Software optimize

Office poll: Which non-Microsoft suite would you recommend for your organization?

This week, vote for the non-Microsoft suite you'd prefer to see used by your organization.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

36 comments
Mycah Mason
Mycah Mason

I don't think that you are getting a true representation of how many people would still use Office since the title says "Which non-Microsoft suite". I almost skipped the poll all together because I would recommend Office and thought that the poll would not apply to me. However I checked the poll out of curiosity only to find out the option for Office was there after all.

ssharkins
ssharkins

I'm glad you decided to check it out and voted.

Barklessdog
Barklessdog

Truth is an electric typewriter and a bottle of whiteout still gets the job done.

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

Were I forced to choose from among the options presented, I would (and do) opt to continue with MS Office 2003. It's paid for and most everyone has been trained to use it for their tasks, so why toss fresh money out the door on acquisition, deployment, and training? Were you to pry Office 2003 from my hands, I'd probably opt for OpenOffice because it can be made to look and act like MS Office. Google Docs and Zoho are pretty good for a majority of business tasks. The drawbacks are the reliance on someone else's network and on someone else's security.

cpetrosky
cpetrosky

NONE of the above. I've purchased and use SoftMaker Office. It's quick, cheap and does everything I've needed without the bloat. It is available not only for windows, but also for Linux and some handhelds. Pity there's not an OS X version, but Pages and Numbers are more than sufficient on that platform.

john3347
john3347

I agree with vulpine. None of the above. I personally find Zoho to be all that I, and most small businesses, need for an Office suite. Open Office is simply TOO much like most of the rest of the FOSS applications in that it is by geeks and for geeks and anyone else keep away. Zoho is quite intuitive and easy to master by "ordinary" users.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

At one time, an office package was simple and reliable. You had Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Databases, email and even calendars. They were efficient, did what you needed and took up very little space on your hard drive. One of those hard drives then (if you had one) couldn't begin to hold most of the Office packages on the market today. Why? Why, since Microsoft Office has become the default standard, do you need so many useless 'features'? Why do you need so many menu items that you have to dig through two, three or even four layers simply to create a newsletter? For that matter, why did it become to create a Publisher app when Word itself could have done the job just as easily? PowerPoint? Great for what it does--but again too bloated; there are other apps that do the same job far more easily. Same thing for spreadsheets; why does Excel have so many confusing and counter-intuitive commands to create something as simple as a character-generation sheet for an RPG? (Just try it. I'm not talking about simply filling in fields on a document, I'm talking about calculating all the bonuses and disadvantages as you create your character.) Ok, so I'm not necessarily talking about high-end Corporate bells and whistles; before Microsoft Office, they didn't have all of that and did very well for themselves. Now you look at a piece of paperwork and wonder just how long it took to design the spreadsheet or document... certainly a lot longer than merely typing in the message. How do I know? I used to be there. I used to sit at that typewriter and generate those documents. In my opinion, by adding so much junk into the Office package, it takes longer now to create a custom document than it did before computers existed! Tear out the fluff! Bring it back down to what is really needed. Yes, I agree that the fonts, super- and subscripts are useful. I agree that multi-column formatting is good. But why do we need the rest of it. How many people who use the applications really need all that fluff? The Open Source solutions? The Cloud solutions? Unfortunately, they're forced to at least accommodate Microsoft's standards. Maybe, instead, they should simplify and streamline. Instead of kowtowing to a proprietary standard (and yes, even Microsoft's OOXML is proprietary) they should design and comply with an international standard that doesn't force you to pay a licensing fee to the originator. If one company wants to go beyond that standard, fine-let them. But don't let one company monopolize the entire industry.

wlportwashington
wlportwashington

With the way Micorsoft has exorbitant license fees for Office with poor support (do they actually support their products without charging more), OpenOffice is a no-brainer for most instances. The only down side is that there is no compatible version for Outlook.

dpresley_50201
dpresley_50201

Koffice is another open source alternative to MS Office. It's Kexi database app is at least equal to Access in features and ease of use. Kwrite is a frame based word processor in the same vein as Framemaker and is able to do some very complicated layouts that MS Word can't. Koffice import utilities still need work, but as a stand alone suite, it's pretty darn good.

jacobus57
jacobus57

OpenOfficw is a complete no-brainer, but WHATEVER suite is installed, it should be pre-configured so that the core functionalities are front and center, the "save as" is NOT the proprietary file type linked to the suite, and all of the user-hostile default settings are tweaked. Problem is, over 90% of, ahem, "IT" workers have no clue how to use ANY productivity suite, and hold users in thinly-veiled contempt.

