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Open source, pros and cons?

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Open source, pros and cons?

ajobrien
I administer a network for a medium sized non-profit organization. We still use quite a few legacy software programs because we can't afford the upgrades or licensing.

I've done a lot of research and testing on open source options for our productivity software. I've had some successes and had some failures.

I was wondering what experiences others have had. Are there any products you particularly like/dislike? I'm very interested in possible options to replace Outlook (that will talk to my Exchange Server) and Photoshop.

Thanks
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    TheChas

    The success of using open source software is VERY dependent on the skills of your users and the amount of time you want to put into training.

    Have you spoken directly with Adobe's and Microsoft's zone or area representatives?

    There are many options available to non-profits either directly through the zone reps, or through third party suppliers.

    It is at least worth checking into before you make big changes.

    Chas

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    jmgarvin

    For the Outlook replacement you'll most probably look at Evolution (http://www.gnome.org/projects/evolution/)

    For the replacement for Photoshop I'd suggest The Gimp (http://www.gimp.org/) with a little help getting your Photoshop Plugins running (http://www.linux.com/article.pl?sid=06/04/05/1828238)

    As for changing:

    You need to ask yourself a couple questions:
    1) Are you doing this without learning all you can about the alternatives and just jumping into it because it is "free?"

    2) Do you plan to have a test bed so you can roll this out smoothly?

    The reason I ask, is that most of your users will freak out, even though the alternative does the EXACT same stuff. Roll it out slowly and see what kind of reactions you get. Make sure to get user feedback and help the user understand you are doing this because the software you want to use is just too expensive.

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    stress junkie

    You may find that your biggest cost savings would be replacing Microsoft Office with the Open Office dot org suite.

    www.openoffice.org

    One problem with this is that the end users may be unhappy using a software suite that will not help them to get their next job. If the end users feel that changing to an open source product would be a liability to their career then problems will probably arise.

    Also there are some compatibility issues. The fact that you are using an old version of MS Office will help if you change to Open Office dot org software. There are still two critical technical issues. These issues concern document macros and document fonts. Open Office dot org software does not run MS Office macros. If you have a lot of documents that use MS Office macros then trying to change to another product will be a problem. Next, there are only about two document fonts that are available in both MS Office and in Open Office dot org software. If your old documents use other fonts then your end users would have to reformat all of the existing documents to look similar to the original document look in MS Office. That could be a problem.

    I think that using open source or otherwise free software is a good idea for organizations with small IT budgets. I am disgusted with the retail prices of the various MS Office licenses. However the issues that I raised are very important to the success of changing software products.

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    Jaqui

    copy the contents of the windows fonts folder to cd and import them into the X font server if going with open source operaing system.
    if installing OOo on windows, then all the windows fonts are available.


    OOo uses javascript for macros, most companies have someone competent enough in javascript to edit the converted by OOo macros to make them functional or write replacements completely in javascript. This means that getting a copy of OOo on a windows box and porting the macros isn't a huge issue, and can be done before rolling OOo out to the staff, making the transition easieron them.

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    Sue T

    I also do work for non profits and we normally buy our software from http://www.techsoup.org You might be pleasantly surprised. Open Office is not the only free Office program out there. There are others. I suggest that if you go that route that you download one of the linux live CD distros and check it out. These can also normally be installed on the hard drive. Good Luck.

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    stress junkie

    I didn't know that. That is definitely good news for businesses that want to keep using Windows but want to save money on application software. That means all of my customers!!!

    Thanks for the information. I have OOo on a Windows XP test machine. I'll definitely figure out the steps to make this happen.

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    gallopingghost

    We converted from a mixed Microsoft Office/Corel to OpenOffice. One of the options within OpenOffice was the ability to emulate either product group. So the end users viewed the change as minor.

    I really did not see a negative impact with the switch, and if we were missing any features, nobody noticed... we probably were not using them!

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    rfoard

    If you run OpenOffice.org 2.0.2, Novell Edition (available at http://download.novell.com/Download?buildid=90Jv0byQWIU~) you will be able to use the MS Office Macros. According to Novell "Unlike the standard edition of OpenOffice.org, which strips out Microsoft Office macros, the Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org preserves these macros. This ensures that users who collaborate with Microsoft Office users maintain the integrity of documents, and it allows for the possibility that these features will be supported in future versions of the product."

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    0 Votes
    groenem

    KDE's Kontact (Linux OS) is a great replacement for Outlook. I actually like it more than Outlook. I'm not sure about the Exchange Server issue, but I'm sure it is compatible.

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    0 Votes
    TheTinker

    I have done a small test project of 10 users with skills ranging from, "I surf the web and get e-mail." to, "What's this thingie?". I swapped them to OpenOffice, but left their MS Office installed so that if they had a rush project they could revert back to the app with which they were more familiar. I intentionally did not configure OOo to emulate MS.

    Seven of the 10 used it throughout the 30 test and said they liked it as well as MS. Two used it for a week and said they would be fine with the organization switching, but did not want to learn a new app if we were not switching. One said she liked it better than MS and last I checked is still using it.

    During this test, a lady in QA had a problem with a spreadsheet that she used that was HUGE. My supervisor, who knew about my experiment, found an Excel help site that recommended using OOo which did not have the limitation that was causing the problem in Excel. We did and it worked great.

