Saturday, January 22, 2005

OpenOffice: not yet

I occasionaly fantasize about giving up Word and moving to OpenOffice, and someday even being able to live on a Linux box. But I push Word pretty hard and am able to do many interesting things with it, so unless OO gave me more and better it won't happen. One of the appealing things about OO is that it stores files in a true XML format, so I could imagine writing Python programs to do transformations on my books. The last time I looked at the XML format that Word used, it seemed like it was some strange proprietary thing, or that it could only be stored and not recovered, or something else that was too much of a limitation.

I told my friend Gary about OpenOffice, and he promptly went and tried it, and reported this:

Unfortunately, OpenOffice is quite inferior to Word, et al. I just uninstalled it and returned to Word. OpenOffice is woefully slow; it makes Word look like a high flyin' text editor, and it's not smart about memory. So if you load more than a couple of big files (the biggest I tested was 100+ pages, 8mb), it gets confused on the memory swapping. Finally, it did some repagination on a document, which I suspect doesn't mean much, but it does make me suspicious enough, and I have to stay compatible. So thanks, but I must stick with those bad guys in Seattle. Fun checking it out though.

While OO is wonderful as a free system for most folks to look at small documents that aren't too complex, it sounds like I'll have to wait awhile before I can hope to use it for my book development system. I'll keep watching and hoping -- I think there are lots of things about Linux that will eventually coalesce and make it a very compelling system for the average user.

I've even thought of a Mac laptop -- that instant-on, instant-off thing is so compelling, especially on a laptop. But the fact that J2SE5 is not yet available on the Mac and there's no word on when it will be, that kind of kills it for me (especially after Jobs claimed he was going to make the Mac the premier platform for Java. Oops, please Apple don't sue me for saying something about you in a blog).