Archive for the ‘NeoOffice’ Category

March

12

by Kaj Kandler

At ZDNet, Christopher Dawson compares NeoOffice vs. OpenOffice vs. Office 2008 vs. iWork. He obviously comprares them on Mac OS X, as GeoOffice or iWork and Office 2008 are special releases for the Apple Mac platform.

His report is influenced by his experience managing the IT for a school in Western Massachusetts. Chris concludes:

iWork is very slick and integrates well brilliantly with iLife. It’s easy to use, but powerful enough for serious users. However, it’s lack of compatibility with open file formats is of concern. Office 2008 is also slick and highly functional but not nearly as effortless to navigate. Even with academic pricing (iWork is priced around $10/license academic versus almost $70/license for Office), Office is a bit pricey and hard to justify when cheaper or free alternatives exist. OpenOffice for the Mac really isn’t worth a second look right now given its lack of integration and compatibility. NeoOffice has its niggles, but is generally a solid, easy to use office suite. Even if you choose iWork of Office, it should be installed on all of your users’ machines to ensure compatibility with their students. It could certainly stand alone, as well, but the relatively inexpensive iWork is a hard bit of kit to pass up.

January

31

by Kaj Kandler

If you are an Apple MAC fan and want to use OpenOffice, you are stuck with a version that needs X Windows, which is reportedly slow and looks and works like an alien in NY. Your alternative is NeoOffice, which has a more integrated look and feel but still is reportedly slow.

However, there is hope. The Open Office community has started a project to port the program to Mac OS X and do the work required to integrate the Aqua UI and other Mac OS X goodies. The bad news is that this work will only be included in Release 3.0, scheduled for the fall of 2008. But I found developer snapshots of native Open Office for Mac OS X and reportedly the version “OOH680_m4″ is quite stable and does its work surprisingly fast.

September

13

by Kaj Kandler

I don’t know how you visualize ecosystems, for me they resemble a picture of a jungle with lots of nurishing water, beautiful plants, colorful birds and some dangerous snakes lurking on trees.

The newest take on the multitude of products derived from OpenOffice.org is to call it an ecosystem. While Sun Microsystem thinks the multiple distributions of OpenOffice.org are an ecosystem, I often feel lost in the Jungle that is. Lets list the well known distributions:

  • OpenOffice.org – the “Original”
  • StarOffice – the commercial version from Sun Micosystems
  • StarSuite – a sun distribution targeted at the Asian market
  • StarOffice from Google – a free commercial (?) distribution
  • OpenOffice.org Novell Edition – free version with new developments by Novell and in the pipeline for integration into the “Original”
  • NeoOffice – a distribution with integration into Mac OS X Aqua UI, also contains some Novell additions
  • Retro Office – a distribution from the NeoOffice project, adding some of the Novell derived integration but not the Aqua UI integration
  • … various commercial distributions that sell the office suite with minor alterations and support plans

The jungle becomes more dense if you consider that Open Office calls its development steps “release”, while Sun counts Star Office in “version.” I find it also confusing that Sun Microsystems does offer support with its commercial Star Office but also offers support plans for Open Office.

I do welcome various distributions of the same core open source base. However, what confuses me is the product strategy of Sun. Wouldn’t it be much easier if they offered a commercial OpenOffice.org Plus packages with the add ons that can’t be licensed under open source licenses? This would simplify the value for the buyer and unify the support plan offering. It would also put the power of Sun’s advertising behind the whole project and put more mindshare into Open Office, while still retaining Sun’s ability to make money from its work.

September

10

by Kaj Kandler

You got two choices for going Retro Office:

  1. You can order some steel furniture for your office
  2. You can download RetroOffice for your Mac OS X

RetroOffice is a tongue in cheek version of NeoOffice. While the NeoOffice project is primarily about integration of the Mac look and feel, NeoOffice has recently jumped the gun and integrated some features of OpenOffice.org Novell Edition as well. RetroOffice is simply the additional features with the X Window system UI or original Open Office on the Mac. RetroOffice is delivered as is and does not enjoy any support. It is for users that need to have the latest and can’t wait until the different contributions are integrated into official releases.

August

28

by Kaj Kandler

NeoOffice just announced its latest release 2.2.1. All over the net is praise for NeoOffice’s new features, such as

  • Support for the native Mac OS X spellchecker
  • Support for the native Mac OS X address book
  • Support for high resolution printing
  • Reading and writing many Microsoft OOXML (Office 2007) Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents
  • The latest features from OpenOffice.org 2.2.1

While OpenOffice.org announced a native version for the Mac OS X and its user interface, and Sun Microsystems committed two full time developers to the project, NeoOffice has obviously worked hard to stay ahead. The integration of native features such as the address book and spell checker are certainly welcome. It makes working on a Mac much more consistent.

However, some report issues with this version of NeoOffice 2.2.1. I have no way to verify that.

The competing effort from the mother project seems to make good progress with frequent OOo Mac OS X port developer snapshots. However, I don’t think the upcoming release as part of OOo release 2.3 will be as comprehensive as NeoOffice yet. I guess competition does improve the product(s) for consumers. I applaud both efforts.

May

09

by Kaj Kandler

Apple’s notebooks have become increasingly popular. OpenOffice.org does run on Apple’s MAC OS X operating system However it does not comply with the OS X user interface, called Aqua. Sun Microsystems has now decided to commit two full time developers to produce a full MAC OS X compliant port of OpenOffice.org.

