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Free and adequate looks enticing
compared with expensive and adequate.
Rob Pegoraro Washtech.com

If we can't afford the solution,
then it's not a solution
;-).
SAP marketing slogan

The main selling point for Windows and an important driving force of Windows development are applications. MS Office is a really impressive set of well integrated programs with  the common macro language ( VBA)

It also have very good, flexible GUI and ports of Apple applications on windows (ITunes) have shown that Microsoft managed to beat Apple in its own game. ITunes sucks so much that any talk about Apple software superiority is just a joke. Apple is a company with super-talented marketing, but average (and incase of iTunes below average) software quality and very restrictive Apple ecosystem enforcing software products. It is essentially a computer and software ecosystem for dummies, who are ready to trade flexibility for predictability.  When open source enthusiasts criticize Microsoft I always ask myself did they every worked in Apple software ecosystem. 

Contrary to views of many naive open source advocates (Eric Raymond is a good example) MS Office is a tremendously capable suit of  professional software applications disguised as a consumer product. It is a professional suit of high-quality high-end applications with the real cost of at least $1K,  which Microsoft is selling approximately for $300 (with home and student edition for around $100, which is a shareware price per application such as Word and Excel -- $50 each). It's not only de-facto standard and that has capabilities perfectly suited for enterprise customers. It is more then that. Some components of Microsoft Office are good (MS Word) but some are masterpiece of software engineering (Excel) in a sense that few companies are able to debug such a complex product to such level. Yes there are other architectures that might be equal or better then used in Excel, more elegant and less complex. But Microsoft is really a king of software complexity. And level of debugging of those application and first of all Excel is a testament of IQ of Microsoft designers and tremendous talent and perseverance of Microsoft managers. It is a very rare case when such a large company can produce such a slick and reliable applications. Just look at software produced by IBM (which recently screwed Lotus Notes client beyond recognition with version 8.5, based on Eclipse). Look at  software product that Symantec, Adobe and SAP sells to unsuspecting public.  Comparison is in favor of Microsoft in many parameters. The same actually was true for FrontPage 2003 which was killed.  It was a tremendously powerful and cheap Web editor, professional tool sold for shareware price.

In a way, as long as Microsoft continued to enhance and further develop this powerful suit of applications it can  lock in most of the PC users. That might be one reason why attempts to unseat Windows domination as diverse as Linux. Apple and lately Goggle met only limited success.  Microsoft proved to be a tremendously competitive company, which despite its size still can wear down and at then defeat a serious competitor by its relentless upgrade cycle.  I think that a popular joke that any Microsoft product becomes good starting from version six sounds a pretty sinister forecast to many Microsoft competitors ;-)

Home users can generally benefit from simpler tools, but MS Word/Excel/Publisher trio costs so little in Home and Student Office editions (around $100) that to compete with Microsoft on the price is similar to competing with Linux on the price.  MS Word was historically sold as a part of  Microsoft Works, and was priced  below $50 which made any competition meaningless. With such prices even with the availability of robust and simple tools it just does not make much sense to settle for less.  Just becuse of the size of Microsoft software ecosystem.

Situation with the alternative to other components of the Office is no better then with MS Word.  Excel is a real masterpiece of software engineering (again, disguised as a consumer product) and despite the fact that the full power of Excel can be appreciated only by professional user and/or (and may be) sophisticated investor, it does not make sense to settle for less as it is availble as a part of the Office with total pitrce slightly above $100. It is true that relatively small percentage of home users can benefi from full power of Excel, but it is indispensable in the enterprise environment and using the same tool at home as in office makes a lot of sense. I noticed that small business often use Excel as a simple database tool, instead of Access and (now discontinued) FoxPro. 

