Is there life after Microsoft Office? Today, for the first time in many years, the answer is yes, thanks to OpenOffice.org. Here's a good first step to determine whether this outstanding open-source software suite can help your small business put Microsoft's favorite cash cow out to pasture, once and for all.Solveig Haugland is an author, instructor, and consultant who, as she writes in her blog, "loves to show people how to make OpenOffice.org do what they need it to." Haugland recently created a guide covering the migration process from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org: managing templates and clip art, shortcuts, software configuration, user interface tweaks, and much more. The guide is available as a free download in PDF format; according to Haugland, businesses are welcome to reproduce and distribute the guide (which uses a Creative Commons license) for their own use, as long as they identify her as the author and do not attempt to charge money for it.
Here is how Haugland introduces the guide in her Feb. 21 blog post, where the Web version is published:
What can I write in a finite article about how to use OpenOffice.org? I canï¿¼t cover everything youï¿¼ll need to know about how to use the program. But what I can do, in a lot less space, is give you what you need to make getting to know OpenOffice.org easier. I can give you settings to apply that will keep you from having problems in the first place. Not all of them, of course, but with a limited amount of information on how to set up the program, I can help you have a smoother, more enjoyable experience with the program. So thatï¿¼s what this is: setting up OpenOffice.org to make it work for you.
SOHO professionals and small businesses are likely to benefit, immediately and directly, from Haugland's guide: It is clear, practical, and designed to help readers steer clear of the most common migration mishaps. Far too many of these companies stick with Microsoft Office out of concern over precisely these types of issues; the sooner their concerns are addressed, the sooner these firms can make a truly informed decision about whether or not to adopt OpenOffice.org.
Things are a bit trickier for larger firms, since Haugland's guide doesn't really deal with the issues a dedicated IT staff might face migrating a significant number of employee systems. Yet her guide is still a useful resource for evaluating OpenOffice as a potential Microsoft replacement; as Haugland steps through the migration process, she naturally brings to light many of the key differences between the two products' feature sets, performance issues, and so on.
One other point in Haugland's blog post deserves a quick mention: Her description of and link to the OpenOffice.org extensions repository. If you are familiar with Firefox extensions, then you'll know immediately what this is all about; while this collection isn't as massive as the Firefox add-on archive, I still think it stands out as a selling point for OpenOffice.org (and, indeed, for community-developed software in general).