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Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Office Applications

Conclusion

Let's take a quick look back at the top picks from our roundup.

As far as Office Suites go, OpenOffice.org provides the best collection of applications. Writer, Impress, and Base are the closest thing to their MS Office counterparts available. Calc is a fine application as well, though GNUmeric is slicker and slightly better suited to open Excel files. Dia, from GNOME Office, is a powerful and fluid diagram creator. Scribus is essentially the only name in FOSS desktop publishing. KOffice has the Calendar, Address Book, and Project Management categories pretty well locked down with KOrganizer, KAddressBook, and KPlato (respectively). KDE also has the top-notch personal finance applications, KMyMoney and Skrooge, to replace Quicken. Note that GNOME Office's GNUCash is the only viable QuickBooks-class option for small business finances.

I can't argue with those who say that Microsoft Word has features that open source word processors do not. However, the last time I used MS Office was back when the 2003 release was out. That version had a million different features, and I only ever really used about 50 of them. I have to imagine that most folks are in the same situation, and it just so happens that OO.o Writer, AbiWord, and KWord also have the features I most commonly need.

If you're hesitant to switch to Linux because of an open source program not living up to the proprietary standard, check out the Windows version first. I wrote part of this article using AbiWord, instead of my usual OpenOffice.org Writer. Do I like it better than Writer? For some things I do (readability), and some I don't (default file type), but I don't really care that much; they both do the job.

You have to be honest with yourself and think about the specific capabilities you actually demand from a productivity-oriented title. I'm betting that, for most people, those features are all relatively basic and available in most competing office products. Let's face it. Office apps aren't sexy. Nothing new or ground-breakingly innovative has happened to office applications since the spell checker. MS Office has this strangehold on productivity applications because that's what we all used on our last computer, and the one before that, too. But what value has MS Office really added in the past decade?

The fact is, FOSS software can be a game changer. I have personally saved thousands of dollars using free alternatives to proprietary software. The only way to find out if you too can save some cash is to try these apps out for yourself. Click through some of the links and get downloading. The next time you are going to write a letter, use OO.o Writer instead of MS Word. Try GNUmeric instead of Excel for a small budget, or use Scribus to create your own business cards.

  • ksa-_-jed
    And don't bother looking for any anti-virus becuase you don't need it or cracks for your software becuase almost all app are free !!!!!!!
    Reply
  • DjEaZy
    ... for my laptop @ work the only licensed thing are win7hp and KAV... all other apps are free... infrerecorder, inkskape, OOo and so on...
    Reply
  • bloody llama
    Open Office and the other open source software are great for what they are, but try replacing Access 2007 or 2010 with something open source, and you'll be tearing your hair out.
    Reply
  • jsowoc
    I assume that OO 3.0.1 is what you have in the repositories - was that the reason for testing the older version (version 3.2 came out two months ago)?
    Reply
  • JonathanDeane
    bloody llamaOpen Office and the other open source software are great for what they are, but try replacing Access 2007 or 2010 with something open source, and you'll be tearing your hair out.
    This is very true, I love Open Office and for my home use it does 100% of what I would use MS Office for, that being said if I had to run a business on it I am afraid it would be worth it to pony up the dough for an MS product.
    Reply
  • ejmarkow
    Tom's Hardware omitted the best performing, most comprehensive, free and Open Source Accounting ERP software available for download. It's called "xTuple ERP PostBooks Edition" and utilizes PostgreSQL. This software is capable of running anything from a small to large business. Link: http://www.xtuple.org
    Reply
  • killerclick
    We installed Linux and OOo into one of our offices (sort of an experiment to cut costs) and it was a riot. Not that Linux and OOo are bad, it's just that the power of habit is too strong to break when Windows and Linux are concerned. Windows and OS/X... not so much apparently.
    Reply
  • Open Source is the future. ...... companies that profit millions or billions off of proprietary software. They are what hold us back.
    Reply
  • randomizer
    killerclickWindows and OS/X... not so much apparently.Well it's not like Office on Windows and Mac are vastly different, I'd hope that users would feel comfortable using the exact same software...

    I must attest to the uselessness of OOo Calc though. It needs a ground-up rewrite. It's slow to load and process even a small to moderately sized amount of data and charts are slow to redraw when altered. I have not tested GNUMeric enough to comment on that but it's supposedly alot faster.

    I'm interested in looking at those project management programs. There's also OpenProj to add to the list.
    Reply
  • haplo602
    hmm ... not my area of software, I try to avoid office apps as much as I can, but last time I worked in Writer/Calc it was slow and unresponsive. The best thing in Writer was the TeX like equation editor, way better than what MS had to offer. I think they made some progress on OOo since that time, so I'd have to test.
    Reply