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Giving up on Open Office ... again 
10th-Jul-2008 04:39 pm
A few years ago I looked at Open Office ... both the "word clone" and the "excel clone" and it was completely unusable.

More recently I decided that if I BELIEVE in using non MS products, and/or I wanted to run legal copies of software on all of my computers without spending a mint, I should give it a go again -- and people told me it was a LOT better.

I had a new application for an excel-like product, and resolved to use OO.

They were right. It is much better than it was the first time I used it. It's up to ... almost Excel 2 from about 1998 now. (Faint praise. Excel 2 is the product about which I said, "There are things that VISICALC does that I have to jump through hoops to do in this.")

I'll grant you I have an "older" computer now... I think it's about 5 years old, only has a gig of RAM... something like that. When I got it it was the fastest puter in the house.

When it took about 2 minutes to open the document I gritted my teeth and persevered.

When it randomly would do what I'm assuming is "autosave" which would give me the hourglass for at least 2 minutes, and then give me another 90 seconds of being completely unresponsive I found other things to do in other products on the computer -- which didn't involve doing anything other than looking at the picture on the screen, because it took the whole computer down when it was doing this. I could usually get it to maximize something else within about 30 seconds.

I finally killed Boinc, and things got better. But better meant 2 minutes of saving and 45 seconds of being unresponsive.

When I actually saved the document, same thing -- I'd be pretty much out of the water for several minutes. I hate to say it, but I've NEVER had this much grief with Excel.

One of the dozen sheets in this workbook is quite large, but still.

When I started saying "I'd rather pay $250 for a new version of Excel than continue to use this" I realized that my experiment was drawing to a close. And I'd failed again. I had a legal version of Excel (v. 97 I think) on that machine, so I tried to use the ability within OO of saving as an Excel document. Perhaps I should say the alleged ability, because while I tried twice, once walking away for 1/2 hour (this time I got 3 boxes on the progress bar) and once about an hour (this time I got only one box) nothing ever came of these attempts.

So I used my friend cut-and-paste. Which lost all the formatting. But there was only one sheet where that mattered, and it had fewer than 300 lines. The huge sheet took a few hours to copy/paste the whole thing; it really was big, and I felt the need to cut it up into smaller pieces so that I could see results within 5 minutes. Many many many smaller pieces.

I'm quite disappointed, but, you know, time is precious. And while this document takes a HUGELY long time to save within Excel as well, I guess I'll sell my soul to get some extra time. How much time does Excel take? About 7 seconds.
10th-Jul-2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
Just hit me up in 6-8 weeks if you want a legal copy of MS office at employee pricing. I think it's $50 for the whole thing.

Not sure if you want it for a 5 yr old computer, though!
11th-Jul-2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks! When next I need a new computer I may take you up on that.

I'm currently happy with my Office '97, and the thing with my laptop is it's dual-boot and I have a Linux partition -- and somehow I don't expect I'll be able to get an MS Office to work on that. ;-)
10th-Jul-2008 09:46 pm (UTC)
I'd recommend getting Office 2003 if you have a choice. Maybe I'm just a curmudgeon, but I can't stand the new version.
Of course, they can't pay me enough to run Vista either. Every person in our group that's running Vista has wasted between 2 hours and a full day trying to get it to do things that XP does without noticing, just in the last couple of weeks that I've been talking with people about it, and they've already been running it for several months.

Honestly, I'd sooner run Win98 than Vista, and that's saying something, I hate that thing. Windows 2000 was about the pinnacle of MS OS engineering IMHO. I'd still be running it except my Creative MP3 player requires XP; I'm sure I could make it run anyway (it probably just wants Media Player 11 for its PC player, which I never use anyway) but I don't have time to screw with it.
11th-Jul-2008 02:09 pm (UTC)
Still have a legal '97 on that computer, but I really wanted to use/like OO.

I use the new version of Office at work, and while it did take some getting used to, I don't mind it. Except for the macro-disabling.

Blessedly I've not yet been exposed to Vista, but I don't know how long that'll last.
14th-Jul-2008 02:36 pm (UTC) - Office 2007, NOT!
The USAF has gone to Office 2007. I have to agreed with you on the new version. Nothing works the same. It is costing us hours in lost productivity. (As a Reservist, we have precious few hours to begin with.)

In addition to being extremely inefficient, the visual noise takes up significant screen real estate (something else there is never enough of).
10th-Jul-2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
I'm using the current version of OO on my new home PC and I'm not having any issues with it.* That said, I suspect you use a lot of features that I don't bother with. That and this is a nice new machine with a quad core proc and 4GB of ram, which is a tad bit of overkill for any office app.

I still have a copy of Office 2003 installed on my old PC (hanging off a KVM), but I'm trying not to use it any more than I have to. Say what you will about MS, Excel is still the standard by which to judge a spreadsheet. I'm not an Excel power user by any stretch, but I still find myself digging, thinking "Okay, this is trivial in Excel, I'm sure there's a way to do it in OO."

The save to MS Office feature seems to work fine for me. I'm not sure why you're having problems.

10th-Jul-2008 11:52 pm (UTC)
Heh, a few weeks ago I tried to use Excel, and I found myself thinking "OK, this is trivial in Open Office, how the hell do you do it in Excel?"

It's all what you're used to.
11th-Jul-2008 10:48 am (UTC)
Good point.
11th-Jul-2008 02:24 pm (UTC)
It's probably because one of my worksheets is HUGE. Currently it has about 60K rows and... maybe 100 columns. Before I populated that spreadsheet in Excel it took under 2 seconds for Excel to save it.

And one thing I do ALL THE TIME (insert-paste, shifting rows down) In Excel is NOT trivial in OO. It's not even possible. Clark found a note "We've disabled that because there's a bug". I think that was dated 2006. I was confused because sometimes (and I haven't yet figured out under what circumstances) it's not disabled...

There are some things I like better about OO, but overall it's been annoying.
10th-Jul-2008 11:50 pm (UTC)
I should probably chime in that I have used OO for quite a while and haven't had a single problem with it. That said, my documents and spreadsheets are relatively trivial, and I don't work directly with Word and Excel files, I use native files.

The MS converters are slow; if you save in native format it's pretty quick.

I've never had Word or Excel do very well preserving formatting on pastes either. And, I've gotten word docs from other people in other versions of Word where the formatting was completely borked when I loaded it into Word, but OO did pretty well with it; it read Word files better than Word.
11th-Jul-2008 02:27 pm (UTC)
Fair enough.

This current document I created in OO, so it was completely native.

I'll probably keep it around to use as a translator between different programs or versions (my office is pretty old) but it was just too painful to utilize for this particular application.
11th-Jul-2008 02:07 am (UTC)
If you were talking Linux/X, I'd suggest Koffice. It was fairly reasonable when I was playing with it.
11th-Jul-2008 02:30 pm (UTC)
Heh. Good to know there are options even within Linux. I was figuring to use OO on my dual-boot laptop -- on both partitions.

I suppose it's possible that under Linux it'll just fly, and this was a case of the OS fighting/defeating the program.
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