How To Lean Towards Free & Open - InformationWeek

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2/24/2009
11:19 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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How To Lean Towards Free & Open

People talk a lot about "going open", or leaving proprietary apps of various kinds for open source equivalents. My way of putting it has been to say "leaning open", to emphasize that you don't need to do this by diving into the deep end of the pool and praying you learn how to swim right then and there. In this and future installments I'm going to be talking about that process in detail.

People talk a lot about "going open", or leaving proprietary apps of various kinds for open source equivalents. My way of putting it has been to say "leaning open", to emphasize that you don't need to do this by diving into the deep end of the pool and praying you learn how to swim right then and there. In this and future installments I'm going to be talking about that process in detail.

The first thing that comes to mind, and the one that comes most directly out of my own experience, is Don't try to do everything at once. If you are determined to leave behind Microsoft Office for OpenOffice -- again, a really common example -- dropping all of Office like a barrel of radioactive waste is a bad idea.

The trick is to start using your replacement in parallel -- to do things side by side -- and to use the replacement at first only for things that aren't going to be show-stoppers if they don't work. In my case, Word is one of the few proprietary programs I haven't weaned myself of completely, but with OO.o 3.0.1 in hand I've been working toward that. I've created replacements for the templates that I use in Word for less critical tasks -- e.g., writing movie and book reviews for my personal site. With that under my belt, I can apply the lessons learned to more mission-critical work.

The same thing's happening with my ongoing attempt to ditch Outlook. Rather than leave it behind all at once, I set up a parallel installation of Mozilla Thunderbird 3.0 (still in alpha) with a separate mail account that I'm also in the process of gradually migrating into. Things like scheduling and reminders are handled differently from Outlook -- which, I have to admit, I do like a lot -- but I know in the long run it'll be worth the effort to make the jump.

One final note I should add: none of this is happening on any kind of timetable. The programs I'm trying to leave behind have all been bought and paid for. What I'm trying to avoid, if at all possible, is buying their successors when I know perfectly well I can do the same things without spending anything.

In future installments I'll talk about how to lean toward open formats as well as doing the platform shuffle. Stay tuned.


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