Virginia from AR asks:

Is Open Office a different program than Office 2010?

Several differences, actually.

In this corner… the reigning “champeen”; the Office program used by… well… almost everyone.  Weighing in at 94 to 313 pounds (that’s 150 to 500 U S dollars)… OFFICE 2010!

In this corner… the scrappy young challenger… weighing in at 0 pounds (that’s FREE in U S Dollars)… it’s OPEN OFFICE!

Open Office is a Microsoft Office compatible office program put out by Oracle, the people who brought you Java.  The best selling point as I mentioned above is that Open Office is absolutely free.  The programs in the suite are Open Office Base (compatible with Microsoft Access, only included in the $500 Office Professional or as a stand-alone program for $140), Calc (compatible with Excel, included in all versions of Office), Draw (compatible with Paint, included with all versions of Windows), Impress (compatible with Power Point, included in all versions of Office), Math (an advanced version of the calculator included with all versions of Windows) and Writer (compatible with Word, included with all versions of Office).  I’ll use Writer and Word as my examples here since, as a freelance writer, I am the most familiar with those programs.

A document created in Writer can be saved as everything from an Open Office Writer document (.ODT) to Microsoft Word 2003 XML document (.XML).

A Microsoft Office document, on the other hand, gives you a few more options for saving, including several web page options and Adobe PDF.

Another big difference, at least as far as I’m concerned, is the interface.  I, for one, staunchly refused to upgrade my Office suite from Office 2003 until this year.  Why?  Because with Office 2007 Microsoft introduced an “upgrade” to their program called the “Ribbon Interface”.  This replaced their long-standing and easy to use “menu interface” with something that, as near as I can tell, was designed entirely by programmers and focus groups without consulting with a single user.

Now, I WILL admit that, having used the “ribbon” interface for nearly six months… I still see no real advantage over the menu interface, and still get frustrated trying to find things that I’ve known how to find for ten years.  It’s a little like getting a new roommate who immediately decides that they have to “organize” your apartment.  Whether you want them to or not.

This is a definite advantage of Open Office over Office.  They have not, as of yet, adopted the “ribbon” interface, and maintain the good old-fashioned menu interface that we all know and love.

So those are the high points.  For price and ease of use, I give it to Open Office.  For power and versatility I still have to go with good old Microsoft Office.

Hope this helps.

~Randal Schaffer