The same might be true for PowerPoint and FrontPage. FrontPage helped bring WYSIWYG publishing to the Web.  I personally use FrontPage (this site is developed using FrontPage and set of custom script that compile webpages) for 15 years and now use it also as MS Word substitute but that's just an idiosyncrasy as I resent inability of word to present a 'raw' editable markup of the document and also I know HTML relatively well and do not have too much needs outside its capabilities.  Actually FrontPage is another really amazing application from Microsoft (although it was initially bought by Microsoft, but it was fully developed while already a part of Microsoft application stack). Microsoft team led by dramatically enhanced with each version up to 2003 (the last version of FrontPage) and which provides professional user the ability to increase his/her productivity ten times or more in comparison with simpler tools. While using it on daily basis for 15 years I still find new tips and tricks that increase my productivity in FrontPage environment almost monthly

So the short answer to the question what are alternatives to MS Office in the USA is: there is no alternatives. The real problem with Microsoft Office is that it is rather expensive outside the USA, and it is extremely expensive in Eastern Europe, if you compare the price with the average monthly salary. Like in SAP/R3 somewhat perverted ( judging from the cost of SAP software) slogan: "If we can't afford the solution, then it's not a solution" ;-). Therefore generally MS Office is an extremely good, irreplaceable solution for the US market, but much less so for Eastern European market, which needs to find the alternative. Currently the most plausible is Open Office which is free, but highly deficient substitute (see The Biggest Failure in Open Source)

But there are other alternatives such as  Microsoft Works 8.0 ), older versions of Office (such as Office 2007 and Office 2003) as well as some licensing tricks available for small businesses (Microsoft partner programs used to be an excellent opportunity for small business to get all Microsoft stack of operating systems and applications including Office for just $350 a year. If the firm contains exactly or less 10 employees that was the deal of the century, as $35 per year per employee is a price you simply can't beat  :-).

The key attractiveness of applications like components of MS Office is openness of the API and the underlying formats. They all are scriptable and it is more useful feature that openness of code per se (its just too much code to be useful for 99.99% of the users ;-). 

Theoretically XML-based tools looks more viable than TeX, and OpenOffice seems to be a leader in this category.   I just do not like XML and consider XHTML quite adequate for most purposes.

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov


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[Aug 14, 2014] The invisible elephant in the room >> dave_bryant:

The dirty little secret I haven't seen anyone else raise—in fairness, possibly because it isn't well-known outside publishing circles—is that a good part of a physical book's cost is not in the printing and binding. Most people, I suspect, would be greatly and unpleasantly surprised by how much of a book's cost (not its price, I should add) is fixed, regardless of final format.

Why? Because it's the labor, not the ink and paper, that makes up that fixed cost. The writer, editor, proofreader, and typesetter—at least—put in the same number of hours on a book, regardless of whether it's a hardback, a paperback, or an e-book. They still need to get paid, and they sure as hell are not going to accept less money just because people don't value a digital product as much as they do a physical one. I certainly won't put up with it.

There are differences, of course. The incremental cost of a digital copy is, practically speaking, near zero once a publisher's electronic distribution is set up, and that is the basis of the argument that e-books should be cheaper. Moreover, the labor costs of the print house are gone along with the physical costs.

All well and good, but just because a book is easier to get doesn't mean it will sell better. A publisher (even a self-publisher) still has to estimate how many copies he or she thinks people will buy, and base the cover price on that estimate.

Amazon's "lower the ebook price from $14.99 to $9.99, you sell 74% more ebooks" argument conveniently overlooks that if those extra ebook buyers are drawn from would-be $14.99 paperback buyers, the total revenue falls by 30%, even while ebook revenue rises by 16%.

[Apr 18, 2013] Windows It's over

15 April, 2013 | ZDNet

Actually, I will admit:

I do regret Microsoft's decision to kill off Microsoft Works. I actually used to prefer that over Office.

Richard Estes

You miss Works?

Are we talking about the same Microsoft Works that was considered an oxymoron by most people in the industry? Personally, I'll take Office any day. The later versions of office are user-friendly but very powerful and have the ability to create a PDF without going to a third party program. (Yes, I know that the OpenOffice-based programs do that too. And the comfort of menu buttons, for some people, will always beat the Ribbon. However, this was a comparison between Office and Works.) I also appreciate the current versions Office in a business environment. The addition of Lync to applications like Outlook and the integration of communication and collaboration technology makes for a very powerful program. Admittedly, that might be a bit much for a home user that only uses the suite occasionally (and doesn't have a Lync server to work with). Still, business needs require more powerful solutions and, say what you will about Office, the developers for the programs have not sat on their hands in finding ways to make it more advanced. (One can argue if their changes are better but at least they attempt to meet the needs of the business landscape.)

Works deserved its death. It tried to be an Office-Lite but didn't deliver. When there are free programs almost as powerful as Office, why should Microsoft spend the money developing an inferior version of their flagship suite?

