Applications – Office

One of the best things about the Ubuntu distro is that it comes with a multitude of bundled applications.  Not the least useful of the software products that are included is the OpenOffice suite of programs that includes a word processor and a spreadsheet application.  To some extent OpenOffice can be considered to be the open-source equivalent of – gasp! – Microsoft Office.

By default, the options available under this tab are:

1. Dictionary

2. Evolution Mail and Calendar

3. OpenOffice.org Presentation

4. OpenOffice.org Spreadsheet

5. OpenOffice.org Word Processor

We can eliminate consideration of the first two items almost immediately. Dictionary, as the name implies, provides access to an electronic dictionary and, since (a) I have a hard copy of The Concise Oxford Dictionary on a shelf adjacent to my computer, and (b) spell-checking is built into both my word processor and E-mail client, I really have no need of another dictionary. In addition, we have already discussed the switch from Evolution to Thunderbird as my default E-mail client, so this too is surplus to requirements.

The next three options are all components of the OpenOffice.org suite of office applications that provide similar features to the Microsoft Office suite. OpenOffice.org’s word processor (Writer) is more-or-less equivalent to MS Word; the spreadsheet (Calc) to MS Excel, and the presentation manager (Impress) to MS PowerPoint. Also installed, but not included on the direct-access menu, are Base (database manager) and Draw (drawing application) from the OpenOffice suite. Base is equivalent to MS Access, while Draw has no direct equivalent in MS Office.

The OpenOffice programs are very similar to their MS equivalents (some would say they are “clones”); however, there are certain differences, some of which are insurmountable if 100% compatibility is required between the two office suites.

By default, OpenOffice uses the open-document format, so that word processing files are stored as open document text (.odt) files, spreadsheets as open document spreadsheets (.ods), and presentations as open document presentation (.odp) files. However, the relevant OpenOffice modules are also able to read/write the .doc (.docx), .xls (.xlsx), and .ppt (.pptx) files that are the default file formats used by the Microsoft Office products. Similarly, Microsoft has provided support for open document format files starting with Office 2007 SP2. However, the specific file formatting is not always preserved identically when moving between the two suites, particularly when “complex” formatting such as tables and boxed items are in use. Also, Microsoft and OpenOffice use different macro programming systems so macros contained in a given file may well not function in the other package.

Nevertheless, for most users, the inter-suite compatibility is quite sufficient and, certainly, the price of the (free!) OpenOffice software provides no barrier to a trial and its potential continued use.

I have used the OpenOffice suite of programs for many years, both under Windows and Linux (since the suite is available for both platforms). However, recently, OpenOffice.org was taken over by Oracle Corporation due to its purchase of Sun Microsystems. This resulted in a fork in the open-source code used for OpenOffice with a group of users (developers) spinning off a product named LibreOffice (http://www.libreoffice.org/), that is managed by the The Document Foundation (http://www.documentfoundation.org/).

LibreOffice started out with precisely the same code as OpenOffice. However, LibreOffice has been upgraded as a faster pace than OpenOffice such that the expanded features of the newer package, in addition to it being somewhat “freer” (of corporate bonds), perhaps make it a more attractive proposition as the office suite of choice. In consequence, I decided to uninstall the OpenOffice suite and replace it with LibreOffice.

This wasn’t difficult. An entry in the Ubuntu Software Centre provided a means to install LibreOffice and, as part of this process, OpenOffice was uninstalled. The result was that my Applications – Office menu now contained entries for: LibreOffice, LibreOffice Calc, LibreOffice Draw, LibreOffice Impress, LibreOffice Math, and LibreOffice Writer. The initial “LibreOffice” option provided a general menu with options to launch any of the individual OpenOffice modules. And, as you might guess, LibreOffice Math is a module that allows the development of scientific formulae and equations.

Once again, my desire for a cleaner menu lead me to eliminate the LibreOffice, LibreOffice Draw, and LibreOffice Math options. This was achieved by navigating to System – Preferences – Main Menu – Office and unchecking the relevant items. At the same time, I took the opportunity to rearrange the order of the options displayed as Writer, Calc, and Impress, which is the most likely manner of their usage, by using the Move up and Move down buttons with one of the menu options highlighted.

So, the bottom line is that I now have direct access to LibreOffice Writer as my word processor, Calc as my spreadsheet program, and Impress as my presentation manager under the Applications – Office menu.

References:

Another Day at the Office (Review of OpenOffice 2.0)
http://opcug.ca/public/Reviews/openoffice20.htm

Open office dilemma: OpenOffice.org vs. LibreOffice
http://www.infoworld.com/d/applications/open-office-dilemma-openofficeorg-vs-libreoffice-716

LibreOffice vs. OpenOffice.org: Showdown for Best Open Source Office Suite
http://olex.openlogic.com/wazi/2011/libreoffice-vs-openoffice-org-showdown-for-best-open-source-office-suite/

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