    Now it is our plan to implement OOo throughout the organization at our next PC lease.

  • +
    0 Votes
    TheChas

    The success of using open source software is VERY dependent on the skills of your users and the amount of time you want to put into training.

    Have you spoken directly with Adobe's and Microsoft's zone or area representatives?

    There are many options available to non-profits either directly through the zone reps, or through third party suppliers.

    It is at least worth checking into before you make big changes.

    Chas

    +
    0 Votes
    jmgarvin

    For the Outlook replacement you'll most probably look at Evolution (http://www.gnome.org/projects/evolution/)

    For the replacement for Photoshop I'd suggest The Gimp (http://www.gimp.org/) with a little help getting your Photoshop Plugins running (http://www.linux.com/article.pl?sid=06/04/05/1828238)

    As for changing:

    You need to ask yourself a couple questions:
    1) Are you doing this without learning all you can about the alternatives and just jumping into it because it is "free?"

    2) Do you plan to have a test bed so you can roll this out smoothly?

    The reason I ask, is that most of your users will freak out, even though the alternative does the EXACT same stuff. Roll it out slowly and see what kind of reactions you get. Make sure to get user feedback and help the user understand you are doing this because the software you want to use is just too expensive.

    +
    0 Votes
    stress junkie

    You may find that your biggest cost savings would be replacing Microsoft Office with the Open Office dot org suite.

    www.openoffice.org

    One problem with this is that the end users may be unhappy using a software suite that will not help them to get their next job. If the end users feel that changing to an open source product would be a liability to their career then problems will probably arise.

    Also there are some compatibility issues. The fact that you are using an old version of MS Office will help if you change to Open Office dot org software. There are still two critical technical issues. These issues concern document macros and document fonts. Open Office dot org software does not run MS Office macros. If you have a lot of documents that use MS Office macros then trying to change to another product will be a problem. Next, there are only about two document fonts that are available in both MS Office and in Open Office dot org software. If your old documents use other fonts then your end users would have to reformat all of the existing documents to look similar to the original document look in MS Office. That could be a problem.

    I think that using open source or otherwise free software is a good idea for organizations with small IT budgets. I am disgusted with the retail prices of the various MS Office licenses. However the issues that I raised are very important to the success of changing software products.

    +
    0 Votes
    Jaqui

    copy the contents of the windows fonts folder to cd and import them into the X font server if going with open source operaing system.
    if installing OOo on windows, then all the windows fonts are available.


    OOo uses javascript for macros, most companies have someone competent enough in javascript to edit the converted by OOo macros to make them functional or write replacements completely in javascript. This means that getting a copy of OOo on a windows box and porting the macros isn't a huge issue, and can be done before rolling OOo out to the staff, making the transition easieron them.

    +
    0 Votes
    Sue T

    I also do work for non profits and we normally buy our software from http://www.techsoup.org You might be pleasantly surprised. Open Office is not the only free Office program out there. There are others. I suggest that if you go that route that you download one of the linux live CD distros and check it out. These can also normally be installed on the hard drive. Good Luck.

    +
    0 Votes
    stress junkie

    I didn't know that. That is definitely good news for businesses that want to keep using Windows but want to save money on application software. That means all of my customers!!!

    Thanks for the information. I have OOo on a Windows XP test machine. I'll definitely figure out the steps to make this happen.

    +
    0 Votes
    gallopingghost

    We converted from a mixed Microsoft Office/Corel to OpenOffice. One of the options within OpenOffice was the ability to emulate either product group. So the end users viewed the change as minor.

    I really did not see a negative impact with the switch, and if we were missing any features, nobody noticed... we probably were not using them!

    +
    0 Votes
    rfoard

    If you run OpenOffice.org 2.0.2, Novell Edition (available at http://download.novell.com/Download?buildid=90Jv0byQWIU~) you will be able to use the MS Office Macros. According to Novell "Unlike the standard edition of OpenOffice.org, which strips out Microsoft Office macros, the Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org preserves these macros. This ensures that users who collaborate with Microsoft Office users maintain the integrity of documents, and it allows for the possibility that these features will be supported in future versions of the product."

    +
    0 Votes
    groenem

    KDE's Kontact (Linux OS) is a great replacement for Outlook. I actually like it more than Outlook. I'm not sure about the Exchange Server issue, but I'm sure it is compatible.

    +
    0 Votes
    TheTinker

    I have done a small test project of 10 users with skills ranging from, "I surf the web and get e-mail." to, "What's this thingie?". I swapped them to OpenOffice, but left their MS Office installed so that if they had a rush project they could revert back to the app with which they were more familiar. I intentionally did not configure OOo to emulate MS.

    Seven of the 10 used it throughout the 30 test and said they liked it as well as MS. Two used it for a week and said they would be fine with the organization switching, but did not want to learn a new app if we were not switching. One said she liked it better than MS and last I checked is still using it.

    During this test, a lady in QA had a problem with a spreadsheet that she used that was HUGE. My supervisor, who knew about my experiment, found an Excel help site that recommended using OOo which did not have the limitation that was causing the problem in Excel. We did and it worked great.

    Now it is our plan to implement OOo throughout the organization at our next PC lease.