In these last ninety days I have learnt a whole lot more than any forty-five year old should legitimately have to learn about software – but the good news is that it has all been good. A couple of posts ago, I talked, ok likely gushed, about how I have been using Zoho.writer and Zoho.sheet in a quest to be free of my desktop Microsoft Office suite. I have been using Microsoft Word at least since the mid to late eighties (yep, that’s 198x) when I wrote my PhD thesis with it (I think I used WordStar for my MS thesis). Since then having spent most of my working life in marketing and trying to raise money meant working Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint like there is no tomorrow. In the late nineties I actually prototyped application UIs with PowerPoint, including mouseovers and sliding drop-down menus. In other words I could make both PowerPoint and Word sing – why be modest!
This was all the more reason I was surprised at how well both Writer and Sheet in Zoho worked. Somewhere in the dawn of time or maybe the early 2000s, when I got the bright idea to transition to free software, I downloaded OpenOffice and within one use session got so disenchanted and had to wait until this year to even try Zoho. But neither Zoho, nor Google docs, who’s spreadsheet application is pretty good, could hold a candle to Microsoft Powerpoint. Guess just to build my character further, the new laptops my lovely wife (LW) and I got had Microsoft Works, which for reasons I can’t fathom has its own native format. Thank god for Rich Text (RTF) that I could move documents around – assuming we remembered (each time) to switch the Save As filetype to Rich Text Format (of course our friends at Microsoft have not deemed it necessary for users to set, say Rich Text Format .rtf or Word 97 .doc as the native format). Which brings me to the point of this post.
I went back to OpenOffice.org and downloaded the latest OpenOffice 2.4.1 and what an epiphany! The acid test for me was in opening, editing and saving some reasonably complicated PowerPoint presentations my colleagues had created (in MS PowerPoint 2003) with no loss of fidelity! Since then I have written a couple of articles in OpenOffice.org Writer, laid out a (short) magazine, worked with a number of my old Excel sheets including creating a few new ones and really gone to town with their presentation software OpenOffice.org Impress (can’t say I am too hot about the name).
So here are my top 5 reasons
 Its Free; OpenSource and extensibilityPublish Post
 Cross platform, Zoho and Googledocs support
 OpenOffice.org Writer (word processor)
 OpenOffice.org Calc (the spreadsheet)
 OpenOffice.org Impress (presentation)
Of course I have not yet used the database, math or drawing tools – all of which seem promising and make OpenOffice far more than Microsoft Office and make only give us more reasons to switch sooner!