Thursday, February 19

The King is dead! Long live the King!

I think it's finally time to call this one over. Open Office, the open source applications suite, has been steadily stalking Microsoft Office for years now. Microsoft, for their part, has been striving mightily to mung up the works in Office, turning it into a horrible puddle of yuck to use.

I bought a new laptop a year ago and a new desktop earlier this month, and at the same time bought both a copy of Microsoft Office 2007 Home and Student Edition and Microsoft Outlook 2007. I'd used the 2003 versions of both applications, and liked them.

I've also been toying with Open Office for the past few 2.x versions, and I've believed it to be close to the Microsoft suite in power and user interface, but not QUITE there yet. Not until now, that is. What changed? Three things.

First, Microsoft has really screwed the pooch with Office 2007. Plain and simple, it's just awful. In the name of making things easier, they rearranged all the menus and user interfaces on an application that was largely unchanged (and a virtual standard) for nearly ten years. I don't know who it was at Microsoft that thought this was a good idea, but they need to be taken outside and beaten with a copy of the book "Who Moved My Cheese?" (An excellent book, by the way.)

Next, Open Office has released version 3.01 and it's a very smooth, polished, and powerful program. Yet its user interface is straightforward and simple. It can open Microsoft Office documents (most of them) and it can save in Microsoft Office format (for the most part), but I'm assuming that you're a lot like me, meaning that you don't share documents with people very often and whatever office applications suite you use is just for your own consumption. Besides, if document collaboration is needed, I'm a Google Documents junkie. Get the content down when you're working as a team, then download the document and polish it as needed for the final copy.

Finally, Open Office has a library of extensions for it similar to Firefox and Thunderbird (open source web browser and email program, if you've been hiding under a rock for the past few years). Extensions let Open Office do things its designers and programmers didn't think of, or didn't have time to include. I've learned to ADORE my extensions with Firefox and Thunderbird, and I'm quite certain I'll feel the same way about Open Office.

It's happened gradually and not because anyone forced me, but I use Firefox instead of Internet Explorer, Thunderbird instead of Outlook, and now Open Office instead of Microsoft Office. I'd love to kick Vista off my computer in favor of Linux, but I'm a video game addict and all my addictions of choice require Windows.

If you haven't checked out Open Office, do so now. It's time to fire Microsoft. The open source programmers are doing a better job, and it's certainly less cash (as in, these programs are free). By the way, while you're downloading these terrific programs, take the time to make a donation toward their support. It costs money to host the web sites and run the organizations that make this software possible, and we should give them a hand as we can afford it.