Open Office 3.0: Meh…

Be warned that this is not a thorough evaluation of Open Office. I use it mainly during the initial phases of translating from Chinese or Tibetan. (I still use Emacs for Sanskrit.) I produce all my final documents in LaTeX. So there is a lot of the functionality of Open Office I do not use. I’m putting my impressions here mainly because I told some people I would tell them what I think of Open Office 3.0 and I figured I might as well post my impression to my blog. It is likely that I am going to ignore features that other people would find crucial. So there you have it.

The good:

  1. Open Office 3.0 feels snappier than 2.4. I don’t have hard statistics but it feels like it starts faster and various operations are faster.

  2. Extensions designed for 2.4 work in 3.0 without modification.

  3. A window bug in 2.4 which was triggered by compiz has been fixed in 3.0

  4. In text documents, it is now possible to see the content of notes on the right side of the document. I would go as far as asserting that before 3.0, Open Office’s support for notes in text documents was so badly broken as to be unusable. In 3.0 it is possible to put notes to good use. And I would say that this feature alone is what made the move to 3.0 worthwhile for me.

However all of the positive above is undermined by long-standing problems in Open Office which still have not been fixed in 3.0:

  1. Open Office’s support for notes is still deficient. It is not possible to associate a note with a span of text. I find this very annoying because I usually think of notes as comments on spans of text. It is currently not possible to select part of a paragraph for instance and add a note saying “this passage is incorrect” which would clearly be associated with the selected passage. If you select a passage and add a note, the note will be inserted at the start or end of the passage without any indication of what exactly it applies to. So you have to write in the note “The passage from A to B is incorrect.”

  2. It is still not possible to get a split-screen view in Open Office. This may be due to just how abysmally ill-designed the underlying architecture of Open Office is. I often find myself wishing for such functionality. Sigh…

  3. Open Office is just as likely to crash as before.

  4. As I intimated above, the underlying architecture of Open Office is just as horrible as it ever was. If you have never tried to write extensions for Open Office you have no idea just how bad it is.

  5. The documentation is just as inadequate as before. I’m talking not only about the documentation available to people writing extensions but also the documentation for end users.

Lately I’ve found asking myself why I’m putting up with Open Office and why I’m writing extensions for it. I keep having to remind myself that although Emacs would be more pleasant to work with, it is not a likely tool for most of my colleagues. Word would sit at the top of the list of most popular tool but due to ideological reasons (Word is not open source software) I’m not going to develop for Word. This leaves Open Office. I’ve checked again this morning what was available in the open source world and as bad as Open Office is, there is really no other contender. In my opinion, other office suites are either incomplete or not supported well enough on other platforms. I’m not fond of Windows but I’d rather develop extensions for an open source suite which is fully ported to Windows rather than an open source suite which is only half-ported or badly ported. Ditto for OS X.

One thought on “Open Office 3.0: Meh…

  1. Bill Magee

    Thanks for this review, Louis. I think many of your readers would also appreciate reading about your work in Emacs and LaTex. Since these are the best tools available, IMO, why not publicize them?


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