Monday 28 October 2002

OpenOffice rocks

In response to my question about a reasonably-priced, reliable tool for converting RTF files to XML, Dorothea Salo suggested OpenOffice. Why didn’t I think of that? Because I wasn’t aware that OpenOffice had an XML-based file format. Nick Richards, a member of the OpenOffice team, left a comment explaining that “in the stable 1.0 version it’s ZIP compressed but in the new developer builds there’s an option to save as ‘flat’ XML if you have plenty of space or a special need for it.”

So I downloaded the Windows version, verified the integrity of the download using an MD5 checksum (that was fun!), and installed OpenOffice. There were only a couple of minor glitches:

  • the attempt to import my addresses from Outlook failed because the installer assumed Outlook was my email client (I use Outlook’s calendar and contacts but rely on Eudora for mail); and
  • when I tried to open Mozilla after the installation, I couldn’t use my default profile (somehow the OpenOffice Quickstarter had taken over—uninstalling then reinstalling the Quickstarter fixed the problem).

OpenOffice is impressive: each application is fully-featured and works smoothly. I was able to open Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents in OpenOffice without any problems (though I don’t understand why the default font in Writer (word processor) and Impress (presentations) is Thorndale and that in Calc (spreadsheet) is Albany—neither of which is installed on my Windows 2000 system. (It turns out that they are part of a Windows compatible TrueType font set from AGFA Monotype.)

I have to admit to a slight degree of disappointment. I was hoping that—as well as word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications—OpenOffice would include an alternative to Microsoft’s execrable Outlook. But, to balance that omission, OpenOffice has first-rate Asian language support (enabled by clicking on a checkbox in the Language Settings dialog). I was entering Japanese text within a few minutes of opening the word processor (though I still can’t figure out how to enter vertical text—a Help page (rather unhelpfully) says Here you can define the vertical direction of the text without explaining where “here” actually is).

But I’m nitpicking. I’ve already started to make (XML) backups of my important Word and Excel documents. OpenOffice is definitely a viable alternative to Microsoft Office and for the price (nothing), it’s absolutely amazing. (There’s also a Macintosh OS X beta available.)

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Is the Mac OS X version stilla Darwin app only, or can one install it as a Carbon/Coca app? I'm itching for this; I'd rather not buy a Microsoft product if I can avoid it (even though Seabury will cover my academic-priced version of Office). But I’m not venturing into Terminal-land for a while yet.

Posted by AKMA on 28 October 2002 (Comment Permalink)

I'm not sure AKMA, though it may not be quite ready for prime time, given this explanation:

"This is a public beta and ready for day-to-day usage by the Unix-savvy user. It is still a beta and may not be 100 percent stable. It is also not a traditional Mac OS X user-friendly application. Consider yourself warned. Always back up files; always take precautions. This build is meant for the Darwin community and Unix-savvy Mac OS X user community and forming a platform for us to build the Quartz and Aqua tracks for the traditional end user."


Posted by Jonathon Delacour on 28 October 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Tnhe OSX version currently needs X Windows (it comes in the installer) so no, it's not native yet. I use it every day as my number 1 office suite and whilst X11 is a little slow it's adequate. Also for those anti-Terminal folk out there it does come with some AppleScripts to start it up. Having said all that this sin't ready for anyone who wants things to 'just work' OSX style. It doesn't integrate very nicely into the rest of the desktop yet.

More information about all things OSX Port related can be found at Within the last couple of days the volunteer porting team have got the Quartz version to build on OSX, it doesn't run properly yet but it's a big leap forward. Apple including GCC3 is Jaguar has made a big difference to the speed with which we can work.

Posted by Nick on 28 October 2002 (Comment Permalink)

I'll type the link in correctly this time Sorry.

Posted by nick on 28 October 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Well, blessings on the team; I'm all over myself to try it (if it doesn't turn up Cocoa soon, I'll probably just go ahead and try the Darwin version). Thanks for this update. . . .

Posted by AKMA on 29 October 2002 (Comment Permalink)

> I still can't figure out how to enter vertical text

format->page->page->Text direction->right to left (vertical)

Posted by caolan on 1 November 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Thanks Caolan. That did the trick.

Posted by Jonathon Delacour on 1 November 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Can I ask how you went about entering Japanese.

I've tried to get to the point where I can enter Chinese but haven't found any really useful information.



Posted by Adrian Hicks on 25 July 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Adrian, here are some links that might help you get up and running with entering Chinese characters:

Posted by Jonathon on 30 July 2003 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour