Why Do We Use Microsoft Office When Open Office Is Free?

So I’m surfing the Internet when I run across an article that catches my eye, in which the author is asking why we continue to use Microsoft Office when Open Office is free.  Hmm…………….interesting. So I think about myself and what I use. You guessed it. I’m a Microsoft Office slave. But the question is why?

First I have tried Open Office and found it, for a lack of a better description, lacking. Not because Open Office is not a good software product. Overall it is. But Microsoft Office is an extremely polished software product. It is like comparing a Lexus to a Toyota. Both cars will get you where you want to go, it is just that the Lexus will get you there in a more comfortable environment. If that makes any sense at all.

According to the article, is states:

Most folks see data formats as an inside-baseball issue, because they work in all-Microsoft organizations where incompatibilities are rare. The only hangup, in that case, comes when Microsoft releases new software (Office 2007 being the latest example). Invariably, the data format’s been upgraded as well.

The new software reads your old files, but your old software can’t read the new files. There are workarounds, but the only sensible thing is for an organization to upgrade all at once. And an organization can’t wait too long to upgrade if it has to share files with other entities that have upgraded.

As for competitive software, it fares even worse, because Microsoft doesn’t release the details of its proprietary data formats to the developers of programs like OpenOffice. If the developers want their wares to read Microsoft files, they have to reverse-engineer the format.

This works to varying degrees. Simple word processing documents translate pretty well. Complex spreadsheets, with macros and formulas, may not translate at all or contain errors that aren’t obvious. About the time the competition has figured out all the ins and outs of translation, surprise, it’s time for another format upgrade.

So here is a question for you. Have you switched to Open Office? If so, how is it working for you.

Comments welcome.


Article Written by

I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

  • Ryan

    Well, Microsoft bribed their way through the ISO and made an incomprehensible, non-implementable format (OOXML) a “standard”, and I have to mention that not even Microsoft Office implements it correctly…

    So basically they made the ISO irrelevant going forward, because they’re apparently up for sale, and locked everyone into Microsoft Office under the guise of an “open standard”.

    Open Office is a better suite than Microsoft Office, but Microsoft as usual is trying to be incompatible, you can get an ODF plug-in from Sun Microsystems that gives Office 2007 read/save ODF functionality.

    Aside from that, Microsoft still had to support their old formats, which are well implemented in Open Office, so you can always fall back to doc files and such if you really can’t get them to stop using Microsoft’s programs, that will be the stopgap until Open Office fully supports OOXML (the beginnings of that are in the 3.0 alpha builds).

  • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/digged/ Matt McCarty

    I have tried several times, and guess what I switched to? Pages from iWork on the Mac. This is due to the fact that I am a GUI nut and if it looks good I will use it. This goes for all of the open software, I find most of it be just ugly and unusable.

    Now there are exceptions on OS X like Camtwist and Transmission.

  • Tom Maddox

    “It is like comparing a Lexus to a Toyota. Both cars will get you where you want to go, it is just that the Lexus will get you there in a more comfortable environment. If that makes any sense at all.”

    If Toyotas were free, I’d have a few. And I’d never think of buying a Lexus. So you might want to rethink your argument here.

  • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/nexus/blade/ Ron Schenone

    Thanks for the comments.

    I wasn’t comparing price, I was comparing features. MS Office has more features at a cost. :-)

  • leftystrat

    It’s going well wherever I’ve deployed it.

    The only things that keep it from catching on are fear of the new and the 1% who require a certain feature.

    OO can be used without retraining, which is more than I can say for the bloated Office 2007.

    Personally I prefer Abiword and Gnumeric – they’re also cross platform.

  • http://jackwilliambell.livejournal.com Jack William Bell

    As part of my general moving away from Microsoft (I became a Mac convert last January) I have switched to NeoOffice, which is the native Mac version of OpenOffice (doesn’t require X11). I find it does everything I need and, quite honestly, I think the UI is easier to use for common functions than MS Office.

  • http://www.baldguyweb.com/blog Ron Enderland

    “whoa”, an appropriate captcha for the discussion on the benefits of M$ Office’s bells and whistles.

    I use office apps for composing letters, columns, simple databases, and bills. OO does all of that an more.

    M$ Office is covered with glitz, flashing lights, and other overhead that causes it to use many more megabytes of RAM and lots more processor power. Plus, you are constantly monitored via WGA, instantly suspected of being a pirate if the Big-Brother-ware senses any anomalies.

