OpenOffice vs. Microsoft Office

This afternoon, Ponzi asked me to install Office on one of our laptops so that we could use Excel and Word on it. Easy enough to do, right? All I had to do was find the CD, right? Well, I couldn’t find it – and I’m pretty certain all of my Office activations have been used up, anyway (especially now that I no longer have access to an MSDN account).

As I was digging through my software drawer, I started to think… do I really need to use Microsoft Office – or will OpenOffice do just fine for desktop productivity? Let’s think about this for a moment. is free software:

  • you may download completely free of any license fees
  • install it on as many PCs as you like
  • use it for any purpose – private, educational, government and public administration, commercial…
  • pass on copies free of charge to family, friends, students, employees, etc.

Writer, for the most part, is like Word – and Calc, for the most part, is like Excel. That’s all I really need on this laptop. Guess I can kiss Microsoft Office on ancillary machines good-bye? Forget about limited editions and 60-day timeouts, man. I don’t know if I could live my life on the desktop without Microsoft Office at this point (especially with Outlook playing such a pivotal role)… what about you?

53 thoughts on “OpenOffice vs. Microsoft Office”

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  2. I like MS Office. I’ve tried OpenOffice, but I couldn’t get it to work like I wanted. Maybe it just needed more time, but MS Office works, so why fix what isn’t broken? (Other than to fight the monopolistic man, of course)

  3. I have MSOffice on my company laptop and OpenOffice on my home machines. Works great. I haven’t done any heavily formatted docs, but all of the “regular” stuff I’ve done on Word/Writer and Excel/Calc have been fine.

  4. True, Open Office has become a serious competitor to Microsoft Office. But they still need to improve on Word compatibility, especially for complex documents.

    Besides, Mac users have been waiting for a clean port forever…

  5. I use both at work under Linux.. I tend to use when I’m creating my own documents, or when exact formating is not that important. But if I’m I have to deal with important documents to be sent to other Word users, or have to fill up forms where exact formatting and fonts become important , I tend to use MSOffice (using Codeweaver’s CrossOver Office).

    As for presentation softwares, for the couple of time a year I need to use one it seems I always have problems with the one available in things never work properly, or options are never easy to find, and I always end up being very frustrated by the experience. While I find Powerpoint a lot easier to deal with.

  6. OpenOffice.
    But then, i am a GNU/Linux user. Ubuntu (“sudo apt-get install” kills them all)

    Have (legal) cd’s for MS Office versions 95, 97 and 2000.
    For my use, OpenOffice does it all: Writer and Calc.

    MS Office is much more polished, but, having a PDF button for instant PDF creations is awsome. Here OpenOffice wins. MS Office needs add-ons for it.

    As for file types, all my docs are now .ODT’s. If i receive a .DOC, i immediatly convert it.


    pedro g.

  7. I’ve been an MS Office user for many years. It only made sense because I was developing software for the Windows platform. But I recently installed MS Office 2007 and I was so frustrated with the interface that I gave up and switched with OpenOffice.

    OpenOffice doesn’t feel like Microsoft Office, but in the end, accomplishes the same tasks for a much cheaper price, free.

  8. I gave up on MS Office several years ago and started using OO. I haven’t looked back since. Sure, it’s not as pretty, but it does everything I need it to do and I’ve yet to have a problem with it. Ever. Can’t say that about MS Office.

  9. I prefer OpenOffice. It is free, and it does what I want. It comes with a good Math editor. Documents, spreadsheets, presentations. They all work fine for all of my uses. It is cross platform (I use xp on my laptop, Ubuntu on my desktop). It is very stable. I haven’t really had any problems. I have found that the export to ms office format works well enough that I can share documents with friends transparently if that is what is needed.

    Over all openoffice works great for my use.

  10. I use MS Office because I work in a Windows shop, and the integration can’t be beat. I’d probably use OpenOffice at home if I needed to, but I attend enough MS Launch events that I have the disks sitting around (I can send you an unused set, I think, Chris, if you still need it).

    MS Office 2007’s interface is substantially different for users with a history with Office, and is fairly frustrating, but I think many brand-new users will find it easier.

  11. And concerning outlook – I use thunderbird and I have found it to be very decent. It is actually nice – the all of the applications I use are cross platform at this point – Firefox, Thunderbird, Open Office, Mathematica and Matlab. The only real reason I keep XP on my notebook is for the occasional windows only application that comes with a text book or is required for a class (yes I know about WINE but don’t want to fiddle with it. I have enough to do). Also I know that XP has good power management features for the notebook, and lenovo’s wireless management software is really good. When the next version of ubuntu comes out (which is supposed to have built-in wireless support), I will install that on a partition and experiment with it. Regardless, 99% of the apps I use don’t particularly bind me to XP. OpenOffice plays a big part of that, so in that regard it is worth learning.

  12. Used MS Office for years (my first gui Office license is from the Mac launch in 1985 when I was in college). Weaned myself off Office over the last couple of years. I’ve become a fan of NeoOffice (on the Mac). OpenOffice in Windows.

  13. I run both, but only run MS Office on my work PCs as it makes things easier when collaborating, otherwise, I am use Open Office. Given that, I would probably use Open Office all around if it wasn’t for work.

    Once Open Office it is configured properly, you wind up with (mostly) the same end product as if you were working with Excel, Word, or PowerPoint…you can even have it configured to save in the same format. There are some noticeable differences, but they are easy to overcome. I find Calc to be a bit more user friendly than Excel, but I am not a power user so others may disagree.

    All in all, it all depends one 1) what you are used to, and 2) how willing you are to adapt. I have no problem using either, but admittedly, MS Office looks and feels better.

    Google Office has a little ways to go, working with spreadsheets is still a bit sloppy (try copying a sheet within a workbook and then copying the cells from one sheet to another). I know it’s due to limitations and the fact that it’s web based, but the problems still exist when it comes to full functionality.

  14. NeoOffice (OpenOffice on the Mac) and OpenOffice on Linux and Windows is all I need. I use it for my business. Google’s online office app is OK, but its not as full-featured, and there are some client documents that I just cannot trust to an online service.

  15. I work in a large school system in Indiana. They have been using MS Office since its “98” days. I have have OO on my computer for almost 2 years (keeping up with all of the upgrades). Writer is setup to save all documents in the MS Office XP/2003 standard format (.doc). In the nearly 2 year period I have had OO, there has been only one incident were an incoming document would not open due to some one using a fairly obscure Office 2003 setting. I never did find out what it was. It did open in Word 2003 with no problem. As far as I know no one has had problems opening any of my “.doc” compatible files. I can see were a power user might find some limitations in OO. I think the “pretty” factor that everyone talks about seams to be more of a taste then functionality. I have installed OO on several friends computers and have never heard a complaint about compatibility.

  16. I’m used to the interface, formatting and features in MS Office, especially for work related stuff. When I tried using OpenOffice, it doesn’t seem to do what I want it to do. Or I couldn’t find where certain commands are to be found.

    And it’s Open Impress is not as flexible as MS Powerpoint, imho.

    I think OpenOffice is decent enough for home use, though.

  17. I use NeoOffice on my Mac and like it. I own MS Office but prefer NeoOffice just ’cause I know it will piss off Steve Balmer (someday, …maybe). I am, however, strapped to nothing but Microsoft tools at work.

  18. In my experience, Open Office isn’t as “polished” as MS Office, but functionally it does what most people need. It really only falls behind MS Office when it comes to document collaboration (tracking changes/revisions etc)…

  19. My classmate works at Sun and he’s always asking me to format his papers in Word for him. He’s totally frustrated with OpenOffice but is pretty much being forced to use it. OO is a PITA.

  20. The only thing stopping me from going all OOorg is Outlook. Vista’s address book and calendar is getting close, but there still isn’t a PIM (on any platform) that can touch Outlook. Entourage maybe.

    (I wish MS would fix the bug in Windows Calendar that makes it crash on boot when you have appointments in it. Now THAT is a PITA lol)

  21. I made the switch to Open Office about five years ago and haven’t looked back. For my relatively simple requirements, it works fine. Oh, there are minor frustrations with it, but nothing compared to trying to use M$ Office 2003 on another computer while out of town recently.

    Next iteration of operating system change will push me into the Linux camp — I’ve had it with Windows.

  22. I switched from Office 2003 about two months ago. In fact, I made the switch to Linux which forced me to switch to OpenOffice. I use it everyday and have become very accustomed to it. It did take time to adjust. There was a feeling a familiarity when I started using it but not everything is laid out in the same way. Even so, most times I find that the way OpenOffice does things makes more sense. For instance, In Writer the header and footer options reside under the Insert drop-down menu where Office 2003 has them under the View menu. What’s up with that? Anyway, I don’t have anything against Office 2003 and could switch back easily, but OpenOffice should not be dismissed as a lesser app.

  23. NeoOffice is the best way to go. It is entirely based on the OpenOffice code but it uses the Aqua interface instead of X11 so it’s a lot more friendly.

  24. I use Mandriva Linux here in a dual boot with WinXP. I have used Linux since about 1998 and it is my primary OS. XP exists on my machine because I do some Tech Support here, and I use it to help me walk customers through configuration procedures over the phone. When I am in WinXP, I feel frustrated by the whole experience, including using MS Office.

    I think the source of my frustration is more with the interface provided by the OS than with the software’s functionality (although I can use OO in WinXP OK …). I started using OO when it was called Star Office (wayyy back) even before I started using Linux. Before that I used Word Perfect (back in the good ole’ DOS days). As I look through the other comments here, I find myself in a bit of a unique position, because my problem with using MS Office is my inability to make it work like OO instead of the other way around.

    In the end, I think office suite preference is like any other choice we make. We choose the one we think will do the best for us, learn to use it, and ultimately become comfortable with it. Then if we try to use any thing else, it feels clumsy and awkward. Nothing is where it should be. It can’t do any thing right! We find ourselves asking “How am I going to do this?”, “Why couldn’t they make it work like I want?” and “How could they make such a piece of junk?”. Finally, we go back to what we know and understand believing the alternate choice was not such a choice after all.

  25. OO works for people like me who only need an application that can just open and write documents and spreadsheets. Being graphic and webdesigners, the only use we have for Office applications is for correspondence with clients.

    We already have all the applications we need to do our job, and I guess getting a free office suite just makes sense for us.

  26. I’ve just started using Open Office and it works nicely for my needs. I really don’t need Microsoft Office anymore.

  27. I guess it depends on how much you use it all and how much each one integrates with one another. At work office is crucial. But at home I’m all about open office. I use gmail and thunderbird for mail.

  28. Chris:
    I am a part of for the Mac porting project, so I may be a little more than biased. However, I find the fact that I can exchange documents with my Linux based fellows as well as those stuck in Windows a little more than exciting. There are rumors that Microsoft will not be bringing Office 2007 to the Mac and that is their decision. I say, if it is free and works like it is supposed to, then use it.
    James M.

  29. Has anyone run into a problem in OOo with ‘too much formatting’ in Calc?

    I use HeroForge, an Excel based D&D character generator and many members in the yahoo group are reporting that they are having problems because Excel is popping up errors saying that the spreadsheet has too much formatting.

    I’m looking into converting this to OOo but am new to OOo.

  30. Not an OpenOffice user, I’m afraid.

    I use OneNote extensively and also Publisher. However I run it on VMWare so I have an Ubuntu system. I’ve seen OpenOffice and if all you need is word processing (and presumably the few other things OO can do) then fine. You’d be insane to run MS Office of any version. But a lot of us do not. A lot of us take advantage of the fact that the MS Office 2007 suite has a few really nifty programs that can be obscurely, stupidly handy – and while OpenOffice is capable of doing everything I do in Word on those rare occasions that I use it, if I have the entire MS Office 2007 package on my computer, and I’m familiar with it, there’s no reason for me to change to OO – yet.

    I know some people who look at me writing notes for novels and other books in OneNote and they go, ‘What the? Buh? Huh? How can you keep anything organised in that thing?’ I show them and then point out that I’m a damn random person who LIKES fragmented notes all over the place. OneNote is really quite perfect for what I do, and I’m yet to find anything to compare to it. As for Publisher, well, I’m familiar with it. I’d be willing to try another program if it worked just as well for desktop publishing but as of yet I’ve had no joy finding anything that compares. Is it (MS Office 2007, I mean) a slow and massive install that causes space problems on my measly little hard drives? You betcha. But it also has some features that no other package seems to offer, I know it works, and I have the same Office install on my computer at work which, when combined with my piddly little 512MB flash stick, means I can work on my books CONSTANTLY, at home and at work.

    Anyone got any alternatives? Please, feel free to suggest. But believe me when I say that for what I want to do OpenOffice, as excellent a package as it is, is not a challenger.

  31. I’ve been a MS-Office user since Office 4.3. (Win16!) After trying Office 2007 (purchased at full retail mind you) and getting frustrated I decided to give Open Office a try. I have not looked back.

    With Office 97 I needed to relearn the interface, and had to deal with a new (still proprietary) document format. I figured if I had to do both of those things anyway I might as well do it on a free, openly supported product and save myself a few dimes in the process.

    I still use Outlook 2003 for access to my Exchange server, and I still use Office on the Mac. Outlook 2007 was horrid, I couldn’t get that thing off my machine fast enough.

  32. I love openoffice. I use it to write various booklets and other items for later use and it’s just fantastic! At first I wasn’t sure I could live without Word (Wordperfect sure wasn’t getting it right) but Writer has all the features I need. Not the least of which is an option to export to PDF. Bye bye Word!

  33. Hey eveyone,

    even though OpenOffice is free i dont prefer it, since it does not include as many important feature as Microsoft Office does, even though office isint free id still prefer it. I mean you CAN NOT compare openoffice with Microsoft Office 2007 lol.. neway thats just my opinion.

    Have fun!

  34. As an expert user in MS Office and open office, I have found many bugs in open office. Open office is not quite there yet. I have also found that documents from MS-WORD take less disk space than open office. There is also a bug in the calculator package of Open office. The question is who do you trust the experts at microsoft writing the software or a bunch of kids of the street writing open source code ?

  35. Can anyone show me a decent, non-convulted tutorial to make Open Office writer easy to work with for page numbering when writing a book? This simple operation is a no brainer in Word – you simply designate each page that you want page numbers to be hidden. However, in OOwriter, long complex documents that require the entire document to be consecutively numbered, yet numbers must NOT show on specific pages such as Chapter, Title, Index pages etc, seem to necessitate tedious playing with styles, is very un-intuitive and I can’t get my head around it’s mechanism.

    While the creation of an Index and Glossary are simple in OOwriter, this page numbering ON/OFF capacity seems unnecessarily complex!

  36. As a computer tech I often get asked to install MS Office on customer’s computers, but they are usually taken aback when I explain how much it costs.
    As most home users I deal with just need a word processor, OO meets their needs perfectly, and everyone I have installed it for has been pleased with it.
    Personally I use OO on my home PC running PCLinuxOS (goodbye Windows!), but I use Office 2007 on my workshop computer running XP- simply because I need to learn 2007 for my business clients.

  37. Open Office is inferior no matter how much advocation is thrown around.
    Do yourself a favour and download a cracked copy of Ms Office 2007

  38. OpenOffice is very good. I don’t like all products that come from Microsoft.
    If MS Office price is 10$ i will come back.

  39. Tiger says: “The question is who do you trust the experts at microsoft writing the software or a bunch of kids of the street writing open source code ?”

    Hello Moron 1!

    Its hard to take your question seriously when you have “Microsoft” and “expert” in the same sentence.

    Firstly, Sun MicroSystems is in charge of OpenOffice Project. Not bunch of kids. So you’re wrong. They accept code contributions around the world, and then re-write it (clean up the code). This is then distributed freely in both source and binary forms.

    Secondly, knowing how Microsoft handles security matters and is not public about bugs, I’d rather trust someone who’s honest and open. (Something Microsoft is NOT).

    Thirdly, if you enjoy being on Microsoft’s upgrade treadmill, you go ahead.

    Marcus says: “Do yourself a favour and download a cracked copy of MS Office 2007”

    Hello Moron 2!

    Its this blind and ignorant attitude that has caused Microsoft to introduce their anti-piracy nonsense in the form of “Genuine Advantage” programs in the first place.

    You’re saying to break the law over getting something legally free. What brilliant thinking!

    I wonder what happens when BSA comes to your business because MS reported an “inconsistency” with the number of MS Office copies you are running VS the number of licenses you bought?

  40. I wanted to try OpenOffice but then I don’t like the idea of downloading Java. However, OpenOffice comes with my laptop that has Ubuntu and it seems to help the basic needs. I have Ms Word 2003 right now and I’m sort of sick of it, because it keeps telling me I don’t have it installed. I’m not sure if I deleted something wrong (which I dont remember doing) but it just stops functioning all the time saying I don’t have it installed, but whatever..

    If I ever use OpenOffice, I’m probably never looking back to Microsoft because they have terrible support and honesty. I can’t even trust them.

  41. I recently purchased a new computer with MS Office 2007 on it. But, for some odd reason I can’t get it to activate for the life of me. So with the help of Chris (thanks btw!) I’ve decided to give OpenOffice a try. I’m downloading it right now to test it out. Hopefully it works!


  42. well i was using office 07 but i didnt activate it it was a used copy it stopped working after a month or so now i have to use 03 the one i used before o7 and i want a replacement for it will open office do?????

  43. well i found that open offices spel check doesn’t work at all and Microsoft is gay so i use abi word its not a suite but it shore is good if u just using word btw rock on miss davidson

  44. Gangstabagz found the OpenOffice spell check doesn’t work. Well, he or she is obviously didn’t use the superior Abi Word spell checker – or maybe they were just being ironic 😉

  45. MS-Office 2007 is beauty without grace. I think it true for all MS software’. Open Office 3.0 is really great. It’s free, no licensing no copyright headache.

  46. OO.o 3 has a lot of plusses, especially given the price tag:

    – Formula editor is better than the cut-and-paste equation editor in MS office, which becomes nightmarish for equation-heavy documents.
    – Combining multiple writer files is less buggy than in MS Office, e.g., when writing a book as a combination of chapter files. In MS Office, if the binder file crashes, all the chapters get corrupted. With OOo, crashes are less likely, and even if they occur, the chapter files are unscathed.
    – Open Office has frames.
    – OOo files are more secure. Office-based macro viruses don’t work when the files are opened in OOo.
    – OOo files are usually smaller (contrary to what the earlier “expert MS Office user” Tiger said. This can be easily verified.)
    – OOo files work identically on Linux, Mac and Windows. This is not the case with MS Office. I have often experienced that PPT and PPTX files created with MS Office 2008 on the Mac looked weird when used with Windows (MS Office 2007) in a presentation.
    – the OOo database component runs on the Mac, while
    MS Access is not available on the Mac.
    – Also the OOo macro language is available on all platforms while Microsoft has removed VBA on its Mac version of MS Office.
    – more import and export options, including Flash export for presentations (though this is not great)

    I end up using MS Office more though, because I have to share files with people who only use it (don’t we all). If I don’t have to, I invariably prefer OOo 3, especially Writer. One caveat is that Excel has a bunch of analysis add-ins that don’t have an equivalent on Ooo 3 afaik.

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