the hard drive started to churn, and seconds then minutes ticked by. I thought that it wasn't going to load, so I click the Writer icon again, CRUNCH. Applications open: zero. System crashes: one. Ok, lets try that again. This time it opened in about 20 seconds (Yikes!) and I finally got a chance to click around. Well there are some features in here that look pretty cool, but first I have to print a document for the lady. Wait. Where is the print preview button? Nevermind, just print. CRUNCH. Documents printed: 0. System crashes: 2. Not off to a good start.
Ok, one more time, lets try and open this Word document using OpenOffice and try printing it. "Open with - > OpenOffice". CRUNCH. Documents Open: 0. System crashes: 3. Well, I'm starting to think that my productivity is going to drop drastically with this office suite, as I have only tried to open 2 documents and print one, and I have already spent 15 minutes dealing with system crashes.
So I guess what I'm getting at, I was really excited to have an office suite at home that was comparable to Microsoft Office, but have been extremely let down. Anyone who things that OpenOffice, or Sun's StarOffice is going to present and challenge to Microsoft Office has never installed and tried to work with either. Do I think that these products could improve in the future? Maybe, but I think there is an issue here that was outlined in an article called "Why Open Source Usability Sucks" that talks about how developers that aren't getting paid don't want to work on fixing other peoples bugs. As a result, all the meaningless features that are fun to program get written, but all the bug fixes and features that aren't fun to code, but are essential to a good program don't get finished.
I hope that OpenOffice will have a bright future, but just like anything Sun backs, I see little to no light at the end of the tunnel. There is just no getting around the fact that OpenOffice is just a cheap knock-off of Microsoft Office.