Kudos to Open Office

My company is a big supporter of Open Office, the free MS Office clone that works great (and was developed by Sun as a jab at their least favorite competitor).  Generally I promote it because it works fine and costs $0.  We are putting it on all our new computers instead of Microsoft.

Today I have a new reason to promote it.  I had a very large and complex .xlw file that Excel refused to open - it gave me messages that it was locked and read only and eventually opened it as a total mess, giving me a message that the file was impossible to repair.  Obviously, the last time Excel had worked on and saved the file, it had corrupted it somehow.  All the formatting was gone, data was missing, etc.  So, on a whim, I dug up a copy of the Open Office spreadsheet (which can open and write MS formats), and what do you know, it opened the file right up.  Everything in its place.  I save-as'd to an Excel file, and now Microsoft can open its own file again, but only after Open Office fixed it.  LOL.


  1. Brad Warbiany:

    I'm going through and setting up all my home PC's (got a new media PC, laptop for the wife, and might finally set up a desktop as a file server). Each of them is getting OpenOffice.

    I'd like to say it's just because I hate Microsoft, but it's more that it's free, it works, and I'm a cheap bastard. I've played around with it a bit, and I think it might even work and be simple enough that my wife can figure it out... But considering it took me several months to transition her over to Firefox, I think I might have my work cut out for me :-)

  2. markm:

    If you can use MS Office, you can use Open Office.

  3. Conficio:

    You are not alone, discovering the forgiving nature of OpenOffice.org with corrupted files. I just blogged about it.

    Busy, providing technical support to non technical users of OpenOffice, such as doctors, lawyers, wifes (Brad do you hear me ;-) ), teachers and others who are tired of the jargon.

  4. markm:

    It's not surprising when you think about it - the Microsoft programmers can count on knowing all the variations in input file format (assuming it came from a MS program that wasn't crashing), but when you can't count on that because you don't have inside info, you've got to write your input processing code better so it has a good chance of intelligently handling something unexpected.

    But why pay for MS software when the free software is better written?

    MS Office and Open Office are not 100% equal, but they are very close. There's one feature of Word that I use quite a lot, that isn't replicated (yet) in Open Office - that's being able to write, "Go to step #__", fill in the blank with a live link to an auto-numbered line with just a couple of clicks, and have it automatically update if I insert or remove steps so the number changes. But while that's important to me since I spend lots of time writing detailed instructions, I think 99% of Word users don't need it or even know the feature exists. In every other feature I use, OO is as good or better than Word and Excel. Sometimes I have to look for a familiar item being in a different menu - but if anything, the OO menus are more rationally designed, and I'm more often irritated by OO slavishly following a poorly-thought-out piece of the MS user interface.

    Maybe I ought to hone up my programming skills and see if I can add that one little feature...