[Apr 17, 2013] Microsoft Is Not Dead (Yet) Najarian By Jeff Macke | Breakout

Yahoo Breakout blog

Bill

XP was the last good OS that Microshaft released. Of course, it was the first good OS that they released. Windows 7 was just eye candy. Windows 8 is junk. Why buy MS Office when Libre Office for free does 90% of what MS Office does, and 99% of what people really do?

Likbez

I agree that XP was better debugged and better designed then Windows 7 and 8. But it is more then decade old and it shows. The problem with running XP on old hardware is malware protection. Windows 7 and 8 are improvement in this area. Also there are some genuine interface improvements in Windows 7. For example ability to move an application screen from one monitor to another in two display configuration is really slick.

I am not sure that Libre Office (former Sun Star Office) does 90% of what Microsoft Office does. IMHO more like 60% and Libre Office is less well debugged. It is good to have a choice and put some pressure on Microsoft, but facts on the ground are such that it is a strong competitors only in Eastern Europe and some other regions, where price of MS Office are really outrageous.

In the USA at $100 for student and home edition the question is mute, and people are better off using MS Office, unless they want Libre Office out of love for open source software or other ideological reasons. But you can always install Linux and free yourself from "Microsoft dependence" if you are so inclined. Why bother to install Libre Office on Windows? .

Bill

I do have linux on both my desktop and laptop. I run XP using VitrualBox under linux, and only because there are no good linux compatible finance programs. I am retired now, but used windows in my profession as a programmer. My feelings about it and linux, the more I used linux, the less I noticed it. The more I used windows (XP) the more I hated it. As for Libre Office, both professionally and personally, I have never wanted to do anything with MS office I couldn't also do with Libre Office.

In addition, Libre Office includes a data base addition that you don't get with MS Office and have to buy Access. . .

[Nov 16, 2012] German City Says OpenOffice Shortcomings Are Forcing It Back To Microsoft

The city of Freiburg, Germany adopted OpenOffice back in 2007, mostly replacing the Microsoft Office software it had been using previously. Now, an anonymous reader tips news that the city council is preparing to abandon OpenOffice and switch back. "'In the specific case of the use of OpenOffice, the hopes and expectations of the year 2007 are not fulfilled,' the council wrote, adding that continuing use OpenOffice will lead to performance impairments and aggravation and frustration on the part of employees and external parties. 'Therefore, a new Microsoft Office license is essential for effective operations,' they wrote. ... 'The divergence of the development community (LibreOffice on one hand Apache Office on the other) is crippling for the development for OpenOffice,' the council wrote, adding that the development of Microsoft Office is far more stable. Looking at the options, a one-product strategy with Microsoft Office 2010 is the only viable one, according to the council." The council was also disappointed that more municipalities haven't adopted OpenOffice in the meantime. Open source groups and developers criticized the move and encouraged the council to consider at least moving to a more up-to-date version of the office software suite.

[Nov 29, 2010] US Supreme Court agrees to hear Microsoft appeal in Word patent case

A decision is expected by the end of June 2011.
Engadge

tAs The Wall Street Journal reports, the US Supreme Court has today agreed to hear Mircosoft's appeal in the case that dealt it $290 million in damages and prevented it from selling versions of Word that contained the allegedly infringing technology. That could not only have some pretty big ramifications for Microsoft in this particular case, but for patent law in general, as it gets to the very heart of the legal standard for determining the validity of a patent.

username500:

what this article fails to mention:

"The case, which will examine the proper legal standard for determining the validity of a patent, could have significant implications for all companies involved in patent litigation.

Lower courts said Microsoft was required to prove by clear and convincing evidence that i4i's patent was invalid — a standard the software giant couldn't meet. The legal standard is high because it presumes the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office makes the correct decision when it decides to issue a patent.

Microsoft's supporters include Apple Inc., Google Inc., Intel Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., General Motors, Toyota Motor Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association."

Zelannii :

The "very different manner" amounts to nothing more than utilizing a subsection within XML, defined as part of the XML Spec, to store an entire other document or data set (which is it's own XML file). It's simply putting one entire XML set inside an XML record. It was defined as part of the XML format (though optional), and Microsoft used it. i4i's patent refered to doing this in SGML, which had no such construct prior. It;s not using XML in a "different way" its simply an embed statement. Microsoft didn't even invent this idea, or use any "custom XML," they just used somethnig that was already there that no one lese had a use for.

