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  1. #1
    Star Lounger
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    Looking for people who have had hands-on experience with the Open Office.org freeware suite. Before I download it and give it a try, I'd like to hear from those who might offer insights about its use for the criteria I list below.

    There's been some discussion here before of OpenOffice, supposedly similar to MS-Office, but I am interested only in WRITER, the word-processer that parrallels MS-WORD.

    It is to be used for a newsletter (not Time Magazine), notices, ordinary office correspondence, etc. for a non-profit organization with a tiny budget. In other words, we require nothing overly elaborate -- but more elaborate that WORDPAD can deliver. So I guess I'm looking for something in between WORDPAD and the very latest WORD, but closer to WORD.

    More than one person will be using it (volunteers), most of them relative novices. Though with some (probably slight in some cases, better in others) acquaintance with WORD.

    So the "specs" would look something like like this (using WORD for comparison):

    1. Very good compatibility with WORD---------------------
    Some of the work by the volunteers will be done at home, most likely on WORD, so compatibility is a major issue.

    2. Stability---------------------------
    I've been to the OpenOffice.org site and see that version 3 is the latest on offer, but that version 2 is also available. Would it be wise to go back to version 2, to avoid any possible kinks that have yet to be ironed out in the new version? If anyone here is using version 2 and thinks it would fit the criteria, please let me know.

    3. Manuals that the novice users can refer to---------------------
    This would, obviously, be extremely helpful. I found the Maran-Graphics series of books for WORD ideal for user self-referral. Looking at the WRITER GUIDE for OpenOffice, I found it dense and cumbersome. There is also a "No Stress Tech Guide to OpenOffice" (published in England, I think) but I have not yet seen it.

    4. A hopefully gentle learning curve-----------------------------------
    Most important. If anyone has gone through the process of learning both, can they tell me if it Is it more or less confusiing than WORD for the inexperienced user.

    From past posts on the subject I see that BigAlDoc has had quite a few years of experience with Open Office and I would particularly like to hear his opinion, but the same holds for anyone else who is or has in the past used Open Office's WRITER.

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  3. #2
    New Lounger
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    Howdy Bob
    Have been using Open Office since version 1.1 and have always had good luck with it. It has been very stable and continues to improve in all its various versions up to 3.1.0 which I am presently using. The latest is 3.1.1 which I will probably not bother upgrading to until after the Christmas festivities are over. They have not released any version that I have seen any stability issues in.

    I work mostly on documents and spread sheets at home and then take the completed files to work and Microsoft Office, I default my save files in MS Wod 97/200/XP (.doc and .xls). To date they have worked seemlessly in both programs therefore I have had no compatability problems.

    Manuals are certainly not of M$ standard but when you are not paying your writers and translators you have to expect a slightly lower standard. The on-board help function will explain how to do anything, however I have had to re-read a few points just to make sure I had my problem sorted out. From my knowledge of M$ Offfice I have found it a very simple transition and for the most part the toolbar is very easy to figure out due to its similarities. As free program it is of very high standard. I have not been disappointed and have not found anything that cannot be completed.

    Hardest part is the initial setup of options. This task took me about 15 minutes so that I had it operating, spelling, correcting, opening, saving, etc. the way I wanted it to.

    Hope you enjoy Open Office as much as I have.

    Alligator Al
    We are surounded! There is only one thing we can do, Attack!
    Tanks, 5 kilometer snipers. Lase, Blaze...

  4. #3
    Star Lounger
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    Hi bobthebear,

    I have several years of experience and support in the OOo forum (I hope it is allowed to post here links related to other forums). Certainly Writer will be a very good compromise for you:

    1) Writer is very compatible with Word. It can open Word documents and save documents in Word format, although I always recommend to save in the native, open format ODF. Of course, the compatibility is not 100% and Writer cannot managed some sophisticated features of Word but this is improving release after release.

    2) I recommend the latest version 3.1.1. which is very stable. Try avoiding releases with a 0 (3.2.0 is due early 2010) at the end, they tend to be buggy. Expect a major release (3.1, 3.2, etc.) every six months with a fix release three months later. The branch 2.4.1 is still there for compatibility reasons but no further releases are planned. EDIT: On December 23rd, 2009, OOo officially announced that the branch 2.4.x will not be supported anymore.

