IE Editor-in-Chief Doug Henschen observed earlier this week that "the familiarity of the Office suite has a way of breeding contentment," yet Microsoft has destroyed that familiarity with the leap to Office 2007's visually unbalanced ribbon interfaces. I find the ribbons a detriment. They force extra clicking around for routine work and make it hard to find less frequently used functions.
OO has always been an MS-Office imitator, and in many ways it is now more faithful to traditional MS-Office than Microsoft's keep-'em-guessing crew. And because OO upgrades are free, there are no aging-installed-base compatibility issues as there are with users of older MS Office versions who choose not to buy upgrades.
(For a quick look at Lotus Symphony, check out this review.)
I wouldn't anticipate similar disruptive moves from OO's backers; open-source development has never been motivated by a change-to-lock-out-competitors imperative. My worry is whether OO will be on the Web by the time I'm ready to move my office work there myself. The day isn't far off when I'll succumb to the on-line allure of the likes of Zoho or Google Docs. Well, OK, Google's offering is as-yet pretty primitive, with extremely limited support for styles and layout functions. It lacks tables and more than the most basic text formatting. Zoho does much, much better, but perhaps most notable is that the software feels like the Web-native application it is and not like a misguided Web porting of a desktop app.
Will OpenOffice.org products be there when I'm ready to move my office work on-line? I don't know, although I'll observe that in today's software world, considering both technology and business models, open source implies agility. OO is not a native Web app but it is mature and healthy and its stakeholder base continues to grow. For me, I can tell you: MS Office is passé. OpenOffice.org is the standard against which I judge office software.
Seth Grimes is an analytics strategist with Washington DC based Alta Plana Corporation. He uses and consults on open source data warehousing and analytics.OpenOffice.org has reached a significant anniversary. Earlier this month, OO passed the five-year mark as the only office software on my laptop computers, first installed when I bought a Windows 2000 machine in 2002, reinstalled a couple of months ago on a replacement laptop running Windows Vista and Ubuntu Linux. Given diverse project-health indicators, I'm looking forward to my next five years of OO.