The details Microsoft had worked with i4i over, and later abandoned, related to methods for storing XML tag information inside a custom construct inside the document. They were working on methods to allow 2 customer XML code sets to co-exist, and be cross referenced by a single table. This implementation is simply one document inside of another, pretty obvious to do that... The USPTO would not reject i4is patent on review as it DOES actually describe some pretty specific constructs. Microsoft didn't use those, but their method ended up "with the same results" and was ruled equivalent by a judge in Texas (no surprise, patent troll haven...). Please explain again how 2 completely different methods can be covered by a method patent?

johnnycanuck44:

But the issue is that prior to i4i's SGML/XML based application, Microsoft had it's own tool "SGML Author for Word" and Ottawa based Microstar's "Near and Far Author for Word" or Wordperfect's support for SGML in version 8. As a former employee at i4i, I am stunned that this patent has held water for so long and that things have gone this far.

I think that the USPTO missed much of the prior art (that wasn't referenced in the patent) and does not fully understand what an XML or SGML parser is.

Also what people fail to remember is that XML is in fact an "application" of SGML, and as such any prior patents pertaining to SGML and Word should take precedence over this particular patent.

ecdy:

The Supreme Court isn't going to decide whether the patent is infringed--two courts have already said it is. Nor is it going to directly decide whether the patent is valid - two courts have already said it is, under the traditional standard of validity. The SC is actually going to consider whether the traditional standard for validity of a patent that was used by the lower courts is applicable in this case. A patent granted by a patent examiner after the examiner considered prior art is considered valid, unless it can be shown invalid by "clear and convincing evidence." The examiner decided that the i4i patent wasn't pre-empted by the prior art he saw, and the courts agreed that there was no clear and convincing evidence otherwise. But should the same standard apply if, after the patent is granted, somebody digs up some prior art that the examiner didn't see? There are four standards of evidence, from least to most rigorous: Substantial ; Preponderance; Clear and Convincing. and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Although their meanings and boundaries may be a little vague, these are the phrases juries work with. The Supreme Court in this case will decide which standard to apply in this case and in later cases of this type.

[Nov 29, 2010] Microsoft and New York in Software Deal By ASHLEE VANCE

October 20, 2010 | NYTimes.com

...The agreement required some concessions on Microsoft's part. Usually the company focuses on selling licenses to bundles of business software products. But with New York City Microsoft agreed, in some cases, to charge people on a sliding scale based on which specific applications they use the most.

The move from Microsoft comes as it faces increased pressure from rivals like Google, I.B.M. and a host of start-ups in the office software market.

"We took advantage of the competitive moment," said Stephen Goldsmith, deputy mayor for operations.

Google, in particular, has been aggressive in its march on Microsoft Office's turf. It sells online versions of similar software, and charges simply $50 per person, per year. Los Angeles has been distributing Google's software to about 30,000 of its city workers over the last year.

But Microsoft's agreement with New York covers a broader set of applications beyond office software that Google has yet to match.

"So many of the customers I am talking to play the Google card even if they have no intention of going to Google," said Mary-Jo Foley, the editor of the All About Microsoft blog. "Microsoft knows people are doing it, but what can they do."

Microsoft tends to sell licenses to bundles of products like its Office suite, which includes Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and Excel. Many city workers, however, only use Word to create documents and Outlook for e-mail.

Under the new arrangement, New York will put workers into three different categories based on how many different applications they use. Thanks to new online versions of its software products, Microsoft can craft more pay-per-use models for customers.

The city plans to store some information for about 30,000 workers at Microsoft's data centers. This embrace of cloud computing means the city will need to buy less computing hardware and that people can work together online on projects.

"We need to dramatically extend technology tools throughout our work force," Mr. Goldsmith said. "There are a large number of individuals that don't even have e-mail access."

Introducing Microsoft Office 2010 Technical Preview

Introduction to Office 2010

Office 2010 Applications

[Dec 3, 2007] OpenOffice.org 2.3 Impresses

I am not a fan of Wiki format and think that HTML is OK for this purpose and Wiki format outlived its usefulness but still this is an interesting feature.
Next I tested the most significant addition to OpenOffice's Writer application, the ability to export newly created files to the MediaWiki format, a feature-rich collaborative editing software that runs Wikipedia.