info
info

The problem is always trying to find a substitute of Microsoft. I ran Firefox for awhile, but constantly had to add things to make it work like explorer, open system is almost like MS Office (like a fart in New Orleans is almost like Katrina) The MAC is great, therefore 95% of users dont' use it! And your right Office 2007 sucks because I don't want to learn it all again but the one's who did love ot! Beating MS means introducing products that offer real solutions better than Microsoft not just different. By the way, remember when Lotus 1-2-3 was better than Excel? Where is Lotus 1-2-3 now?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Why would I want to undertake such a project? I've got enough on my plate to bother fixing something that isn't broken. After rethinking it and reading some of the other posts, I would recommend not installing any suite. Few people use more than an e-mail client, a spreadsheet, and a word processor. I'd recommend going with unbundled individual apps, 'cherry picking' the 'best' single pieces from the available suites.

webmaster
webmaster

I've been running Open Office as our company office suite for over eight years. It does everything we need it to.

efs710920mex
efs710920mex

I agree, try them and see if any alternative covers the reason why you want to change, or even just to stay informed about progress in other suites.

ntcormier
ntcormier

I have been using open office for a few years now and am happy with it. It does all I need it to do.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I see the problem as too many people, both inside and outside IT, thinking in "monolithic" mode: we can only have one office suite, we can only have one email client, we can only have one web browser. Why limit users and spend money you don't need to spend? Use OpenOffice for those users who only write letters and basic documents and use basic spreadsheets. File formats are no problem; set the OpenOffice default save as MS Office 97/2003 and go for it. Using Access as a front end for an SQL database? Buy MS Office licenses for those database users. Hundreds of hours invested in VBA for you spreadsheets? Office licenses for those modifying the spreadsheets, Excel viewer for everybody else. Yes, yes, I know it's "easier to support" a single office suite. You don't have to learn anything new, you don't have to adjust your thinking, you can stay where you are. What a crock!

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

Do you donate to the Open Office foundation? Just curious because most arguments for using Open Office are financial. Do you consider it ethical to use open office in a corporate environment without donating? Do you consider those donations in your cost comparison? Bill

BlazNT2
BlazNT2

Try that with 8000 employees. It is not possible.

Jessie
Jessie

40% of whom work at home and we had been using 602 suite which all the users hated. We switched to all agents using Openoffice, and management and above or people who need Access using MS Office. Even then, not all of them have office pro... most have office standard... and it's working quite well for us.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

Do you track support calls that have to do with compatibility issues with Open Office? Just curious to see what a larger organization runs into. I have put open office on a number of home users (for cost reasons) and I get lots of complaints about compatibility. This is with Word based documents not excel. I don't seem may excel documents for home users. Bill

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

It most certainly is possible. I've seen it done and helped manage it for a state agency with over 15,000 employees. This was back in the day before sysprep and it still only took two images per PC model: Basic and Pro. With sysprep, it's even easier: a single image and a supplemental disk. If you aren't capable of setting that up, then I guess it is impossible...for you.

Foggier
Foggier

While most office suites/programs can talk to each other, many, especially the newest versions, apparently can't. I see this as the major reason to keep to ONE suite. For example, for MS Word alone if you save a document as a .docx, using the latest version of Word, you need to have a translator loaded to read it in Word 2003. I don't know this for a fact, but I suspect the same situation occurs for many of these suites and programs. (I remember having this problem with MS Office, Corel's suite, and--am I showing my age--Wordstar.) I also suspect that one might sacrifice some functionality if one does NOT use the newest format. While it is undoubtedly true that the VAST majority of users could be restricted to only compatible formats, some users will always want "the best" and damn the rest. Geez, I cannot imagine trying to keep things copacetic in a large organization if various suites were allowed!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Since 1997, the de facto standard format for office documents has been the MS Office format: .doc for documents, .xls for spreadsheets, .ppt for presentations, etc. ALL of the major non-Microsoft software of which I'm aware recognizes that format. That includes suites such as OpenOffice and PerfectOffice and stand-alone apps such as Abiword. Set that as your standard and set all software to use that format. Tell your customers and clients that you are sticking with the existing MS Office format and not going to the MS docx. You might be surprised at who (and how many) say "Thank you!" And if you need to review .docx or .xlsx files, OpenOffice 3 recognizes those formats or you can use the Office 2003 viewers along with the compatibility pack (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=941B3470-3AE9-4AEE-8F43-C6BB74CD1466&displaylang=en). Please understand, I am not advocating that users be allowed to select their office suite. That choice, as with the choice of desktop operating system, should not be in their hands. For me, it's a cost thing: Why buy software licenses when that money could be better spent elsewhere? A single license, with Software Assurance, for MS Office 2007 [u]without media[/u] costs $289 at Newegg, $290 at CDW, and $297 at Tiger Direct. Let's assume a bulk discount of about 50% that knocks the license cost down to $145. Another poster mentioned 8,000 users. At $145/license, 8,000 licenses for Office 2K7 Pro is a $1.16 million expense. Knocking that back by even half is a significant saving.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

