OpenOffice vs. Microsoft Office

Although most users take Microsoft Office for granted, there are also free alternatives on the market, such as the OpenOffice Suite. So is it worth spending money on a Microsoft product, or is a free Office alternative enough? We have MS Office and OpenOffice in direct comparison.

Anyone who buys a new PC or Mac today usually thinks in advance about what software is necessary for the effective operation of the computer. Now private users require other software than business users, but there are still standard programs that should not be missing on any computer. These include a browser such as Chrome, Firefox or Opera, music software such as iTunes or Windows Media Player – and of course programs for processing documents.

Without thinking much about it, private users as well as business customers often fall back on Microsoft Office, of course for good reason. The compilation of word processing program, table tool, presentation software and, depending on the edition, email management, has been at the top of the software Olympics for decades and offers extensive functions for all application areas, as well as regular updates and always new, contemporary functions.

Microsoft is not the only provider of office software

Open source Apache OpenOffice has established itself in the last 10 years as a veritable competitor for MS Office. In the meantime, look here on OpenOffice Suite to be  downloaded by more than 225 million users worldwide. Especially newcomers to Office, who may still have to budget with a small private budget at a young age, are open to the free alternative. However, anyone who has worked with Microsoft Office and experienced several program versions will rarely switch to an Office alternative.

Humans are a creature of habit.

Here, most users use the current Microsoft Office 2016 version “Home & Student”. It contains the following programs:

Microsoft Word 2016 (Word Processor)
Microsoft Excel 2016 (Tables)
Microsoft Powerpoint 2016 (Presentations)
Microsoft OneNote 2016 (Notebook)
Microsoft Outlook is not included in this basic version, so it is most comparable with the OpenOffice Suite.

User, with business demands

With Microsoft Office 2016 Home & Business there is a bundle that contains Microsoft Outlook 2016 in addition to the programs of the Home & Student version. Thus Office Home & Business is suitable for ambitious private users as well as for smaller businesses.

Professional user

Buyers of Microsoft Office 2016 Professional receive the entire Office program range. In addition to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, the following additional programs are included in the bundle:

Microsoft OneNote 2016 (notebook)
Microsoft Publisher 2016 (program for creating print publications, websites, product presentations, comparison to Adobe InDesign)
Microsoft Access 2016 (database administration)
Microsoft Office 2016 Professional is primarily aimed at business users who create, edit and publish data in its entirety. A comparison to OpenOffice would be unfair, since the free alternative has a much smaller program scope.

Now that we have clarified which versions of OpenOffice and Microsoft Office are available, we are going to make a direct comparison. Where are the strengths of OpenOffice and can the free Microsoft alternative really keep up?

The advantages of Apache OpenOffice:

Completely free and downloaded and installed within minutes from the openoffice.org website
Compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux systems, documents can be exchanged error-free across platforms (.odt format)
OpenSource: The source code is freely available so that developers can make modifications and further developments at any time.

In the direct comparison with Microsoft Office there are however also numerous disadvantages with OpenOffice:

User interface needs getting used to

Especially if you have worked with current Microsoft Office programs, the change is difficult. Menus are structured differently and don’t look nearly as appealing graphically as Microsoft Office 2016.

Compatibility with Microsoft Office not 100 percent guaranteed

For example, in Writer or Calc files can be saved as .doc and .xls files and thus suggest full compatibility with Microsoft programs, but in practice this unfortunately looks somewhat different. Above all, macros and complex formula structures are not reliably transferred into Microsoft programs, which can quickly lead to trouble if you want to send the file to a colleague or acquaintance who does not work with OpenOffice.

Compatibility between Impress and Powerpoint

The interaction between the two presentation programs gets hairy. If you want to import a file from Impress to Powerpoint, you have to reckon with broken layouts and moved texts. The same applies vice versa: If you want to load a .ppt into Impress, you have to be prepared for some rework.

Language files and spell checking

OpenOffice also reaches its limits when it comes to languages. On the one hand, you can download the installation package only with a previously selected language. If you want to change from German to English later, for example, you have to download and install the corresponding language file from the OpenOffice.org website. Furthermore, OpenOffice’s spell checker is significantly worse than that of Microsoft Office 2016. OpenOffice regularly reaches its limits, especially when it comes to checking grammar errors.

One of the biggest disadvantages of OpenOffice is that there is no email management software in Outlook.

This makes the OpenOffice Suite almost unusable for corporate use, because no entrepreneur exclusively purchases Microsoft Outlook and relies on OpenOffice for the remaining Office programs. Especially as this would not make sense from a cost point of view.

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