I first loaded the file up with a bunch of character formatting, such as italicized, bolded and underlined chunks of text. I also included a hyperlink. From the file dialog, I chose Export and selected MediaWiki.txt from the File Format drop-down menu. I then cut and pasted the entire document into a blank Wiki page and discovered that the italicized text made it through the conversion, as did the hyperlink. The underlined text and bold text, however, did not pass the test. Apostrophes also fared poorly, not maintaining their "smart quotes" status.

Still, introducing this format as an option to users is recognizing the growing importance and undeniable usability of the Web-based collaborative workspace that the smart and savvy should be incorporating into their software ASAP (or be left in the dust).

[Sep 14, 2006] Dr. Dobb's Microsoft Ready To Update Office 2007 Beta 2 September 13, 2006

Pegged as a "Technical Refresh," the update will be available only to users of Office 2007 Beta 2, and will be offered as a download from the Microsoft Web site.

Microsoft touted improved performance, better integration, improved collaboration tools, and "general fit and finish changes" in the Technical Refresh (TR) "This Technical Refresh is the final external product milestone leading to RTM [Release To Manufacturing]," a company spokesperson wrote in an e-mail to TechWeb Wednesday.

[Feb 17, 2006] Office 12 Christened Office 2007 Will be available at the end of 2006. Office 2007 will enable people to publish documents in the Adobe PDF. Probably .Net languages will be supported instead of VBA.

The 2007 Microsoft Office release, available by the end of 2006, is an integrated system of programs, servers, and services that will help you meet your business and personal needs. Work more efficiently, stay organized, and more easily collaborate and share information using the security-enhanced 2007 Microsoft Office system.

Register to get the latest news about the 2007 Microsoft Office release, formerly code-named Office "12", including notification when Beta 2 is available.

[Feb 17, 2006] 2007 Microsoft Office System Packaging Looks like Frontpage is no longer part of the Office Professional.

[Feb 14, 2006] Microsoft New Scripts Page

[Feb 14, 2006] MS Word is notorious for containing private information in file headers, but not any longer.

Microsoft has quietly released a tool to scrub leaky metadata from documents edited with its software. The Remove Hidden Data Add-In will permanently remove hidden and collaboration data, such as change tracking and comments, from MS Word, MS Excel, and MS PowerPoint files. For Office XP/Office 2003 only, we should add.

[Nov 9, 2005] The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities A very interesting selection; definitely gifted author !

There are a lot of great freeware products out there. Many are as good or even better than their commercial alternatives. This list features my personal pick of the "best of the best."

All these utilities in this list have been featured in past issues of of my free monthly newsletter "Support Alert" More freebies are featured in every new issue. If you are interested in great utilities and freeware you really should consider subscribing. It's free.

You'll get the most from this list by browsing through it at leisure. The pathologically impatient can consult the index.

10 Best Free Software Suite
The Open CD site offers for free a wonderful collection of just about every application software product you need to run a PC including the latest version of OpenOffice. Many of these freebies substitute admirably for expensive commercial products. There is Abi Word as an alternative for MS Word, OpenOffice for MS Office XP, Thunderbird for Outlook, The Gimp for Adobe Photoshop, 7-zip for WinZip and many more. If you then add to this collection some of the other utilities from my "46 Best-ever Utilities" collection you will have all the software you'll ever need without spending a cent. Note: All of the Open CD utilities can be downloaded for free as a CD ISO image. If you have a slow connection you can purchase the CD for a as little as $1.99. In addition to the Windows versions, the CD also contains the same collection of programs implemented under a version of Linux called Ubuntu that can be booted and run directly from the CD. That way you not only get to try all these great programs you can try Linux as well, without interfering in any way with your current Windows installation.
http://theopencd.org