Even among the geeks at recent BarCamp Boston 2 it seemed they had gained a majority. So it comes to no surprise that OpenOffice.org on Apple’s OS X is seen as deficient, because it lacks full integration into the User experience. The current version requires the X windowing system to be installed. This poses a double whammy for users, because

  1. It is an extra installation step, that might not so experienced users from using it
  2. It does conform to the X Window user interface created for Unix systems, with significant differences to the way other programs work on OS X

There is a porting project underway which has been run solely by volunteers so far. Sun now committed two full time developers to support these efforts. Unfortunately this is only one of two projects that work towards the same goal. The second project being NeoOffice, which tries to achieve the Aqua user interface through using Java. I wished that those two projects could pool their resources and expertise in order to achieve this very desirable goal faster.

August

31

by Kaj Kandler

A french lead team works feverishly on porting OpenOffice.org natively to Mac OS X. Don’t get me wrong, OpenOffice.org runs already on Mac OS X. However, the current port does require X Windows. This means the software does not look like an OS X application and it requires an extra package to be installed. These are extra hurdles to overcome and might prevent new users from trying out OpenOffice.org. One solution so far was NeoOffice, an effort to integrate OpenOffice.org more closely with OS X.

It appears another team is working towards the same goal right in the original OpenOffice.org code base. They are ready to present their work at OpenOffice.org Conference 2006 (Lyon), September 11- 13 and Apple Expo (Paris), September 12 to 16.

August

09

by Kaj Kandler

eWeek reports about Microsoft’s plans for the next version of Office for Mac. They will ditch support for Visual Basic macros in favor of AppleScript and and automator integration.

Does this open an opportunity for OpenOffice.org (and its OS-X cousin NeoOffice) to become the true enterprise office suite that ensures macro compatibility across Windows, Linux and OS-X?

July

05

by Kaj Kandler

In a Linux Journal article today, Nicholas Petreley writes that Linux Office suites need to gain more compelling features for people to switch. He argues Microsoft did win their customers not by emulating their established competition, but by offering certain advantages and making it still easy for them to switch.

I’m not sure if he is advocating for the Open Source/Free Software community to emulate the bad business practices of Microsoft in exploiting their virtual monopoly and driving competition out of business by undercutting their distribution channels?

One key to Microsoft Office’s success was, the secret integration between Office and the OS (where MS had a very strong position). The other key was that they had a virtual monopoly on the distribution channel through pre-loading with new PCs. At the time MS strong armed PC manufacturers to bundle the OS and Office suites with every new PC. So from the standpoint of a new PC buyer it was “for free” and meant spending extra money to buy one or more packages and also to install them and support them separately. So convenience and monopolistic tactics won over features and compatibility. By the way, the office suite idea was novel at the time as well and best executed by MS, just to give them credit.

I don’t think that a single convenience feature such as “strong” links would win me over from one proprietary package to another (i.e. EIOffcie, as Nicholas Petreley suggests). That said, OpenOffice.org has already the compelling feature that makes it superior to MS Office. It is the support for Open Document Format (ODF) or ISO 26300.

Not everybody might yet have realized it, but not only the State of Massachusetts has a problem with long term storage of electronic documents that are so prevalent today in an office environment. You can’t read a 20 year old Wordstar document these days (even if the storage media, i.e.tape, is perfectly readable). I know because my master theses and a couple of my publications are in that format. Non of the current packages does fully support it.

The seemingly obvious does not work. You can’t keep the old packages around, because they won’t install on the new OS (16 bit –> 32 bit –> 64 bit –> …). You can’t keep the old OS around, because it won’t install on the new hardware (see above). By the way, the old software won’t play well with the new printer either. And building a virtual museum of old technology artifacts that even has to work just in case someone needs access to an older document is not the direction we want to go anyway. We want new and old documents accessible through the Internet and quickly.

According to the State of Massachusetts, only an open and free (as in speech) document format can guarantee long into the future that you have access to your actual document. It must be open and documented, so anybody can write a program against it. It must also be free so nobody can prevent you from doing so, just because they want to leverage certain monopoly effects or stifle a particular competition.

OpenOffice.org (OOo) uses ODF as its default format and is the package with the largest installed base for supporting this format. It certainly is not a short term convenience feature, but it will com in handy if you want to review your high school writings from your arm chair in retirement. And it sure is essential if your grandson wants to research the title to his grandfathers goldmine in the archives of the State of Massachusetts.

Certainly, OOo is not a product that can leverage monopolies nor has it to, in order to undercut the price of the competition. And as free (as in speech) software anybody can always do something about the missing killer feature, implement it or organize funding for its implementation. You say that is so hard? Look at what a couple of guys do with NeoOffice to get the support and integration they want for Mac OS X.

May

19

by Kaj Kandler

Apple Matters has selected OpenOffice.org as best open source software for the Macintosh in its category. Devanshu Mehta from Apple Matters sees it as an obvious choice, writing “This one is a no-brainer. Compared with the expensive office software from other companies, OpenOffice.org has a quite well-rounded feature set.”

However, Devanshu thinks that the reliance on X11 for OpenOffice.org for OS X is a serious drawback and recommends NeoOffice, the port created by Patrick Luby and Edward Peterlin using Cocoa for a native look and better integration.