    3) Documentation is not a major strength for OOo, in general. I don't need myself a novice manual so I have never looked for one. I am sure there are resources on the Internet for beginners.

    4) The learning curve may vary. I am using both Microsoft Office and OpenOffice for several years and they have a lot of similarities but also they are different in the details and this is sometimes frustrating. But it is like cars: once you know how to drive one, it doesn't take too long to learn how to drive a different brand, but you may need to read the user manual when you want to refill oil.
    This eco-post is made of recycled electrons

  5. #4
    New Lounger
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    I've used both and in many ways preferred Writer.
    On the whole there's not much between them and they look and feel very similar. The differences are largely cosmetic or superficial.
    I went back to MS Word because I have a lot of templates in.dot format and can't be bothered converting them to the native Writer format. For some strange reason Writer will work with MS DOC files as native, but not DOT templates. And the way that Writer makes templates available in an organisor really demands that they are native.
    On the up side, if my memory serves me correctly, it will manage pdf files as native, which my Office 2003 won't.

  6. #5
    Star Lounger
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    === Thanks very much to all of you for your very detailed and helpful replies.
    From your input and from other sources I see that Open Office is much
    more substantial than I originally assumed, and I think it will more than
    fill the bill for the purposes we have in mind. I have downloaded it
    and will begin to play with it after the holidays.

    And thanks, Stephane, for the OOo forum link, which looks extremely
    useful -- like the lounge here. (I am a relative newcomer here myself
    but I think you are allowed to post links to other sites because
    I have seen them posted before.)

    Once again, thank you all for taking the time to reply in such detail.
    And happy holidays to you.

  7. #6
    Plutonium Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobthebear View Post
    ...
    (I am a relative newcomer here myself but I think you are allowed to post links to other sites because I have seen them posted before.)
    ...
    You are very welcome to post helpful links, the only links we don't like are advertising and spam.

  8. #7
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    My wife puts out a church newsletter from home, and I've almost weaned her off WordPerfect 2000! OpenOffice imports WP files, too. To make a newsletter with a bunch of text boxes that you can move around and fill with images, etc. try Serif PagePlus, which is really easy, and free (they will always try to get you to upgrade, of course). A much more powerful, open source application is Scribus, which also works on Linux. It has a steep learning curve, but you could do a professional magazine with it and get it to the printer. We mostly use OpenOffice and export it to PDF, and email that to the printer. I also convert it to html and put it on her website, but I use Komposer to clean it up (it's WYSIWYG, not text based, and also works on Linux).

    OpenOffice suite also includes a presentations app that opens and saves PowerPoint files pretty good, if you have the same fonts as the originator's computer.

  9. #8
    Bronze Lounger IanWilson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Van Damme View Post
    My wife puts out a church newsletter from home, and I've almost weaned her off WordPerfect 2000! OpenOffice imports WP files, too. To make a newsletter with a bunch of text boxes that you can move around and fill with images, etc. try Serif PagePlus, which is really easy, and free (they will always try to get you to upgrade, of course). A much more powerful, open source application is Scribus, which also works on Linux. It has a steep learning curve, but you could do a professional magazine with it and get it to the printer. We mostly use OpenOffice and export it to PDF, and email that to the printer. I also convert it to html and put it on her website, but I use Komposer to clean it up (it's WYSIWYG, not text based, and also works on Linux).

    OpenOffice suite also includes a presentations app that opens and saves PowerPoint files pretty good, if you have the same fonts as the originator's computer.
    Links for James's suggestions


    Scribus*http://www.scribus.net/

    KompoZer*http://kompozer.net/

    And while you can pick up free older versions of PagePlus, it is worth making sure that you get a new enough version for it to support PDF export. I've been using it (also for a church newsletter) for a long time and in my view the paid for versions are worth it. Free versions are available at

    http://www.freeserifsoftware.com/

    and the main Serif website for the latest version is here

    http://www.serif.com/pageplus/.

    Though it's not free, it's much more powerful and user friendly than MS Publisher, and the UK price of £79.99 is quite modest. (The free version at the site mentioned above is several versions back, now. Serif have a policy of fairly frequent updates.)

    Ian*


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