25 Best Free Hotkey Utility
Hotkeycontrol XP is a free utility that allows you to define your own hotkeys so that a single key press can launch an application, insert commonly used text, change your volume, or just about anything else. Hotkeycontrol works with all versions of Windows from 98 onwards, though some features will only work with Win2K or XP. Some folks with slower PCs have reported that Hotkeycontrol can be a little slow to react. If you experience this, you might like to try PS Hot Launch VVL as an alternative. It works on all versions of Windows and is an excellent performer even on slow PCs. A third alternative is not really a hotkey utility at all but achieves the same result by using "magic words." It places a tiny text box on your screen and when you type specially assigned words into the box, they will launch a program, go to a web site or whatever. For example if you type "mail" it can launch your mail reader. Type in "46" and it can take you to the web page of the "46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities." Of course, it's up to you to define these magic words and you can have as many as you want. It all works very neatly with some really nice touches like auto-complete for your magic words which means you only have to type in two or three letters and SlickRun will complete the rest. Nice too, is an eyedropper tool that allows you to identify a program you want to "hotkey" just by clicking in its application window. There's also a built-in note jotter and a calendar date display. It requires Win 98 or later.
http://www.digital-miner.com/hkcontrol.html (0.91KB)
http://www.pssoftlab.com/pshl_info.phtml (743KB)
http://www.bayden.com/SlickRun/
(168KB)

45 Best Free Outliner
I'm not a great fan of outliners - my brain doesn't work that way. Some folks however, swear by them and if that includes you, then you should check out Keynote, an Open Source freeware program that has a dedicated band of followers. Its major design attribute is its ease of use. Words like "natural" and "seamless" come close to the mark but really don't capture the essence of what is really a great design. What do you do with it? Well to quote the web site "KeyNote is used by screenwriters to draft screenplays, by medical doctors to keep patient databases, by developers to store source code snippets - and to everyone it serves as a place to put all the random pieces of information that have no particular structure of relationship to other data, and do not fit easily in task-specific applications such as word-processors, databases or spreadsheets." (1.7MB)
http://www.tranglos.com/free/index.html

Slashdot OpenOffice Bloated

ZDNet's George Ou has been writing a series of posts about Open Office bloat. Includes some interesting system usage comparisons" From the article: "Even when dealing with what is essentially the same data, OpenOffice Calc uses up 211 MBs of private unsharable memory while Excel uses up 34 MBs of private unsharable memory. The fact that OpenOffice.org Calc takes about 100 times the CPU time explains the kind of drastic results we were getting where Excel could open a file in 2 seconds while Calc would take almost 3 minutes. Most of that massive speed difference is due to XML being very processor intensive, but Microsoft still handles its own XML files about 7 times faster than OpenOffice.org handles OpenDocument ODS format and uses far less memory than OpenOffice.org."

OpenOffice.org 2.0 Has Edge over Its StarOffice 8 Cousin

OpenOffice.org 2.0 and StarOffice 8 share the same code base and are nearly identical. The primary differences are in packaging and certain non-free software components that come bundled with Sun's suite.

The purchase price of StarOffice 8 also includes support from Sun, where OpenOffice.org 2.0 support comes at an additional cost.

OpenOffice.org 2.0 and StarOffice 8 use the same native file format, OpenDocument, and the same macro language.

Organizations that mix the two suites, therefore, can expect complete compatibility. (The OpenOffice.org Project recently made available an update to its earlier OpenOffice.org version, 1.1.5, that includes the capability to open, but not to create, OpenDocument-formatted files.)

Read more here about why StarOffice 8 rivals Microsoft Office.

We tested OpenOffice.org 2.0 on Ubuntu Linux 5.10, SuSE Linux 10 and Windows XP, and the suite performed similarly on all three systems. One difference we noted while testing OpenOffice on SuSE 10 was the way that the suite took on the appearance and functional qualities of the GNOME and KDE desktop environments, depending on which we were using.

Unlike StarOffice 8, OpenOffice.org adopted environment-specific dialogs for opening and saving documents, a nice integration touch.

Another benefit that OpenOffice 2.0 offers on Linux systems is better integration with the various packaging systems with which different Linux distributions ship. Sun ships StarOffice 8 as a set of RPM packages.

NewsForge Basic button-pushing with OpenOffice.org macros

There are two ways to create a macro in OOo. One is to use OpenOffice.org Basic to write the macro. The other is to use the macro recorder. That will be the approach we focus on.

The macro recorder is great, because it lets you create a macro without any programming, and when you're done you can look at the code it built and add your own enhancements.

We'll sort a grocery list to illustrate how to build macros. I update my OpenOffice.org Calc-created grocery list spreadsheet weekly before trudging off to the store. I don't know how some of you shoppers do it with your handwritten random lists.

Before I run my macro, I delete the quantity of each item from the previous week. I sort the list alphabetically by grocery item (column A), then enter the desired number of each grocery item (column B). Once I've done that data entry, I want to sort the list from lowest to highest according to aisle (column C), filter the list so only non-zero-quantity items show up, then print the filtered list.

