Thursday, October 19, 2006

Have you seen Open Office lately?

About 3 years back, I had occasion to use, and compare, MS Office with the then available version of Open Office (1.0.something). At the time, I had listed several points of superiority of the latter over the more ubiquitous product. Recently, Open Office version 2.0.4 has been released (a 93 MB download from, and promises non-trivial improvements over both, its own earlier product, and the Microsoft Product. Prominent among them is the file format: Open Office 2.0.4 uses the Open Document format, or ODF, the first fully certified--by OASIS and the ISO--open standard for office documents.

This comparison exercise needs to be done again. My old list is given below. Remember, this compares version 1 of Open Office with Office XP.

1. It is free ( Windows version is a 50 MB download. Linux and Mac versions are also available.

2. It is in at least a few ways one-up on Word 2002. Some of these are listed below:
  • Supports CMYK as well as RGB colour
  • Has ability to define a heirarchy (classification) of styles in a template to classify styles for easier access
  • Has ability to anchor objects to even a character or page and not just a paragraph
  • Allows you to insert and run Java Scripts or the URLs where the scripts are available, at any location in an HTML document
  • Allows you to enter References directly into a bibliographic database and call them in a document, now separately available as third party plug-ins to MS Word
  • Has its own fairly sophisticated WYSIWYG Math Editor comparable to MathType which is a separate, paid Add-in for MS Word
  • Allows part of a document to be designated at Read Only
  • Can hyperlink document content to a particular e-mail
  • Can assign “Ruby text” (a pronunciation key) to selected Asian language text and specify alignment of ruby text separately
  • Search and Replace facility can allow searching for Widows or Orphans
  • Style definition flexibility is considerably superior to MS Word. Consider what Style definition permits in Open Office:
  • Different specification for Widows and for Orphans
  • Separate fonts for Asian and for Latin Text characters, which is not available in Word 2000 but is available in Word 2002. Specifying how many characters permissible before and after hyphen, in addition to hyphenation zone
  • Many more styles of underlining than MS Word
  • Font in embossed and engraved effects besides shadow
  • Placing special emphasis characters above or below each character of style
  • Superscript and subscript sizes and positions to be varied as percentage of normal font sizes
  • Creation of decimal aligned tab to align at a comma or any other character by treating it as the decimal character
  • Setting a grid for a Reference style and for the base line of another style to snap to the grid of the reference style.
  • Alignment of characters of para to base or top where a few characters in a paragraph are in significantly larger font than others.

3. It is quite programmable because
a) It has its own answer to Visual Basic
b) it can translate VBA macros in existing Word files into its own version of Basic and
c) It also supports programming in Java.
d) I haven't tested out the programming languages and features and hence cannot comment on how good or bad they are.

4. It has a "developer version" and the source code of each version also available for download.

5. It can open any version of MS Word or RTF, or MS Excel files, and also save in any MS Office format.

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