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Monday, 13 June 2011

Comparison : MS Office 2010 (MSO) vs. Open (OOO)

Comparison : MS Office 2010 vs. Open
MS Office vs Open
1) User Interface :-

Office 2010 offers users a richly designed UI, with custom ribbon and smooth, efficient workspaces. Everything remains within reach and doesn’t dally too far from the familiar Microsoft layout. If you’ve already gone through the process of retraining staff to use Office 2007 there should be nothing to intimidate them with the newest edition. That said, new online functions such as broadcast slideshow and so on – which could prove to be invaluable to productivity - will need to be learned.

Open Office too remains on a similar tack, with the pleasant addition of nicely designed new icons and a simple, no-nonsense interface relying on the tried and tested workspace design we became familiar with in earlier incarnations of Microsoft Office.

The simple design doesn’t detract from the power and functionality of the software but does give Open Office the advantage of being more usable on low-end workstations or mobile systems.

2) Usability :-

As we touched on previously, the length of time that Office has been in use afforded it huge advantage in its pre-2007 guises. Since then, post the re-design there have been complaints from some that they can’t find what they want and are having to learn to use the suite almost from scratch again. Office 2010 is no different. It still uses the re-designed ribbon system (which is tweaked further in this release) and relies on the tabbed workspace rather than the older, more familiar context menus.

While this is one of Microsoft Office’s biggest problems it has become one of Open Office’s biggest boons. That tried and tested, ‘not mended because it wasn’t broken’ interface that affords long-time users the productivity that they crave.

In Microsoft Office, one can now edit media within Power Point and Word, and users are also able to export to PDF format, a feature previously unavailable.Other new features include the ‘Paste preview’ function and a much more polished version of its Web Apps service, offering users an extensive set of editing features on the road, via their web browser. So if your laptop breaks and you’re stuck away from the office, you can use any internet cafĂ© to polish up that presentation or amend that spreadsheet. We feel these features are a great pitching point for Microsoft as they mark something of a confident stride towards the cloud, something business users are coming to rely on more and more.

Open Office, however, remains the basic, uncluttered suite of applications that it’s always been. That said, this mustn’t been seen as huge downside, as most users will be able to achieve what they need to with what’s on offer. A noteworthy feature is Open Office’s subscription to the International Organisation for Standardisation, which ensures its ability to read and write in other formats. Naturally this includes Microsoft’s.

Whilst the omission of certain advanced features sets Open Office a few paces behind it needn’t put off small business users, as the suite is readily available and can be installed very quickly on any broadband-enabled workstation. So being out of the office needn’t affect your productivity with either offering.

3) Performance :-

In terms of system requirements, Open Office strides ahead, demanding only 450MB of hard disk space over Microsoft Office’s 3GB. This could prove to be a telling factor in laptop and ultra-mobile installations not to mention the ageing, stalwart computers which keep most offices ticking over to some extent whether we like to admit it or not.

Disk space aside, it’s pleasing to see both sides paying attention to lower-end hardware. As any IT decision maker will attest, there are seldom more unpleasant words than ‘hardware upgrade’ and these applications will enable even the most basic office PCs to keep up with the times for a good while yet.

It’s worth noting that speed is somewhat of a subjective matter. Not everyone will have the same level of horse power as our test unit and some will see greater results thanks to even beefier kit. But we have provided some examples as points of references.

When it comes to performance the pedigree of Microsoft Office shines through, with the 2010 suite opening its applications very swiftly. Word, for example, opened within a second. The open source competitor labours somewhat with its equivalent taking a leisurely 10 seconds to open up ready for use.

These times were reflected throughout the suite of applications with the exception of Outlook as, of course, Open Office doesn't include an email client although it does make for a good bedfellow with Mozilla’s 'Thunderbird' and 'Lightening' for email and calendar. Both of which operate as quickly as Outlook.

We don’t want to cast the aspersion that Open Office is a slacker though. It really is a stable and mature suite of applications, which represent great ideals and value. Just don’t expect them to beat the hare, as they’re more of a reliable old tortoise.

4) Support :-

There's more support for Microsoft Office than anyone could possibly take advantage of: Official support from Microsoft itself, authorized support from people who have earned Microsoft licenses, professional call centers, dozens of books, and countless websites offering tips and guides for modifying, configuring, and using Office software. OpenOffice's support is more community driven, and generally free, with a documentation project and discussion forums led by volunteers. It's easier to find Microsoft Office training and support, and there are some free resources specifically for nonprofits, but tailored support is likely to cost more.

One final consideration: because OpenOffice has much looser licensing requirements, you needn’t worry about installing unlimited copies around your office or for friends or partner organizations. When you buy or receive a version of Office 2010, however, you may only install it on a specified number of computers within your organization, so you'll need to keep track of exactly where it's been installed.

5) Document Sharing :-

In general, both Office 2010 and OpenOffice can create files that can be read by others, with some caveats. In the case of Office 2010, this is because Microsoft has established de facto file standards such as .doc (and .docx) for Word documents and .xls (and .xlsx) for Excel. Partners that are running Office 2003 or older versions may need to convert the files Office 2010 creates from the new file formats (docx) to the older ones (like .doc) to be able to open them. This isn’t done automatically in the older versions, although Microsoft offers a free utility to do it for you.

OpenOffice, on the other hand, uses open standards for its native files, but can both read and write files in Microsoft's format. In fact, OpenOffice users can choose to automatically save out files in Microsoft 2003 formats by default. OpenOffice has invested a lot of effort in ensuring that Writer, Calc, and Impress users can share documents with Microsoft users and has succeeded in all but a few specific cases … as long as you’re trying to share documents in Office 2003 or prior. OpenOffice can open and save Office 2003 documents with a high degree of fidelity, with only a few exceptions. If you’ve created Word documents that make extensive use of columns, header formats, and embedded images, the file is likely to show up in Writer with minor formatting issues that have to be adjusted by hand. This isn’t likely to be prohibitive for a document or two, but could be a time consuming for a whole library of templates and collateral.