I created a macro to sort by item name using the macro recorder:

Why macros?
Why would you want to use macros? If you do repetitive jobs, like moving data around in a spreadsheet or regularly deleting old data from a column, some simple macros can save you lots of time and reduce your error rate. Automating tasks in OpenOffice.org might just turn you into the departmental macro guru, and managers and business owners like people who can make using spreadsheets faster and easier.

Running the macro is even easier than creating it. Step through the Tools menu, Macro, and Run Macro. Pick the macro out of the list and push the Run button at top right. In my case it was My Macros, Standard, Module1, and "sorta." The spreadsheet flashed briefly and then it was sorted alphabetically by column A.

Creating a macro to sort by aisle was the same process, except I sorted on Column C instead of Column A and named it "sortc."

I also created a "finddeli" macro that looks for all instances of the word "deli" in my list. You can record just about any sequence of actions or key clicks and turn them into a macro.

Attaching macros to buttons

Clicking through the Tools, Macro, Run Macro sequence is almost as much effort as just sorting manually. A worthwhile upgrade I made was to attach the sorta macro to a button that could be placed right on the spreadsheet:

You can now run the sorting macro by clicking on the button.

Creating buttons and macros for simple repetitive jobs like this can save you loads of time. You might look at your spreadsheets and make a list of the tasks that you do over and over, then record a macro and run it to see if it saves you some time. Any situation where you flip back and forth between some spreadsheet state is a candidate for some pushbutton automation.

If you want to get more sophisticated with your spreadsheets, you can also use text boxes, radio buttons, and list boxes. Controls like buttons and list boxes on forms are another way to interface with macros.

For a thorough education on OpenOffice.org macros be sure to get "OpenOffice.org Macros Explained" by Andrew Pitonyak. Don't let the book's massive 476 pages intimidate you. It has vast sections of basic programming practice that explain things in minute detail. It could be a knowledgeable silent companion for anybody who wants to be a departmental OpenOffice.org macro guru.

... ... ...

Links

  1. "OpenOffice.org" - http://www.openoffice.org/
  2. "OpenOffice.org Basic" - http://api.openoffice.org/docs/DevelopersGuide/BasicAndDialogs/BasicAndDialogs.htm
  3. ""OpenOffice.org Macros Explained"" - http://service.bfast.com/bfast/click?bfmid=2181&sourceid=39391960&isbn=1930919514
  4. "Rob Reilly" - mailto:robreilly@earthlink.net

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This document discusses the document processing software that is available under Linux. Word processing software has been a matter of great interest for those that wish to see Linux more widely adopted for use in business.

There is a fairly sizable assortment of free software packages for this purpose. Unfortunately, they are not generally considered to be terribly ``credible'' particularly they do not generally read or write the data formats used by Microsoft Word, which is widely considered the ``industry standard.'' Furthermore, many projects to build ``free word processors'' tend to get started, but, unfortunately, few ever reach any degree of completion.

There are, in contrast, a number of commercial software packages that do a reasonable job of ``understanding'' various proprietary word processor formats.

This document also includes an opinionated discussion about word processing. I feel that the actual thing that people wish to do (doing stuff with documents) is not generally well understood and that peoples' expectations and use of word processing software is hence impeded.


WordPad Class

MozillaQuest Magazine - AbiWord - A Free, Decent, MS Word Clone for Linux, MS Windows, & Other Platforms

AbiWord has its own file format, .abw. However, it can import plain text, HTML, RTF, Word 97 (.doc), XHTML, and other formatted document files too. Export-wise, you can save your AbiWord documents as plain text, ABW, HTML, LaTeX, RTF, and other file types.

AbiWord does not have the rich set of language tools that MS Word has. However, it does have a decent spell-checker and also a word-count tool.

MS Word has lots more tool bars and is much more-fully featured than is AbiWord. On the other hand AbiWord is leaner than MS Word and mean enough for many word processing tasks. The AbiWord download binaries run about 3.5-MB (MS Windows) to about 5-MB (Linux tar.gz).

Installed, AbiWord sucked up less than 6-MB of hard drive space in Windows 98 SE. MS Word eats up 22.9-MB of Windows Memory compared to 5.37-MB of Windows memory for AbiWord.