It costs money to manage licenses and to make custom installs. Does spending money on licenses save money on custom work by an expensive IT professional? I would say yes if it is an expensive piece of software that less than half the user base uses, but for an application that every user needs then I would say no. Every user needs an office suite. Bill

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

that the license cost for OpenOffice is 0.00 in any coin? And you don't have to manage those licenses? If only ten workers in a company of 100 people require modify access to complex Excel spreadsheets, why wouldn't I try to save 90% of my licensing costs? If license management costs eat up those savings, you are definitely doing it wrong.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Almost everybody needs access to those complex corporate Excel files, but only a very few people [u]modify[/u] those files. Those few are the ones who require full-up Excel access; the remainder can get by with, if not OpenOffice, then the Excel viewer. As for the one-off install, it's not a problem. Two images, one for those with Office and one for those without. Order the license from TigerDirect or CDW and go to town.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

I would question your assumption that only 10% of your users needing excel. I could also see one of your ten users sending the other 90 a document that doesn't display properly in Open Office and then you get calls about "why doesn't this work?" or one of your ten users trying to help the other 90 and you getting called in because "well mine doesn't work that way". I see and get these types of calls in a mixed environment. I wasn't talking about managing the free licenses, rather managing the 10%. I have seen too often someone for coverage reasons needing an application that the other user has. Then you have to do a full purchasing process (even if it is drive to the store and pick it up). Now you have a frustrated user because they can't do their job, the tech has to spend time doing a one off install, usually someone has to do paper work and approve the one off purchase. Another scenario is that the user switches jobs. Do you swap computers? Do you move the licenses? If all the computers are the same then there is no issue, but if one computer has "excel" and the other doesn't then there are time and cost involved. This is more common in small offices where people tend to do more than just a single job. There is also documentation. If a computer dies and you don't know what is on it then how do you replace it? Documentation takes time and effort to complete and it must be kept up to date. Thinking about this more, my arguments are more for smaller companies where things are more of a manual process. Larger companies where there is larger economies of scale and there is more computer and license management software anyway then this could be cost effective. I would still bet money that managing an office suite like this increases user frustration which isn't a measurable indicator. I also bet there are more problems than IT knows about because people will do some kind of work around, which decreases efficiency and is an undocumented cost. Bill Edited to add last paragraph

wmorris
wmorris

Why would you ask a question like that and then give us a choice not to switch? I voted for open office just because people know of it, and it would be easier to convince the users to switch to it. Corel Office is the better office by far though of the choices. But, the last choice is of course is the actual cheaper solution because you don't have to train old users, or uninstall and install programs on desktops. You would just have the new people who lied on their resume and still got the job anyway to train for ms office. And I'm tired of people lying on their resume "I am an ms office expert" yeah right, you don't even know what a cell is in excel, please!

Royc_1
Royc_1

And I'm tired of people lying on their resume "I am an ms office expert" yeah right, you don't even know what a cell is in excel, please! _____________________________________________ many years ago I was cut from my job and was working with a group of others who were cut at the same time and from the same company. There was 1 lady who I had helped several times at work, and she put on her resume that she was an "expert" on a database program. I talked to her about that and she said she was using it 8 hours a day for 4 years. I asked her some very simple questions about the program and she didn't know what I was talking about. I told her that she was a "data entry clerk" and didn't know any thing about the program itself. Her boss had written the data entry forms and the other stuff that she used to do her job. Her resume still said 'that she was an "expert" on the database program' because that was her only selling point for the last 4 years.

ssharkins
ssharkins

Years and years ago, I had to take a computer test as part of the hiring process. If a person's job requires a specific level of expertise and you don't want to train them, asking a few questions during the hiring process, or even asking them to take a short test seems appropriate. Do any of you have a testing process for hiring new employees?

Barklessdog
Barklessdog

Our HR department has a very simple test. They hold a mirror under the applicants nose and if if fogs then they hire them!

Sloan4today
Sloan4today

That's the best test ever! I'm sure we have a few that would have failed that.

ssharkins
ssharkins

Some people wouldn't recommend switching and they need a voice too. If I hadn't included that possibility, someone would fuss at me for that! ;) Rock and a hard place...

slacker400
slacker400

IBM symphony is open office under the hood. So it doesn't really qualify for it's own category. I do the sandbox concept and standard tool bars so I'd rather push that out to the masses.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

A few months back i may have said Open Office, however I found Pimero and it dances happy circles around both MS Office and Open Office. It offers just about everything one oculd use in a day, all from a single interface. I find it's strengths far outweigh its shortcominga. While the document creation is very basic and limited, the contact management portion of the software is excellent, though still limited in some ways but no more so than both MS Office or Open Office which I find far too limited in functionality and integration.