v2 Office Suite

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, January 2006
Published by:
Requires: Windows 98 through XP; Mac OS X 10.x; Linux—any recent distribution; 128MB free RAM, 300MB free hard drive space
MSRP: $69.95 is a comprehensive suite of office software consisting of a word processor (Writer), spreadsheet (Calc), presentation (Impress), drawing (Draw), and a database (Base) program. The software fully integrates import and export filters (Open, Save As, etc.) for an enormous range of Microsoft Office and WordPerfect Office files alongside equally broad compatibility with cross-platform document exchange formats including graphics files, PDF, HTML and XML. is offered as a powerful and professionally viable alternative to Microsoft Office and WordPerfect Office. In the first part of this review, I'm going to avoid mentioning that 2 is available completely free of charge because I want to focus on whether or not the software is actually worth anything in the first place. Somebody wants to take away my Microsoft Office 2003 Professional and replace it with a free, open source product? Have you lost your mind!?

Being irredeemably skeptical of all things (no matter how initially attractive a product happens to be), this review did not proceed until I had assured myself of very thorough compatibility between Open (OOo) and Microsoft Office 2000, XP & 2003 Professional and WordPerfect Office 2002 & 12 documents (DOC, XLS, PPT, MDB, WP, etc., files). What I found was that only the most complex OLE-embedded, heavily formatted Word documents containing really exotic and complex layouts mixed in with hacked XML schema would not accurately import into OOo Writer. Mind you, none of the ten high-end test documents failed to fully load and only two of them (a pair of 95 page research reports) required more than five minutes of tweaking to set right. All of the 85 other Word and WP documents (contracts, correspondence, leases, reports, business plans, novels, memos, flyers, brochures, pamphlets, etc., etc.) loaded and displayed perfectly. Imported Excel documents were another matter.

Because OOo Calc does not support multi-range array formulas or non-embeded array constants, two of the sixteen test spreadsheets were badly messed up and completely useless—formulas had to be rewritten to include reference constant values within cells. The other 40 spreadsheets loaded perfectly, with all formulas, layouts and formatting precisely intact. I tried five different PowerPoint presentations without any problems at all and half a dozen large databases of various types and applications also presented no problems. For most intents and purposes, interoffice document exchange should be flawless.

As MS Office and WP Office devotees recoil in horror at my thinly veiled suggestion to dump Microsoft Office and WordPerfect Office in favor of (shudder) something free, allow me to disclose my heretofore unassailable loyalty to Microsoft Office. Of course a careful analysis of my apparently irrational abidance will quickly reveal that I am loathe to discard anything for which I've repeatedly paid $500 (no MS Office Standard Editions for me—no sir—it's the Professional Edition or nothing). More's the fool me I suppose for having over twelve years repeatedly purchased and upgraded something, half of which invariably remains unused from one year to the next. Enterprise users, on the other hand, who have need of Outlook's calendar and some of Office's in-built workgroup and task management features can look away now because OpenOffice doesn't do those things. At the end of the day, deciding what's best for your business and personal productivity on the Windows, Mac or Linux desktop should have more to do with cost, ease of use and operational efficiency than it does with any standardized cachet associated with Microsoft or Corel office products. Obviously, MS Office and WP Office have their places. But are they really what you need for your particular business? And if they're emphatically not what you need because of cost and a stratospheric selection of features and functions that are completely useless to you, what's stopping you from downloading and installing OOo? The answer should be,"Nothing at all." It can't get any easier.

If you're suddenly wondering why the ".org" is included in the name of the software it's because (in true oddball open source fashion) that is the proper name of the office suite. It's also the name of the organization that's been formed to plan and develop And it's the URL for the software and the project web site. (the organization) is managed by a governing Community Council composed of elected members. The Community Council is advised by an Engineering Steering Committee. It is possible to donate money to the organization, but its stated need is project contribution rather than money. There you go—a well organized group comprised of people from all over the world, coming and going, working together on a central plan and product based on cogent planning. (the software) has been around in various versions since Sun Microsystems released its StarOffice suite. The Project is an international community of volunteers and sponsors including founding sponsor and primary contributor, Sun Microsystems. Understanding the organization around the OOo software should provide home-office and small business owners with a comfort factor knowing that for a long time to come their office suite of choice will enjoy active development and support unburdened by the effects of market forces and profit margins.

Cons: No workgroup and document sharing features. No integrated e-mail, calendar and journal. The addition of an integrated outliner and outline document format accessible in all components of the suite would dramatically improve an already great product.

Pros: The program exceeds expectations in almost every respect. It's a completely stable and professional office suite. It offers broad, deep, two-way compatibility with all other existing major office document file formats. It's free. It's constantly being improved. 2 is wrapped in a familiar user interface that should not present problems for new users. Most controls and tools are positioned in familiar locations. The individual Options dialogs and configurations are easier to use than their counterparts in MS Office and WP Office. Superb compatibility with an enormous range of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and WP Office files, both importing and exporting (Open, Save As, etc., if you prefer to think of it that way). The range of features and functions in OOo clearly exceeds the needs of most home-office and small business application, and that above all else is the reason that OOo is a better MS Office and WP Office alternative than ever before. You lose little or nothing (with the notable exceptions of workgroup functionality and Outlook's calendar and journal), but with the free availability of superb software such as Thunderbird, powerful and easy to use e-mail functionality is also easy to regain. 2.0 appears to be all the office productivity software most home-offices and small businesses need for their Windows or Linux computers. Five years ago, this stuff was a bit of a running joke, but it's not funny any more. This is the real thing. I'm starting to adopt it throughout my businesses and I'm now suggesting it to consulting clients. Highly recommended.

Comments? Questions? Qualms? Technical problems? Send an e-mail!





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