The Windows version of AbiWord installs easily and in a snap. AbiWord seems to behave nicely when running in MS Windows.

(Note: in Linux, it's generally not a good idea to change libs or other system files or packages merely to accommodate an application -- unless you are a very experienced Linux user. Even if you are an experienced Linux user, you should proceed with caution before changing system critical files. Those changes could negatively affect other applications that are working nicely on your Linux system, or your Linux system itself. So, if you find that you do need to change libs or other system files or packages merely to accommodate an application, forget the application.)

On the other hand, we encountered (mostly lib) problems when trying to install, to upgrade, or to run the Linux version of AbiWord on Caldera OpenLinux eDesktop 2.4 and Red Hat Linux 7. Those are the only Linux distributions on which we tried AbiWord.

For more information about the status of features already implemented in AbiWord, please check the AbiWord Feature Matrix and the AbiWord User Interface Matrix. If you want to sneak a look at what features are planned for AbiWord but not yet included, check the AbiWord Roadmap. (Links in the Resources section below.)

You can customize AbiWord to your keyboard-picking heart's content. It's open source. That means you can change the widgets, modify features, or even add your own features. If you are into creating themes and skins for programs, you can use the AbiWord customizability to make your own AbiWord theme.

For more information about building your own customized version, check AbiWord Personal in the Resources section at the end of this article.

Conclusion

AbiWord is off to a darn good start. Even though it is still in the pre-release, beta stages, AbiWord is worth downloading, installing, and using. However, it's a preview release not a final shipping version. So expect to find that all AbiWord's features are not fully implemented -- or in some instances not implemented at all, yet.

It is not nearly as heavy duty as its commercial counterparts such as Microsoft's Word, Sun's StarOffice, or VistaSource's Anywhere Desktop (formerly Applixware). However, AbiWord's lighter features-package also makes it lighter-weight resources-wise. It takes less hard-drive space and less RAM.

Although AbiWord is a darn good MS Word clone, it is not MS Word. It is doubtful that MS Word users are going to part with their MS Word and flock to AbiWord. However, where resources or budgets are tight, AbiWord can be a nice supplement or alternative to MS Word on MS Windows PCs.

On platforms such as Linux and the other *NIXs where MS Word is not available, AbiWord has the makings of a very nice substitute for MS Word. As development continues and more features are added to AbiWord it might well become as good as the heavy-duty word processors -- perhaps better.

Of course the heavier word processors are getting better all the time too. Moreover they are becoming available for more platforms also. The bottom line here is that all this means even more choices for software consumers and users.

Ted -- RTF editor for Linux

Ted is a text editor running under X Windows on Unix/Linux systems. Use RTF as native format. Can be used as  as an RTF viewer in Netscape. Developed by Mark de Does. Home page is http://www.nllgg.nl/Ted/  Distributed under GPL license.

Ted was developed as an operating system accessory like Wordpad on MS-Windows. In our opinion, the possibility to type a letter or a note on a Unix/Linux machine is clearly missing. Only too often, you have to turn to a Windows machine to write a letter or an e-mail message. Teds function is to be able to edit RTF documents on Unix/Linux in a wysiwyg way.

Compatibility with popular MS-Windows applications played an important role in the design of Ted. Every document produced by Ted should be accepted as a legal .rtf file by Word without any loss of formatting or information. Compatibility in the other direction is more difficult to achieve. Ted supports most basic text formatting, as supported by the Microsoft applications. Other formatting instructions and meta information are ignored. By ignoring unsupported formatting Ted tries to get the complete text of a document on screen. Ted can be used to read formatted e-mail sent from a Windows machine to Unix, or as an RTF viewer in Netscape.

Features


Microsoft Office Viewers

  1. Excel Viewer 2003
  2. PowerPoint Viewer 2003
  3. Visio 2002 Viewer
  4. Visio 2003 Sample: 20 Sample Diagrams
  5. Word Viewer 2003

Humor

Annoyances.org - Hidden Settings in MS Office 2000

Random Findings

p-nand-q.com Python MS Office

Here are some hints on using the Win32COM extensions for Python to write scripts, that use Microsoft Office Components. Thanks to Mark Hammonds excellent work, you don't need to bother with VB any longer and can automate Office from THE BEST PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE IN THE WORLD.




Etc

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The Last but not Least


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