Up until now, whenever I've tried open-source Word clones with my books, they've collapsed to the floor, babbling and drooling.
Admittedly, a book is about the most challenging thing I can throw at it, so maybe it's not fair for those who are just typing a memo or letter or report now and then. But for me, it's not even worth thinking about getting cozy with a product unless it can deal with a book. In fact, I had kind of given up on ever seeing an open-source tool that could do it.
In addition, there's the challenge of converting from Word. My books are Word documents, formatted for camera-ready output. Previous versions of OpenOffice were the only things I had experienced that could even open one of my book documents without crashing, but the formatting was always trashed by the time they were done.
So I naturally assumed that OpenOffice 2.0 was going to be a similar experience, and I was rather amazed when it wasn't. It opened Thinking in Java, fourth edition and the formatting was nearly perfect. It appears that there were tiny things here and there, but at this point my assumption is that, if you are creating documents in OpenOffice 2.0 and working all the time with it, you'd probably be able to deal with those. It even seemed to handle the indexing and table of contents OK.
Another interesting result was the size of the document. The Word document is almost 10 MB, whereas the native OpenOffice format is 1.6 MB.
I tried outputting to PDF, and there were a few bumps here and there -- again, I assume that if you were working with it all the time you'd be able to sort those out. And it was much faster to output to PDF than Adobe Acrobat (although I didn't see some of the features that I need, such as being able to adjust for press quality; they may be there, I didn't look very hard).
I tried to look at the macros, because I use macros a lot in book development, and it wasn't clear that they had come through successfully with the book. However, the ability to write macros in Python, which OpenOffice supports, might just compensate for the loss of the VBA macros. (I actually use Python-COM whenever I can for Word document manipulation, which is usually a superior substitute for VBA).
Unfortunately, OpenOffice 2.0 failed when I tried to save the book in DocBook format. It didn't crash, just tried for awhile and then told me it couldn't do it. One of the appealing possibilities for book development is to be able to write Python programs to manipulate the document in XML, so this was a little disappointing. I suspect that it would be successful with less-complex documents, but I hope that they can fix this issue.
Before you point out that, finally, I should be able to switch to the Mac and have one of those lovely instant-on, instant off laptops (and the thought certainly crossed my mind), it appears that the UML diagramming tool of choice is Enterprise Architect, which as far as I know only runs on Windows boxes. Oh well.
So I think they've passed a milestone, at least according to my tests. If it can at least haul itself through my hoops, then it should be ready for normal use by the vast majority of users. Congratulations to the OpenOffice team!
PS: The "Impress" PowerPoint clone also seems to have improved, although the one feature that I had hoped for more with -- the export to Flash SWF files -- doesn't seem to have changed from the previous version. In particular, when I put Media Player objects into the slides, these didn't export to SWF in a way that they would actually play the sound. I think fixing this would be a great contribution, because then you could capture the slides and audio of a presentation and distribute it in Flash format so people could easily view it.
PPS: they have some kind of bug in their file browser; especially when you go to "My Computer" it can slow down and hang.
If you care enough about future OpenOffice developent, I think you should send them bug reports on all issues, with your original TIJ doc file as a test case. I bet (and hope) they'll be happy to make it work.
> > OO2 saves it's document in Open Document format, which > > already is XML. It is just combined into a zipfile. So > > there should be no problem programming against it... > > You're right. I was able to successfully open it using > Winzip. It also appears to organize the files in the zip > file in a sensible fashion. Looks like there are some > possibilities there. Well the whole organisation and all is the one that comes from the OASIS Consortium.
I'd suggest the same thing as Noam as far as rendering goes: log into OpenOffice's bugtracker and submit TIJ's original Word document (with a list of the most obvious glitches you noticed), the more documents they have the best assumptions they can make about what goes wrong with their import/export.
I have submitted bugs, ironically one about PDF in version 2 that was OK in version 1.1.3, and they do take a look at the problem. So it is definitely worth helping them out with bug reports.
I generally like open office, it has a particularly good drawing package and math editor. It has on occassions been able to really help me, e.g. once a document crashed when I was using word and word couldn't recover the document. It was worse than simply loosing the document because word wouldn't start up at all, since it tried to recover from the crash and then crashed again. However I was able to recover the document with OO and save it again and then delete the corrupted version that stopped word crashing. This was great, particularly since the document in question was very important - it was my promotion case for work!
> > OO2 saves it's document in Open Document format, which > > already is XML. It is just combined into a zipfile. So > > there should be no problem programming against it... > > You're right. I was able to successfully open it using > Winzip. It also appears to organize the files in the zip > file in a sensible fashion. Looks like there are some > possibilities there.
you can probably use the zipfile module of the Python standard library to access the files. After that a XML tool (sax, dom, elementree) can parse the files.
For sofware design stuff, Enterprise Architect keeps coming up again and again as the tool that everyone seems to be using. And as far as I know it is Windows-centric. Although if you are still running on Windows that should be fine.
> As you can see, I have found some good options, except in > the area of software design, mainly in ERD and UML tools. > > Do you have any suggestions?
I must admit I haven't tried it on windows, but I've used dia (http://www.gnome.org/projects/dia/) fairly successfully for UML diagrams. I think it has support for ERDs as well - but I haven't tried it. There's a windows installer on the website, so it's probably worth giving it a try.
I agree that it would be great to be able to export an Impress presentation in Flash format and include sound. As a long time Powerpoint user I was blown away by the ease of use of Impress. Unfortunately, until more of my clients are able to view Impress files I have to convert to Powerpoint or Flash before I can effectively distribute them and I loose many of the great features in the conversion.
> I am trying to make the switch from MS tools, to Open > Source. Here is my list of "Switches" > > IDE: Visual Studio -> Eclipse > Office: MSOffice -> Open Office > ERDs: Visio -> ??? Suggestions? > Diagrams: Visio ->Open Office > UML: Visio -> ??? Suggestions? > > As you can see, I have found some good options, except in > the area of software design, mainly in ERD and UML tools. > > Do you have any suggestions? > > --Bill
Bruce, if you do switch to OS X (and it is my platform of choice, so I heartily recommend it) there are a couple of issues. OpenOffice on the Mac comes in two flavours: The standard unix flavour which runs under X and doesn't have the look and feel of a standard Mac application, or the Java-based NeoOffice which integrates much better into OS X. Neither option supports OOo 2.0 yet, as far as I know, but NeoOffice provides a much better experience.
On the UML front, OS X users can run OmniGraffle, which is the best drawing program of its type (being in the Visio/Dia category of technical drawing) on any platform anywhere. And OmniGraffle can export to a wide variety of formats, several of which you can then use in OpenOffice.
Finally, OpenOffice can be scripted from external python programs using PyUno, as well as using Python for internal macros.