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  1. #1
    Lounger
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    I understand that it is possible to download something called "Open Office" for free and that it has applications similar to Word, Power Point, Publisher(?) and etc.
    It sort of blows me away to think that this is offered for free knowing that to buy Word, PoweraPoint, Publisher etc is very expensive. I just keep wondering what's the catch?, what's in it for them?, is it legit?, is it any good?...
    Has anyone had any experience with this free ware? And what is your evaluation and opinion?
    Thanks.
    DeeJay

  2. #2
    Plutonium Lounger
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    Open Office is a so-called "open source" project, meaning that it is maintained and expanded by volunteers. It is a legitimate competitor of Microsoft Office; its components are largely compatible with Office applications, but generally not as powerful.

    See OpenOffice.org for more info.


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    Plutonium Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeeJay View Post
    Has anyone had any experience with this free ware? And what is your evaluation and opinion?
    It may take awhile for other Loungers to see your post, so maybe you'll get more in-depth comments than mine.

    I've used Open Office for a few years now and there's no "catch." It's free and it's darn good too. Having said that I need to clarify that I'm using only its word processor (Writer), spreadsheet (Calc) and very occasionally to open a PowerPoint file from someone. I'm NOT a heavy user of programming, macros or any of the stuff that really adds power to the MS products, so I can't comment on comparisons. I have noticed however, throughout the series of improvements to Open Office that it seems they are trying to get more compatible as time goes on. If you have a very specific need, such as database programming or something like that, post a followup here so a knowledgeable Lounger can advise you.

    I certainly would recommend you give it a try if you're interested but be sure you go to their site for any downloads! There have been "bad guys" out there in the past who try to trick people into going to fake places for what has been reported as "...up to no good..."

    OpenOffice.org - The Free and Open Productivity Suite

    Edited later: There are a couple of small examples in the "Stories" picker on my web (AlHoffman.Org) where I've been writing a collection of snippets about life in a nursing home. These are PDF files that I saved with the word processor of Open Office. No big deal, but a few included pix here and there.

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    Super Moderator jscher2000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeeJay View Post
    I just keep wondering what's the catch?, what's in it for them?
    I think some contributors to open source projects think they're "sticking it to man," whether that is Microsoft or Oracle or another major commercial vendor. Or they disagree that the use of software should be restricted by copyright (e.g., Free Software Foundation and its GPL license).

    Besides philosophical motivations, it is fun to be involved in creating useful software.

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    4 Star Lounger
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    It's probably worth mentioning that the "real" name of the software is OpenOffice.org, and that googling for this generally finds the legitimate website as the first found search. Googling for Open Office can lead you to sites that try to sell you the same program that you can download for free at the link Al and Hans posted above.




    John (Unreconstructed Jacobite)

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    It works. It's free. No catch. I have it on all our computers. There is no reason to not use it, unless you need some very powerful Excel capabilities (those that only a few corporate types may use). Get it.
    What if your local back-up disks are stolen or damaged (fire, flood, earthquake)
    What are you going to do?
    LOCAL and OFFSITE back-up - the only true way to protect your data.


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    Quote Originally Posted by DeeJay View Post
    Has anyone had any experience with this free ware? And what is your evaluation and opinion?
    One great feature that hasn't been mentioned is that it's available as a "portable" build. This means that it can all be installed on a USB stick (you might need 2GB if you add the JRE (Java Runtime Environment plus your other portable apps plus documents etc.) for full database capabilities). This is great to cart around to other computers that might lack MS Office, or have a version too old for your purposes.

    Have a read of OpenOffice.org Portable | PortableApps.com - Portable software for USB drives.

    Alan

    Oh, and as to its raison d'Ítre, for many years MS was criticized for not revealing their proprietary file formats. There has been a strong "conscience" movement to break its (perceived) hold on its own documents i.e. to produce alternative (free) software which can open, modify and save them in the MS formats. Open Office and similar offerings at least started out with this as one of their goals.

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    2 Star Lounger
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    Hans, OpenOffice is, indeed, a significant competitor to Microsoft Office. But I disagree with your statement that "it is maintained and expanded by volunteers." This is the message put out by OpenOffice evangelists, but the truth is that the heavy lifting is done by an army of paid programmers at Sun (perhaps soon to be part of Oracle) and to a lesser degree Novell. Any discussion of open source software should mention who is paying the bills now, and who will be doing so in the future. That's where many projects start to get interesting. And why I'm going to stay with Microsoft Office. ...J. Till

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    Plutonium Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by JTill View Post
    ... I disagree with your statement that "it is maintained and expanded by volunteers."
    To each his own, of course, but I don't see that it matters if there ARE paid programmers maintaining and improving the software. It IS good software, albeit not as "powerful" (programmable?) as the Microsoft product, but it IS also free. If, someday, it becomes NOT FREE then many of us will have a decision to make and that kind of thing happens all the time with what was formerly freeware or shareware. We all take out licks as it were and make decisions when needed.

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    Thanks to everyone for your input. Here are some additional questions I have:

    Right now I am thinking of the possibility of using Open Office on the new computer that our church office is planning on purchasing. They need something that will do a good job of putting out a 6 to 8 page newsletter every month plus a church bulletin every week. I think right now they are using Publisher on the old (ready to die) computer they will be replacing. In addition they put out many other things such as flyers and posters and end-of-the-year reports etc etc.

    They also do 2 Power Point programs each week to be projected onto the big screen. And just recently we did a big Power Point program to go along with the music for the upcoming Christmas Musical. Lot's of good graphics are needed for these and I am wondering about the availablity of a wide range of good graphics when using Open Office.

    Also they have all their fiscal things that they need to do using this computer. This computer is a work-horse in a lot of different ways.

    The other thing I was wondering is, if the church office writes a document using the Open Office program and then sends it out to a number of other people, will the other people who don't have Open Office on their computers be able to open the document?

    Just some questions that enter my mind. Thanks for your helpful comments.

    DeeJay

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    Super Moderator jscher2000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeeJay View Post
    The other thing I was wondering is, if the church office writes a document using the Open Office program and then sends it out to a number of other people, will the other people who don't have Open Office on their computers be able to open the document?
    I believe one of the options is to save in Microsoft Office formats, at least the "traditional" Office 97-2003 "binary" formats. More people probably will be able to view or edit those files than files saved in OpenOffice.org's own native formats.

    == Edit ==

    stuck's suggestion in post #805576 (below) to use PDF would be even better.

  12. #12
    Platinum Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeeJay View Post
    Thanks to everyone for your input. Here are some additional questions I have:

    Right now I am thinking of the possibility of using Open Office on the new computer that our church office is planning on purchasing. They need something that will do a good job of putting out a 6 to 8 page newsletter every month plus a church bulletin every week. I think right now they are using Publisher on the old (ready to die) computer they will be replacing. In addition they put out many other things such as flyers and posters and end-of-the-year reports etc etc.

    They also do 2 Power Point programs each week to be projected onto the big screen. And just recently we did a big Power Point program to go along with the music for the upcoming Christmas Musical. Lot's of good graphics are needed for these and I am wondering about the availablity of a wide range of good graphics when using Open Office.

    Also they have all their fiscal things that they need to do using this computer. This computer is a work-horse in a lot of different ways.
    The other thing I was wondering is, if the church office writes a document using the Open Office program and then sends it out to a number of other people, will the other people who don't have Open Office on their computers be able to open the document?

    Just some questions that enter my mind. Thanks for your helpful comments.

    DeeJay
    I was faced with a similar "challenge*" with a local Lawn Bowls club, on a very limited budget. Despite the "all round workhorse" perception they had for their requirements, they didn't need anything "high end" at all. I got them a complete hardware system at auction (~5 yo) for a few hundred bucks.

    For DTP, you might find it well worthwhile checking out offerings such as:
    scribus.net | Scribus Open Source Desktop Publishing

    RagTime
    I think this is free for non-commercial usage, but the last definite freeware is v. 5.65, on this page:
    A+ Freeware - Business and Finance - Word Processing

    I don't know what constitutes "good graphics" in your presentations, but if you mean clipart and the like, the web has tons of free stuff. Google -> Images is a great place to start. An alternative to PP or the OO Impress is to start using .SWF Flash presentations. They're much more versatile wrt web distribution/ presentation and the format is not the "in house" ppt, but there's a fair learning curve involved. Much more in the way of free software though. If you want to explore this avenue, you could start digging here:
    5 Free alternatives to Adobe products | OnSoftware
    JGenerator. Free generator of dynamic Flash content. (just grabbed this myself!)

    For the fiscal stuff, I'm guessing the OO Calc spreadsheet would be more than adequate, as would be the Base database program for their related needs.

    Bear in mind too, that one of the "missions" of OO was to break the MS Office hold on MS file formats. If you want to be able to open/edit/save your legacy MS files, OO is probably your best bet. Other freeware alternatives, good as they might be in their own rights, might prove to be quite unsatisfactory in this respect.


    Alan

    * In Australia we now have such a brilliant government that we no longer have any problems - we only face "challenges"!

  13. #13
    5 Star Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeeJay View Post

    The other thing I was wondering is, if the church office writes a document using the Open Office program and then sends it out to a number of other people, will the other people who don't have Open Office on their computers be able to open the document?
    OOo has a Save As PDF option, if you use that format to distribute your files recipients only need a PDF reader and they are freely available.

    stuck

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    Plutonium Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeeJay View Post
    The other thing I was wondering is, if the church office writes a document using the Open Office program and then sends it out to a number of other people, will the other people who don't have Open Office on their computers be able to open the document?
    As Stuck says... Check my post up above (Edited Later) and look at the "Stories" on my web page for example. PDF readers are free and a dime a dozen.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeeJay View Post
    Thanks to everyone for your input. Here are some additional questions I have:

    Right now I am thinking of the possibility of using Open Office on the new computer that our church office is planning on purchasing. They need something that will do a good job of putting out a 6 to 8 page newsletter every month plus a church bulletin every week. I think right now they are using Publisher on the old (ready to die) computer they will be replacing. In addition they put out many other things such as flyers and posters and end-of-the-year reports etc etc.

    They also do 2 Power Point programs each week to be projected onto the big screen. And just recently we did a big Power Point program to go along with the music for the upcoming Christmas Musical. Lot's of good graphics are needed for these and I am wondering about the availablity of a wide range of good graphics when using Open Office.

    Also they have all their fiscal things that they need to do using this computer. This computer is a work-horse in a lot of different ways.

    The other thing I was wondering is, if the church office writes a document using the Open Office program and then sends it out to a number of other people, will the other people who don't have Open Office on their computers be able to open the document?

    Just some questions that enter my mind. Thanks for your helpful comments.

    DeeJay
    DeeJay,

    Sorry for the delayed answer, but I joined the Lounge today (one of the Windows Secrets list).

    To answer your questions:

    1. OpenOffice.org would be a very good solution for your church. It was the first general office suite that had the option of saving as an Acrobat file--so just about anyone can read the things you send them, even if they don't have Microsoft Office at all (and even if they are on another operating system entirely).

    2. You can indeed produce newsletters with it, if you wish (and be sure to check out the various add-on sites for templates and such--also free). If you have someone who has been comfortable with Publisher, though, there are several other alternatives as well. Someone mentioned the free program Scribus, which would be fine if you are still printing the newsletter for paper distribution. More churches are going to HTML newsletters, though--and for that I would look at yet another free program called KompoZer. Although OpenOffice.org does a credible job as saving to HTML (or Microsoft Office formats, for that matter), KompoZer is a WYSIWYG HTML program that has a short learning curve. It is designed to be a free alternative to Dreamweaver--although it isn't yet feature complete for that purpose, it is still more than adequate for many purposes such as HTML newsletters. (You could also create the newsletter in HTML and print it, if you wish, to have it in both versions).

    3. Most PowerPoint files are not much of an issue with OpenOffice.org. Graphics are not a problem with it either, as most standard files are compatible on the graphics front.

    4. Fiscal issues can be dealt with using two OpenOffice modules to supplement any church management applications you may be running. In addition to its spreadsheet program, Calc, it also has an included relational database that can be used to create many useful data sets--such as membership rosters with mailing addresses for doing mail-merge when necessary for snail mail to your membership, as one simple example.

    I haven't bothered to install Microsoft Office on my machine for several years now, as I find OpenOffice.org superior in several ways.

    For example, its native file formats are much more space efficient. I have a fairly extensive electronic library of books I read on my computer. Many of these were originally in Microsoft Office .doc format. By opening them in OpenOffice.org and then saving them in its open standard .odt format, the file sizes are reduced between half to two thirds.

    For another thing, OpenOffice.org will open, read, and write more different versions of Microsoft Office files from years past than any current edition of Microsoft Office will. Thus, if you happen to have any Office files around that were created perhaps six or eight years ago or more, you are likely to be able to use them using OpenOffice.org where you probably wouldn't with Microsoft's own product.

    There are also things in Office that have never worked correctly, such as the master documents format and autonumbering. I worked for some years in technical documentation, and these were notorious bugs. Microsoft would publish new versions of Office, but they always focused to adding new and (usually) fairly worthless features to get people to "upgrade" rather than fix what they had ignored for years.

    If your congregation is not yet using church management software, there are some outstanding free ones out there as well, by the way.

    David

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