The Computer Blog

Sunday, February 25, 2007

An Alternate Office (the software suite) Strategy

I’m finding myself in a dilemma. I really, really, like Office 2007 for Windows just a bit more than I like Office 2004 for the Mac and more, I suspect, than I’m going to like Office 2008 for the Mac when it’s released later this year. The Office 2008 user interface looks more cluttered than the Office 2004’s or Office 2007’s. At least, that’s the impression I’ve gotten from the screen shots floating around on the web. So, I’ve been looking at alternative ways to handle the situation.

I did buy a copy of Office 2007 and have it installed on the Windows partition of each of my machines. Since I’ve already spent the money on that and really like it, I started thinking that maybe the thing to do was run Office 2007 under Parallels. If it ran well enough, that might be a better and certainly more economical thing to do.

I tried it on my wife’s machine using the beta copy of Parallels that lets you use the BootCamp partition to run Windows from rather than a separate installation. I brought up Word 2007 okay but that’s as far as it went. While the mouse was recognized inside the application, the keyboard was not, no matter what keystrokes I used to try to get it accepted. That ended my flirtation with the Office 2007 idea, at least for now. I will try it later once the final version of Parallels is released.

Of course, the other routes I can take are simply to do nothing and continue to run Office 2004 for Mac or do more work in Neo Office, the Universal Binary port of Open Office. For the moment, I’m using Neo Office more, despite the fact that quitting it generates a “your application quit unexpectedly crash box” I have to respond to. Hopefully, an update will take care of that problem. (It did! As I was writing this, I visited the Neo Office website and downloaded Neo Office 2.0 Aqua Beta 3 Patch 14 and installed it on my MacBook Pro. The problem disappeared. I had been running Neo Office 2.0 Aqua Beta 3 Patch 10.)

If I was voting for a word processor on account of its speed, the Neo Office's Writer certainly would win.

Some folks are using Apple's Pages as their word processor. Pages is okay, but really is a better desktop publisher than a word processor. You have to know to use the Export function rather than the Save As function to get it into Word format and even to save it in the same every time you make a change. You’re really better doing the work in Pages’ native format and then doing one export at the end to get it into Word’s format. If you have nothing else to work with, then that will do; but since Neo Office and Word can move files back and forth rather effortlessly, why bother?

Admittedly, 99% of the world uses Microsoft Office. (WordPerfect was a better word processor than Word, but that's a whole 'nother story.) OpenOffice, and therefore Neo Office, does a good job with complex Office documents but not always a great one. I've got a couple of college age relatives who refuse to give Open Office a try, even though they say they can't afford Office. One of them uses a Mac and the other Windows. Neo Office is certainly pretty nice, and Open Office is, too. Most papers for a college class can be worked using either, and the professor will not be able to tell the difference. Nor will anyone else. So, if you're looking for an alternative office suite and especially if you don't have a lot of money to invest in one, don't be afraid to give one of those a try.

As for me, I'm going to use Neo Office more and continue to pay around with Office 2007 as I can. I'll take a look at Office 2008 when it is released and see if I think it might be worth the money. If so, I'll buy it. If not,...

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