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I have been asked to summarise the pros and cons in connection with the choices between Microsoft Office Vs OpenOffice.

I have a broad idea of what needs to be said. However I would like to open a discussion here and have a single place to go to when the time comes to give the summary to management.

There are obvious points of contention:

For me the lack of compliance with Group Policy is a major concern [Default save location/visibility of C:/Visibility of files and folders on the HDD]

However I am sure that functionality and compatibility will be the prime mover. We are looking at making major savings by reducing our commitment to Microsoft licensing.

So what are your experiences?

What happens when there are no direct equivalents? [Word has a close match in OpenOffice, but a database solution match is not as close, neither is an Outlook [connecting to Exchange Server and downloading all calendars, shared calendars, scheduled events, for Exchange will still exist after the move to OpenSource solutions]

In summary then: What do you see as:

The benefits of this plan?

How do you see the problems being manifest?


Many thanks.

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closed as not constructive by quack quixote May 7 '10 at 22:23

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

this is better suited to a discussion forum. Super User isn't for technical debates; it's for questions that have concrete answers. –  quack quixote May 7 '10 at 22:25

2 Answers 2

Whenever I need to use OpenOffice it feels like I've stepped back to Office XP or Office 2000 in terms of UI experience (it's not even Office 2003 yet). That said, Office XP is certainly good enough for many of your users.

What I'd be more worried about is the quality of OpenOffice's document translation, when saving to and opening from Microsoft's file formats. It's getting better, but still far from perfect. I know a lot places are able to get around this by simply identifying a few key users in every area (usually secretaries) to keep MS Office so others can ask these individuals to print or save documents where the format needs to be perfect, so it's actually not that big of a deal.

But single biggest concern is spreadsheets. A lot of places have large spreadsheets with complicated formulas that they use daily and cannot be replicated easily. You can buy Excel separately for these users if you need to and save at least a little money (the same for your Outlook/Exchange issue as well — but by the time you purchase this and maintain two sets of programs and licensing you're not saving as much anymore.)

Another option is to run parallel for a while, and request that all new documents be created in OpenOffice using ODF. Over time the legacy Excel sheets will become less important.

As for Access, if you have that many people really using it you might want to consider adding development resources to move all those little databases to real professionally-maintained applications. Again, if you have that many access databases around, hiring a real developer who's good with databases to move them all to a real sql server or mysql-backed system should pay for itself, with the first returns coming from being able to buy a simpler version of Office (std vs pro), next as other users spend less time building in Access, and finally as you are able to start mining this now-unified data to make better decisions and do things you were not able to before.

This also depends on your users. If you have the kind of user base that needs to be taught how to use basic Word features, you might want to stick with what they were trained on (though the transition to the ribbon in Office 2007 makes a good excuse to move elsewhere). But if you can expect most of them to just pick up the new program as well as a normal college student would browse a new web site, than you'll be fine.

BTW, we get around the default save location issue by mapping each desktop user's profile so that their My Documents folder points to the appropriate network share. Those with laptops are set up to use synctoy.

One last point to consider is politics. To adapt a common phrase, "No one was ever fired for sticking with Microsoft", though your concern here is the change from the status quo. If you switch to OpenOffice, you're gonna move a lot of people's cheese and not all of them will like the change, no matter how much it helps them.

The final result where I work is that we're sticking with MS Office for now (and though I'd have to sell the idea to my users, I am the primary decision maker for those issues here). However, we have a lot of those large spreadsheets, we're an educational institution that can license Pro Plus for only $70, and we run in a mixed shop that upgrades Office for a user at the time of a new PC purchase, so the cost of Office relative to the cost of the PC is actually pretty small. We do have a few users who prefer Google Docs for the collaboration features, and if we had to pay the $350 retail price or even the $200 OEM we might be quicker to move elsewhere.

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I'll speak for consideration of staying with Office - a counterpart of sorts to Joel's response.

You have to consider that Office is, well, Office. It's from Microsoft. It's well-known and widely used. It isn't exactly, but one could say it is almost universal. It is very prevalent in the business world.

By looking at switching to OpenOffice, there are some issues, one of which you pointed out: the lack of a package comparable to Access. There is also the aspect of interoperability; since Office is so broadly used, it's file format is important. OpenOffice doesn't completely work correctly with Office documents - passing documents from one Office user to another tends to be less troublesome than going from Office to OO, and back again.

Another cost to be considered is be retraining: it will likely take some time and money to ensure the users are as capable with OO as they are with Office.

Just some thoughts from the opposite view; your mileage may (likely will) vary!

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I didn't think I came across that pro-OpenOffice, though the post has gone through a lot of revisions. –  Joel Coehoorn May 7 '10 at 20:14
Not at all. You presented some points, I presented some counter-points :) –  Grant Palin May 7 '10 at 20:38

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