My Office Suite Rant:
We all use some kind of Office suite. I’ve used more than I can remember and several I’d like to forget. For the past 10 or so years I’ve primarily used some form of Microsoft Office, prior to that I have fading memories of using WordPerfect and Lotus SmartSuite.
I can recall being excited about the release of Microsoft Office 95, 97 and 2000 for the Windows platform. Office 2000 was, in my opinion, the best office suite release by Microsoft (for the Windows platform). Microsoft released Office XP (aka Office 2002), but it was indistinguishable from Office 2000. Office 2003 was a major “update” for Microsoft. In retrospect, this was the beginning of the end. Many of the elements in the user interface changed for no apparent reason, and compatibility with other releases of Office (and other suites) was seriously compromised. I begrudgingly switched to Office 2003 in 2005 or so. Enter Office 2007. This is a joke. Ribbons? Where is the ‘File’ menu? No menu bar!? I gave this version a couple hours, and I want my time back. Let’s look at Office on the Mac platform next.
Releases of Office 98 and 2001 for the Mac platform were noted, but I didn’t have much use for them. Office X was out when I bought my first OS X system, a 2002 iBook 800 MHz G3 (one of the batch of 800 MHz G3 systems with the bad logic board design). Office X did not compare favorably to Office 2000, but at least I could open my Excel spreadsheets. I won my copy of Office X at a Microsoft Seminar touting Server 2003; I also got a nice t-shirt. I still use the t-shirt. Office 2004 is a good office suite. I like and still use Office 2004 on my OS X systems. It is relatively stable, it works on my PPC and x86 Macs, and isn’t too annoying. Office 2008 for the Mac is due soon, but I don’t expect to use it.
Excel 2003 (XP)
Ok, so where am I going with this? Since 2003 or so Microsoft Office has been heading downhill. In 2005 I bought iWork ’05. This was Apple’s initial release of iWork and would eventually replace their older (and neglected) Appleworks office suite. Keynote is a great application and is superior to PowerPoint. Pages ’05 was interesting, but needed work to compete with Word. iWork ’06 included some nice improvements to both Keynote and Pages. iWork ’08 introduced Numbers, a spreadsheet application, as well as updates to Keynote and Pages. I’ve played around with Numbers and it is nice, but is a 1.0 release. Numbers has the potential to be a good spreadsheet application, I’ll take another look with version 2.0 or 3.0. I purchased iWork ’05 and ’06, but I have not upgraded to ’08 (I’m using the free trial version).
Numbers 1.0 (OS X)
Aside from the Microsoft and Apple office suites, I’ve also been tracking the progress of Open Office / Star Office. Open Office on OS X is stuck running in X11 (think the OS X user interface minus everything you like about it). So, even if Open Office is good (which it is), there is no way I’m using it on my Mac. X11 does have it’s place, this just isn’t it. A version of Open Office that runs in the OS X Aqua (read: nice/shinny) user interface is in alpha now and I eagerly await a stable release. Open Office for the Windows platform is a great application and is a serious competitor to Microsoft Office. More on this later. Hmm, what else… Google offers some nice online applications such as a word processor (Docs), spreadsheet, and a drawing program. I’ve used these and I can see some definite advantages (online collaboration), but again, I’ll take another look after a few revisions.
Excel 2004 (OS X)
Still reading? Well, up until now, it has been fairly safe to stay with Microsoft Office. The document compatibility and familiarity with the user interface were the biggest reasons to stick with Office. Switching to anything else *had* the large barrier not having the familiar Microsoft Office interface. Office 2007 has such a dramatically different user interface that switching to Open Office (or any other alternative) may be easier and require less effort than “upgrading” to Microsoft Office 2007. Open Office has the particular advantage of looking a lot like Office 2000/2003. Document portability with the current versions of Microsoft Office is a joke. Open Office, iWork, and the Google applications win in this respect as well. The native PDF support in OS X and iWork offer a major advantage over Microsoft Office on the Windows platform.
Open Office Calc 2.3 (XP)
One final consideration, cost: (standard pricing w/o edu or gov discounts)
Microsoft Office 2007: $400-$680 (upgrade for $330)
Apple iWork ’08: $80
Open Office 2.3: $0
Google Docs & Spreadsheet: $0
You can draw your own conclusions here.
Excel 2007 (Vista)
And, after all of that, I’m not using any of these word processors to write this blog post. I’m using TextWrangler, a free text editor that I generally use for coding, but occasionally for word processing (is that a real term?). Without TextWrangler, the bloat and overhead of the current word processors would have driven me to use VI. On the Windows side, I am a fan of Notepad2, a free text editor that adds some features to the Windows Notepad but retains the simple user interface. Okay, I’m done. Back to camera mounts and in-car video soon.