The two applications are also incompatible when it comes to macros or spreadsheet pivot tables. Both applications support both features (pivot tables are created with a feature called Data Pilot in OpenOffice), but you will not be able to use the macros or pivot tables created in one application with the other. You may also have some minor issues with translating charts from one spreadsheet program to the other.

Interestingly, OpenOffice can open substantially older versions of Microsoft Office files than Microsoft Office itself can, or even some corrupted files that Microsoft Office can’t open. For an IT department, OpenOffice is worth having around just for that.

However, OpenOffice does not have complete support for the new file formats created by Office 2007 and 2010. In our tests, simply saving an Office 2003 document into the Office 2010 file format and then opening that same document in OpenOffice resulted in a substantial loss of formatting fidelity, particularly from Word to Writer. As these file formats are fairly new, one would expect the OpenOffice community to improve their support over time. OpenOffice also cannot save to the new 2007 and 2010 file formats; however, as Office 2010 is able to open the Office 2003 file formats, this is not a substantial limitation.

Both applications now provide the ability to export any file to an un-editable PDF format – ensuring that viewers can see the document exactly as you intended.

6) Remote Access :-

Microsoft Office 2010 also introduces new web-collaboration features. You can save any Office document to Microsoft’s “SkyDrive” — the company’s online server — and access it via Microsoft’s new Web Apps, which provides online stripped-down versions of the office applications. Here, you can view the complex formatting of your offline versions, although not necessarily edit it. For instance, Web Apps will allow you to apply heading styles that you’ve created in a desktop version of Word, but not to edit those styles or create new ones.

Microsoft is also moving (slowly) toward supporting real-time online collaboration. Currently, multiple users can edit documents simultaneously in the Web Apps version of Excel but not Word or PowerPoint. However, this is likely to change over time. Interestingly, Microsoft has just announced a version of Web Apps called Web Docs that integrates with Facebook. Presumably, this will allow easy document collaboration among Facebook contacts.

OpenOffice doesn’t offer any of these features, continuing to operate on a pure desktop model. You can certainly email files to yourself or others, but you can’t edit them directly on the web, or collaborate with others in real time.

7) Security :-

Microsoft Office and OpenOffice are both reasonably secure as long as you follow standard security procedures: install updates and patches as soon as they're released; maintain firewalls, antivirus, and antispyware; and so on. However, while OpenOffice let everyone know about possible security issues (allowing users to protect themselves and hackers to potentially exploit issues), Microsoft keeps security issues close to the vest — possibly preventing hackers from finding out about them, but also forestalling users' ability to take protective measures beyond the standard security updates Microsoft provides automatically. It's like the dilemma that arises each time police officers are faced with a serial killer: Should they alert people and possibly make the perp move on to another community, or should they keep their investigation quiet and zero in on the guy? There are strong arguments for both approaches.

8) Email Integration :-

For many folks, one of the big advantages of Microsoft Office is its integration with Microsoft Outlook, an email and calendaring software package (among other things). These features not only allow you to send a document directly from the Microsoft Office (for instance, you can send a Word document in an email directly from the Word interface), but to preview Microsoft Office documents directly in Outlook without opening the application.

9) Specific Features :-

So let's get on with it, you may be saying. I want a head-to-head comparison of the feature differences between the two suites. This is very difficult, primarily as the applications are so fundamentally similar. Each suite has been copying the best enhancements and innovations of the others for years, so you need to be doing pretty complex things before you find either suite lacking.

In general, Microsoft Office has a greater depth when it comes to very advanced features. For instance:

* Grammar checking : Microsoft Word has a built-in grammar-checking tool. The Open Office community has provided a few add-ons that you could install to provide grammar checking, but they’re generally considered to be less robust than Word’s default options.

* Document-viewing options : The options to view documents are not as powerful in Open Office’s Writer as they are in Word. You can only choose to see a “Web View,” which doesn’t show all the formatting that you’ve included for a printed document, or a full-page layout that shows the entirety of the page including headers, footers, and margins. Word gives you several more choices, including a nice view that preserves the page layout without showing margins or headers.

* Conditional formatting : Both spreadsheet packages offer conditional formatting (the ability to automatically format cells based on the properties of the data within them), but Microsoft offers a lot more flexibility and control in this realm.

* Microsoft Office’s “Smart Art” diagrams : Word, PowerPoint, and Excel all introduced a new feature in the 2007 version: Smart Art, a useful feature that allows you to easily create diagrams in a many common formats (like pyramids, cyclical diagrams, org charts, and more). OpenOffice doesn’t offer anything that comes close to the diagramming power.

On the other hand, OpenOffice tends to be somewhat simpler to understand, and can output to some more useful file formats. For instance:

* A single interface for the whole suite : OpenOffice provides an overall gateway to easily get to any of the individual components. Using Microsoft Word, you need to open each application separately.

* File size : OpenOffice’s native format generally creates much smaller files than Microsoft Office. When saving files out into Microsoft’s file formats, however – for instance, to create files that can be opened in Word – the file sizes are similar to Microsoft’s.

* HTML production : HTML purists tend to favor Writer's markup to Word's, though few people with knowledge of HTML use either editor in producing web pages. For simple tasks, Writer’s Web Wizard makes it incredibly easy to produce pages with HTML, PDF, and images.

So, the overall rating is :
MS Office 2010 : 8/10
Open : 6.5/10
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