Why not Open Office?

Friend Steerforth suggested that we might replace MS Office with the free, open source, Open Office.

It was wrong for MS to have broken their own .doc standard when only a tiny fraction of users make use of the features that .docx adds, and cynically at that, making it the default format, to compel everyone to buy the new version.

I would be delighted were businesses and agencies to decline en masse to swallow any more MS rollouts, and to switch to open source software. I don't see it happening.

I'm happy to use IBM's Lotus Symphony iteration of Open Office at home. It wouldn't cost a thing to offer it as an alternative on public-access computers.

One of consequences, for public-access computing, of closing the "digital divide", making computers easy enough to use that almost everyone is able to use e-mail or apply for a job online, is that we must settle on one way of doing something and not deviate from it.

Many public-access users don't understand anything about file formats, or that they can install free programs that are better than the ones that come with the computers. To them, a computer is like a television or a telephone. You turn it on and learn to use it as is. This is so even with many library staff.

Open Office saves documents by default in the Open Document format, (.odt). If we forced our users to use it, they would wonder why their professors, friends, and business associates, who have only MS Word, were unable to read their files. They would not count the inconvenience of having to "save as" Word 97 everytime they wanted to share a file a price worth paying for freedom from a proprietary file format.

This already happens with users who have bought laptops with Microsoft Works, not wanting to pay extra for MS Office, and find that their .wps files won't open with MS Word when they want to print them out with our PC's. I have to tell them to go back and save their work as Word 97 to print it out.

Look at the usage share of web browsers. There are several browsers that offer a more satisfying experience than Internet Explorer, chiefly, (for PC's), Firefox and Opera, yet 65% use IE. And were public-access users polled, it would be close to 100%. No one has ever complained that Firefox is not installed on our public-access PC's.

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