Wednesday, September 9, 2009

OpenOffice is not MS Office

I hate to admit it, but applications and many of the Ubuntu utilities (e.g., Evolution) have a long way to go to compete with Microsoft Office and Microsoft utilities.

Granted, “you get what you pay for,” and OpenOffice IS free versus Microsoft products which are expensive.

But the more I use Ubuntu and the free applications and utilities available to it, the more I realize free apps leave something to be desired.

Since I own Microsoft Office 2007 and I have Vista Home on my new laptop, why did I install Ubuntu 9.04? For the same reason I am abandoning Yahoo mail.

Both Microsoft and Yahoo keep fixing things that “ain’t broke.”

Every time Redmond comes out with a new version of its products – be it OS or application – the User Interface (UI) is revamped. My productivity takes a serious hit when the latest and greatest is installed. As my productivity dips, my frustration level rises.

I’ve been using MS Word since V1.0 for DOS! It’s a great word processor. It never was anything more. Claims that it can be used for long, complex documents are, in my not-at-all-humble opinion so much hot air. If you are cobbling together a technical manual of 100-plus pages, with graphics and tables, get a page composition application and a decent graphics generator. Over the years I used a variety of applications – for page composition, FrameMaker, Interleaf, and Ventura (which still remains my favorite). Graphics? I’ve had Corel Draw, Deneba Canvas, and Micrografx Designer (nee’ In-a-Vision), among others. Using those apps, and Word, I’ve created long manuals, short newsletters, various length articles, brochures, and even a few resumes. By the way, there apparently are no free/low cost real page composition applications for Ubuntu.

When I tell you I LIKE Ubuntu and and Evolution (email handler), trust me, I do.

But I also will tell you they lack features and functions I take for granted in MS offerings.

Small frustration.

I created a document for my Web site ( I put files up in three formats: html, PDF, and text.

First, the “Web” looks for certain extenders; html, pdf, txt. Using some of those extenders confuses Ubuntu. It’s not a show-stopper, but it does slow down things. The text files are created from the word processor and saved as plain text. With Word, I can force line feeds; I can’t (seem to) do that with Writer.

With Vista, and XP before that, I could shrink an application to the ribbon at the bottom of the screen; when I do that with Ubuntu I usually loose the application and have to relaunch it. Ubuntu is fast, but why can’t I see the app in the ribbon?

There is a lot that can be said for Ubuntu and and all the rest of the FREE applications available for Linux and I suspect as I spend more time with them I’ll find work-arounds.

But for now, I feel like I’m caught between a rock and a hard spot (or anvil and hammer, if you prefer) – Microsoft is driving me up the wall with its constant mucking about with the UI (and the apps get fatter and fatter) while Linux lacks many features and functions I’ve come to take for granted.

Maybe I should chuck it all and by myself a good fountain pen. Do they still make them?

John Glenn
Scrivener & other things
Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale Florida

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