foobar on computers, software and the rest of the world

Why is MS Office better than OpenOffice?

, posted: 15-Nov-2007 06:27

Note: This is not supposed to be flame bait, but rather a serious question.

I am a proponent of open source software, and in response to me talking about open software I often get to hear:
  • In the business world MS Office rules
  • OpenOffice is not a replacement for MS Office
  • MS Office beats OpenOffice hands down
  • MS Office blows OpenOffice away
Things of that sort. I then often ask what exactly it is that MS Office has that OpenOffice does not have, but so far I have not received a good answer. Or any answer for that matter.

I use OpenOffice exclusively for all my documentation and presentation work for several years now, and so far it has met all my needs. Maybe I'm a very unsophisticated user? I work for a company in which we all use OpenOffice for our work, even the Windows users. Maybe we are all doing only really simple things? You know, things that don't require the power of MS Office? That's possible, since we are a small company.

But this still leaves me scratching my head as to what exctly those perceived powers actually are. I really would like to understand: What is so great about MS Office? In which ways is it so much better? Are those ways relevant to me? To most people? Are they enough to chose MS Office over an open source solution?

Here are some basic advantages I can see for MS Office (and which we don't have to discuss further, because they are self evident):
  • It is supported by the vendor of choice for many enterprises
  • It integrates well into that vendor's OS and infrastructure
  • It can open PowerPoint (and other MS formats) obviously without great problems
And here are some advantages that I can see for OpenOffice (and which we don't have to discuss further, because they are self evident):
  • It is free, open source. I just want to put that on the table, but want to state that of course this is NOT relevant to everyone.
  • It supports ODF
  • It has a very clear price advantage ($0)
Now, with those items out of the way, please let me ask again: What does MS Office have that blows OpenOffice away? Just the facts, just the features, please...

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Comment by paradoxsm, on 15-Nov-2007 10:08

MS office is better because it has WordArt and WordArt is the most definitive business tool.

I like openoffice and never use MSoffice (I swear at the machine running it at work, such a pile of puss) but sadly, Openoffice is also very slow and gloaty, is ther any "slick" lite alternatyive to both monsters?

It seems ridiculous the system requirements just to type a letter!

Author's note by foobar, on 15-Nov-2007 10:33

@paradoxsm: Interesting comment about WordArt. I'm not sure if you forgot to put a smiley behind it or not. Either way, OOo has something similar, even though I've never used it.

I do have to agree, though: OOo sometimes feels big and bloaty. I have heard good things about KOffice, which comes out some time next year. It also supports ODF, and so, if it is actually lighter and comparable in functionality, I will switch to KOffice. The fact that I run GNOME as desktop shouldn't matter too much.

This illustrates a key point about open document formats, though: They don't tie you to a particular vendor's solution, and thus you can move on to something better whenever it comes around.

Comment by VanAlstine, on 15-Nov-2007 19:34

MS Office has the little paper clip guy that keeps interrupting you, asking if you would like help.....

Comment by signz, on 15-Nov-2007 19:35

As a software developer the answer is easy ... it's everywhere and it's reasonably open from an interface perspective. Our apps use Word, Excel and Powerpoint for all sorts of stuff.

I would prefer to move away but ... the customers would not follow.

The problem is not features or support - it's the retraining and support costs that scare people off.


Comment by muppet, on 16-Nov-2007 05:24

From a technical point of view, you are pretty much right, there's no major difference. Consider however:

Office has faster start up times.

Word has a better spell checking dictionary.

Office contains Visio

Office contains Outlook - This is the big one!

Familiarity - Everyone knows Office.

Support - Microsoft offers support. I'm not saying it's any good, but when you have an IT Manager making a decision "Open Source" vs "Industry Standard with an established support channel" they're going to choose the latter.

In that way, I think Office is a lot "better".

I have OO installed on my personal Laptop, but I use Office on my work laptop.


Comment by chakkaradeep, on 19-Nov-2007 03:02

See the full demo of Microsoft Mobile here and tell me whether OO can offer me the same thing.

And BTW, the word Office Microsoft Office really accounts to Office Usage.

Comment by Andrew, on 9-Dec-2007 14:14

1. it comes with outlook.
2. your boss has been using ms office for years
3. even though the support of ms doc is getting better and better there are some things that don't work correctly going from one platform to the next and you don't want to have to explain to clintes and subs about why the doc file you sent them is acting up for them.

that being said i have both on my computer at work because some times is something isnt working for you in MS you can do it in OO. and one of the biggist reasons is free database program. i use crystal reports for anything major but if i just want to take a quick look at tables i use oo because its free and it keeps the boss from asking why do you have Ms Access and i don't i should have it too and lets just get it for everyone just incase they might need it(even thought they wouldn't know how to use it)

foobar's profile

New Zealand

  • Who I am: Software developer and consultant.
  • What I do: System level programming, Linux/Unix. C, C++, Java, Python, and a long time ago even Assembler.
  • What I like: I'm a big fan of free and open source software. I'm Windows-free, running Ubuntu on my laptop. To a somewhat lesser degree, I also follow the SaaS industry.
  • Where I have been: Here and there, all over the place.

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