    Keep buying Office, lemmings, and think about its tangible and intangible costs as you leap from the cliff’s edge…

  • Anna McCullough

    Oddly enough, I use Excel heavily and have found OO to open and resave my Excel spreadsheets perfectly, formulae and macros intact. It’s the Word docs that give me trouble – OO cannot open the simplest word doc correctly, unless it consists of just plain text with zero formatting. If I’ve a photo or a graph inserted, the positioning’s all wrong and forget it if I’ve captioned the insert. As a result we can’t use OO at work – we HAVE to use Office (and we’ve just upgraded to Office 2007) since that’s what people use to send us THEIR documents. I HAVE OO installed on my personal machines – but my main home system has Office 2000 also.

    I don’t use PowerPoint or Access so I can’t speak to the conversion between the Office and OO versions of those programs.

    I’ll agree on one point – given what I see with Microsoft’s new 2007 Office interface, OO is FAR easier to use – much more reminiscent of the older Office setups. I loathe the new UI of Office 2007. I want my options back where I’m used to finding them, rather than hunting through all these damned tabs to find the things I’m used to using – !

  • http://www.benched42.net/ BillH

    I’ve been using OpenOffice since its beta years and have yet to be disappointed. In fact, we have large spreadsheets at work that are basically log files used in our warehouses that get corrupted; when opening in Excel, MS Office crashes and the file never opens. The Microsoft solution is to restore an older version of the spreadsheet from tape backup. I’ve opened the same spreadsheet in OpenOffice and saved it back in Excel format and it works fine again.

    At work, we are a Microsoft shop. At home, I have Windows as the ONLY Microsoft product that I use on my PC. It’s been OpenOffice (StarOffice before that) on my PC at home.

  • E2001

    Because MS Office is a SUPPORTED product. Most are afraid that as soon as they build their businesses up on top of “generally compatible open-source” software, the “compatibility” aspect will be upgraded and/or litigated out of existence. Whereas the name-brand product will always have the major company support (FWIW).

  • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/nexus/blade/ Ron Schenone

    Once again, thanks to all of you for sharing you thoughts. Your comments are appreciated.

    Regards, Ron

  • Pete

    Enjoying the banter.One question,why does no one mention
    Go-OO the better OO.org
    See here http://go-oo.org/

  • crunchygeek

    As Anna mentioned, we are forced to use M$ Office at work. It’s a government network, and the powers that be have mandated it will effectively be totally a MS shop; that way it’s less for them to “manage”.

  • Mark Hill

    I’ve deployed OO for most of my users here for years, and it’s been great. PowerPoint compatibility has been good enough for me that I actually used OO to repair a document created in PowerPoint that PowerPoint itself could no longer format correctly.

    Calc has been a fine alternative to Excel, though I prefer Excel’s VBA, and I still do my graphing in Excel. I wrote a label formatting printing program in OO Calc’s equivalent of VBA partly as a learning excercise and found it much more difficult to use and hardly documented at all.

    We don’t do heavy duty Word formatting,so I can’t comment other than to say that in my experience, neither does Microsoft. Every time I see a complex document like a user manual with table of contents, index, etc. written in Word I am amazed at the patience that must have been required to work around all Word’s bugs. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

  • Ray

    Used both, feel like the Lexus/Toyota thing about them.

    Good results with both, but prefer MS over OO. It is the
    polishing that does it.

    In my profession we have a couple programs that are used
    interchangably throughout the country. One is Medical
    Priority EMD and the other is APCO EMD. Medical Priority is
    like driving a Rolls Royce and APCO EMD is like driving a
    Volkswagen, both will get you where you want to go but one
    is much more comfortable getting you there although neither
    one skimps on the really important stuff that can save your
    life or kill you.

  • http://www.kingsoftresearch.com Steve Southern

    I looked (and tried) openoffice too. But for me and the people in our office. It just takes too long to get used to.. After this, the speed problems and bugs make it worth waiting a little longer. We bought a site license for Kingsoft Office, which in my view is the closest thing to MS I have ever used. There is no need to relearn the UI and the compatibility is amazing. Also they inform me than the forthcoming updates handle the new MS formats… For us, there is no need to go back to Microsoft expensive. Bliss!

  • yeti

    i think it is unfair to compare two products when one is free and other is not. now lets think for a minute that both product are having same cost or both are free.

    OO3.2.1 VS Microsoft 2007
    i personally think the above said can’t be done. a rather better starting point will be
    OO3.2.1 VS Office 2003
    so what is new here in OO3.2.1 they got it easy to copy on type of software with almost same tools and programming.
    Office 2007 -2010 are beautiful product in terms of output. i dont care interoperability, i care my document should look world class and then i export as pdf and bingo..
    so i feel those who don’t want to shell out money or can’t afford to can keep using OO (which is again not a bad software given it is free , hmm now i am biased).
    simply puting it anything for free does have a substantial benefit, but tell me on a clear conscience, would OO possible when the first version of Office came. it is possible today, when you have a big community to participate and money coming from donors like oracle and a easy way go…