This week marks the official release of OpenOffice.org 3.0
I’ve always been in love with OSS (Open Source Software) since the first OSS program I installed.
The one thing I hate, however, is that you aren’t able to disagree with, or dislike any decisions made by the main developer.
Making a simple suggestion on the app’s forum can often lead to major flaming in the form of
“Be grateful, the developers are working on this in their free time.”
“If you want X feature implemented, do it yourself”
When, in many cases, this isn’t a valid point.
Sure OSS if free, and often done by volunteers, but it is often NOT the case.
Firefox Developers are employed by Mozilla Corp.
Many Linux developers are employed by companies such as Google, IBM, Redhat, Novell etc..
So, they’re more like regular developers who just happen to be paid by their company to work on OSS.
Many OSS apps are better than their proprietary alternative, but many (usually those in their infancy) are inferior. OpenOffice.org 3 is an example of the latter.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s really good, and it’s evolving rapidly. The problem is, Microsoft Office is not standing still.
As an example of the former, Gecko (firefox) and Webkit (Google Chrome and Safari) are rapidly adding features and improving performance, while Microsoft is standing still with Internet Explorer.
This means that the Open Source model CAN works. No one with a brain would dare argue Firefox’s superiority over Internet Explorer.
The same would go for the Linux kernel, Linux/Solaris filesystems and lots of other stuff.
The office suite is just going to take a little more time.
As a side note, one of the reasons for this could be the fact that Sun (the main company behind OpenOffice) is unwilling to allow patches from non-sun employees.
I’ve read about Sun denying patches and improvements submitted to them by Novell. This is extremely disappointing, and completely contrary to the OSS model.
So, just how good is OpenOffice?
It’s good. Certainly the best option if either:
a) you don’t run windows (the mac office version sucks)
b) you don’t want to pay for, or pirate Office 2007.
In my case it’s A.
But, one important thing to note, if you’re not a power user of office, you may not notice the difference (except the GUI, obviously).
I use OpenOffice.org to write essays for school and do do a few spreadsheets with minor equations, and I’ve never not been able to do what I’ve needed to.
OpenOffice is probably sufficient for 95% of users.
Still, this doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for really good OSS, it just means that I wish the fact that it’s FREE weren’t often used as an excuse for it being inferior, or, worse, that it’s only used because of either of the above 2 reasons.
So, even if you use Office 2007, it’s worth giving a try.
It’s good, free, and continually improving.