OpenOffice.org 2.0 makes a good alternative to Microsoft Office as an office suite. In this article, Greg Shultz shows how you obtain and install OpenOffice.org 2.0 as well as how to deploy it in a network environment.
In addition to being free, OpenOffice.org 2.0 is very compatible other office suites such that it's extremely easy to convert and continue to work with all documents created with other packages, thus making it an ideal way to move your small or medium sized business up to the next level without all the hassle and expense related to a standard upgrade. As such, if you're considering making the move to OpenOffice.org 2.0, one of the first things you're probably wondering about is how you would go about deploying and installing this package on the computers in your organization's network. In this article, I'll take a look at the tasks involved in downloading, deploying, and installing OpenOffice.org 2.0.
Downloading the package
To download the OpenOffice.org 2.0 package, point your browser to OpenOffice.org 2.0 Downloads page and click the Download link. When you do, you'll be prompted to select the language, the operating system, whether you want to include the Java Runtime Engine (JRE), and a download site in your geographical region. Once you do, you can begin the download operation.
Keep in mind that Java is required for complete OpenOffice.org functionality; however, you can indeed install and use OpenOffice.org without Java. For instance, Java is necessary in order to use Base and the new embedded Java technology based HSQLDB database engine as well as to take advantage of the accessibility and assistive technologies. As such, Base won't run without Java, but the other programs (Writer, Calc and Impress) only need Java for special functionality. If you have already Java installed there is no need to download the OpenOffice.org installer with Java.
Once you've downloaded the OpenOffice.org 2.0 package, you'll need to perform the installation preparation. To do so, open Windows Explorer and locate the OpenOffice.org 2.0 package, for example OOo_2.0.2_Win32Intel_install_wJRE.exe and double-click to launch the NSIS-Installer. (NSIS (Nullsoft Scriptable Install System) is an open-source Windows installer tool.) You'll then see the opening screen of the OpenOffice.org 2.0 Installation Preparation wizard. When you click Next, you'll be prompted to choose a folder in which the installation files will be unpacked and saved, as shown in Figure A. To continue, just click the Unpack button.
|The OpenOffice.org 2.0 Installation Preparation wizard will prompt you unpack and save the installation files.|
Once the files are unpacked, the OpenOffice.org 2.0 Installation Wizard will launch automatically and prompt you to begin the actual installation, as shown in Figure B. If you're manually installing the office suite on a computer, you can click Next and follow along with the wizard to install OpenOffice.org 2.0. If you're planning on deploying OpenOffice.org 2.0 to multiple computers, you can click Cancel. You'll be prompted to confirm the cancellation and can click Yes. Then click Finish to close the OpenOffice.org 2.0 Installation Wizard.
|As soon as the files are unpacked OpenOffice.org 2.0 Installation Wizard will launch.|
Deploying via network share
If you have a small business with a handful of computers connected to a peer-to-peer network, you can easily install OpenOffice.org 2.0 on each system across the network by way of the Windows Installer Service and the OpenOffice.org MSI installer package (openofficeorg20.msi) produced by the Installation Preparation wizard. To do so, you'll need to share the folder on the network in which the Installation Preparation wizard saved the installation files and then create a batch file to launch the MSI installer package.
As you may know, the Windows Installer Service is an installation and configuration service that ships with Windows Me, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. So if you're going to be installing OpenOffice.org 2.0 on those operating system then, you're all set to go. If you'll be using Windows 98 or Windows NT, you'll need to download the and install the MSI installer package from the Microsoft Platform SDK page.
Sharing the folder containing the OpenOffice.org 2.0 installation files is easy. Creating the batch file is a bit more intricate. For the sake of an example, let's suppose that you share the folder as OOo-Share and the computer is named Datamem. To begin, launch Notepad and type the following command:
msiexec /i \\Datamem\OOo-Share\openofficeorg20.msi
In this command line, msiexec is the MSI executable that performs the actual installation of the application. The /i switch configures the Windows Installer to install the specified application. The next piece is, of course, the UNC path to the MSI file. The /qb- switch configures the Windows Installer to perform the installation with a basic user interface without any dialog boxes. In this case the basic interface simply consists of a progress bar. If you prefer a silent installation, no user interface at all, you can use the /qn switch.
To complete this part of the operations, save the file as OOo-install.bat. You can then email the file to your users and instruct them to run it.
Deploying via Group Policy
If you have a medium to large business and are running Active Directory, you'll be interested to know that some IT folks have had varying degrees of success in deploying OpenOffice.org 2.0 via Group Policy using standard techniques. As you can imagine, Microsoft isn't exactly very excited about this prospect and isn't doing anything to make it easy to do. Still, resourceful IT jockeys are hammering away at the problems.
If you want to experiment with deploying OpenOffice.org 2.0 via Group Policy you should spend some time perusing the postings on OOoForum.org and AppDeploy.com. At both of these places you'll be able to read and ask questions about other IT folks' successes and trials with deploying OpenOffice.org 2.0.
On the other hand, a company by the name of Open Office Technology has developed a product called OpenOffice-Enterprise—an enterprise management solution for the OpenOffice.org office suite. This product is designed to make easier to manage OpenOffice using standard Windows Group Policy tools, including Active Directory, Microsoft Management Console and the Group Policy Editor.
You can download the OpenOffice-Enterprise client software as well as very detailed installation and configuration instructions from the Web site. The Licensing page says that OpenOffice-Enterprise may be installed and used without charge on up to five computers for testing and evaluation purposes. For any other use, pricing is $400 per year for 100 users, and $2 per year for each additional user.