The Case for Switching
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The purpose of this page is to provide a place for me (and, presumably others) to store and develop arguments for switching to OpenOffice.org, as well as rebuttals to common counter-arguments. This will serve as a necessary "training ground" for those who want to promote OpenOffice.org to their family, friends, and most importantly, the organizations that they work with and for.
This page will act as a source for such arguments. Eventually, I'd like to see it made into a video-style presentation that can be included in OOo CDs, to help convince people who are still weary of installing it.
I was hoping that something already existed, but can't find anything that is in Wiki format, which is necessary for collaboration. My personal plan is to get my university to switch, and the better prepared I am when I start, the easier it will be. Hopefully, I won't have to do it all on my own! --RealGrouchy 20:54, 19 February 2006 (CET)
The primary sources I will be using are this forum topic that I started on oooforum.org, and the book The Success of Open Source, by Steven Weber (which, ironically enough, is copyrighted). Feel free to add others, but remember to cite sources: not only for the legal/moral reasons, but also so that we can develop a decent bibliography.
Note that I am assuming existing use of and dependence on MS Office, and perhaps other things which I'll add.
Reliability of format
The Open Document Format is a freely-available and published format. This means that anybody can produce software that saves in this format and opens in this format. Many proprietary formats are not open, meaning that any attempt by another program to open the document is at best a shot in the dark. There's no ensuring that programs not supported by Microsoft (for example) will be able to open, display, and save Microsoft-format documents with 100% reliability.
With Open Document Format, programmers have precise specifications on how to save a document to make it look a certain way.
- You don't have to purchase software when Microsoft stops supporting the current format (as it did with Office 95--citation needed).
- Open formatting is akin to a free market--the consumer gets to choose which software works best for them, at the lowest price.
- Open Document Formats mean that software will be available in the future to open your archived documents; you don't have to go digging for that ten-year-old program diskette.
- OpenOffice.org is available for free download from the OpenOffice.org website.
- OpenOffice.org is available on CD for reasonable prices anywhere around the world. Check this list for a retailer near you.
- OpenOffice.org can be used on as many computers as you'd like.
The Same Program on Different Operating Systems
- OpenOffice.org works on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris, FreeBSD, and many other operating systems. This allows users to have the same office suite, with the same interface, same format, and same features, on whatever computer they are using (provided they are using the same release on each computer).
Microsoft's marketing strategy
As a private company, Microsoft must work in its shareholders' best interests. This means ensuring that not only are its programs the standard, but also that people will have to continue purchasing software and services from Microsoft.
Microsoft has admitted(citation needed) to lowering prices in areas where its software may not be accepted at full price. Microsoft also gives free or special-rate prices to institutions such as universities, governments, and others(citation needed).
Implication: Microsoft must continuously change its software to stay profitable
With each changes that arises, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are subjected to the mercy of price hikes and increases of the company in every subsequent update. To ensure that their documents standards are formats are fully-compatible with their clients, SMEs do not have much of an alternative choice except to opt for Microsoft Officea as an alternative.
Implication: Institution gets deal, its members pay full price
By using software such as Microsoft Office or Corel WordPerfect Office, the institution that gets a discount on the software creates a standard for its members (employees, students, clients, etc.). When members then get computers at home, they are not privy to the discounts that the institution gets. In some cases, "Student/Teacher" versions are available, but still at a high price(citation needed).
Counterargument: But I can get a free pirated copy
Some people say they can get a pirated copy of MS Office for "free". However, not everybody has that option, and not everybody wants to use illegal software. Use of pirated software also creates a liability for the organization (see below). Furthermore, pirated software often cannot be upgraded to protect the user's computer from security flaws (see argument on security below somewhere).
Microsoft has been tightening the security on its Windows operating system to prevent the installation of pirated software, so this may not always be an option. In fact, your computer may one day deny you access to your pirated software, and you'll be stuck. Better to avoid that risk altogether and use free software.
Implication: Potential Liability to Institution
By using Microsoft format as a standard, institutions run the risk of their employees using pirated copies of software at home to create documents for work. Currently, 40% of Microsoft Office installations are pirated(citation needed--it is MSO and not XP, right?). Although mass lawsuits would raise awareness of this issue and potentially harm Microsoft's market share, Microsoft must still ensure that its software is profitable. Therefore, there is still a risk that your organization can get sued. In fact, Microsoft has launched initiatives to encourage employees to report on the use of pirated software by their companies. Employees who report will be paid a sum of money. By instituting an Open standard for document formats, this risk is elminated.
Counterargument: I'll be switching to a Macintosh
Guess what the most common office suite is on the Macintosh? Microsoft Office(citation needed)! Only, it's more expensive, and updated versions often come later than those for Windows(citation needed), because Microsoft wants you to also use its Windows Operating System.
--- Chad sez - this isn't true exactly. Yes, MS Office for Mac does usually come out a year or so after MS Office for Windows - but it's a completely different office suite. MSO 2004 for Mac is a lot better than MSO 2003 for Windows (IMHO). It has different programs (no Outlook or Access - but it has Entourage, which is Mac exclusive). The point should be, I think, that it's *different than* the version for Windows - therefore, compatibility may be an issue if you work with anyone using Windows and MSO. Whereas if you use OOo for Mac, it's 100% compatiable with OOo for Windows, OOo for Linux, and OOo for Solaris, since it all comes from the same codebase. ---
(Is this correct?): Like Microsoft Office, Apple's Operating System is also closed-source, meaning that Microsoft and Apple get to play a fun little game of cat-and-mouse to ensure that MS Office will work on OSX.
--- Chad sez - No, that's not the case either. Microsoft has signed a deal with Apple stating that they will continue to develop and produce MS Office for Mac for at least another 5 years. MS does the developing, not Apple. As stated above, it's a completely different set of programs than MSO for Windows - it's not a port. It a complete rewrite from the ground up specifically for Apple. ---
Accessibility of MS documents
Concept: in order to "reliably" read MS documents, you need MS software
If your professor has put their class notes up on the internet in PowerPoint or Word format, you need MS software to be able to read it. Most professors give students the ultimatum: either you deal with it (like by going to a school computer lab to access the files) or you simply don't access the files.
Counterargument: Ah, but you can download a free PowerPoint/Word/etc. viewer
Perhaps you can download the reader for free, but you will have to purchase a copy of Windows to install the reader on to.
But why should those who can't afford expensive software have to use a read-only version, when those who can afford it can edit the document themselves?
Counterargument: Um... why can't people just read it in OpenOffice.org?
Yes.. they can. OpenOffice.org may not provide perfect interoperability with the Microsoft Office Suite, but there are a few problems.
What can't Openoffice.org translate?
!!!Please post your experiences for each application!!!
Complex Animations and Smartmasters
Comments, Track Changes
Note: OO.o does import these features, but the "functionality" of using them (track changes, comments/annotations) is so sub-standard it may as well not exist.
Complex Scripts, Macros
Why doesn't this matter?
We're not being arrogant. Recently OASIS (the group responsible for setting standards on document formats) have set the *.odf format as being the ISO standard. As soon as Microsoft adopt this standard in their suite then all the problems listed above will disappear, as the embedded codes in MS products will be interoperable with openoffice.org and other suites. Note also, that Microsoft office formats are not published standards
Unfortunately, for the publishing author, things like Track Changes and Comments/Annotations are "supported" in OO.o. However, the developers have ignored for years the many, many threads asking for these features to be reimplemented to make them more usable, much like Microsoft Word's editions. Publishing authors needs these features to be easy and convenient, and this is the primary obstacle to using OO.o as a replacement for Word for this type of critical need.
But none of my friends read odf files?
Get different friends! Joke! OpenOffice.org also exports all its documents to pdf files with one single click. The advantages of pdf files are that nearly all computers can read them, and if they can't you can download a pdf reader for free. Pdf files are very good for sending to friends.
What if I want to send a file for editing?
If your recipient is still paying for their office suite,( I mean 'paying' *cough* *cough*,) then you can send your OpenOffice.org created document in many formats. *.doc *.xls and *.ppt are all supported with many other formats.