Office makes the world go ’round. The ubiquitous software suite is a must have… or is it?
Last week I added a Final Cut Pro workstation to my small studio setup and learned I’d exhausted all our Office licenses. Every editing system needs Office to open scripts sent as Word documents, to gather data for graphics stored in Excel spreadsheets, and of course PowerPoint — the all-purpose corporate monster that has destroyed human communication.
I was ready to bite the $400 bullet, but decided to give OpenOffice a try. It’s free. It’s being installed on a virgin system — what’s the harm? And Office 2008 on the Mac is new and relatively untested. I’ve used OpenOffice on Linux machines, and it’s reliably opened and written Word and Excel documents.
Mac OpenOffice users have to run x11 in order to run the GUI. x11 shipped with OS X 10.4 and ships with OS X 10.5, but I wasn’t up for the added complexity. I opted to try NeoOffice. It’s built on the OpenOffice source code, but behaves just like a native Mac application.
While there are certainly going to be incompatibilities between OpenOffice/NeoOffice and Office, I haven’t come across any with basic 2-column scripts and Excel tables in two weeks of regular use. I consider this a $400 discount on every new editing system I purchase. As an added bonus, both OpenOffice and NeoOffice run natively on Intel Macs. You’ll have to upgrade Office 2004 to 2008 in order to get that from Microsoft.
NeoOffice has worked so well for us that in this brief test that we’ve put off upgrading to Office 2008. We may just make a wholesale open source switch.