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Slightly Skeptical View
on alternatives to Microsoft Office

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TeX-based Open Office WordPerfect  Random Findings Humor Etc

Free and adequate looks enticing
compared with expensive and adequate.
Rob Pegoraro

 If we can't afford the solution,
then it's not a solution
SAP marketing slogan

The selling point for Windows are applications and here MS Office is a really impressive set of well integrated programs with the common macro language.  Contrary to views of many naive open source advocates (Eric Raymond is a good example) MS Office is a tremendously capable suit of  software applications that is de-facto standard and that has capabilities perfectly suited for enterprise customers. Home users can generally benefit from simpler tools. For example only small percentage of home users can benefit from full power of Excel which is indispensable in the enterprise environment, I suspect that less then 20%. the same might be true for PowerPoint. 

The only problem is that it is rather expensive outside the USA, and it is extremely expensive in Eastern Europe, if you compare the price with the average monthly salary. Like in SAP/R3 somewhat perverted ( judging from the cost of SAP software) slogan: "If we can't afford the solution, then it's not a solution" ;-). Therefore generally MS Office is a good solution for the US market, much less for Eastern European market, which needs to find the alternative. Here this page might be of some help as it touches alternatives that are rarely discussed on open source sites: other Microsoft packages (like Microsoft Works 8.0 ) as well as some licensing tricks available for small businesses (Microsoft partner programs that make the cost of set of Microsoft application (including Ms Office) plus OS approximately $3 a month per employee if the firm contains exactly 10 employees :-).

The key issue in application suits like MS Office is not the openness of code per se (its just too much code to be useful for 99.99% of the users ;-), but openness of the API and the underlying formats. The key advantage of the MS Office -- common macro language for all applications in a suit, is the advantage that is still unmatched by rivals. Also the level of support of MS Office (books, training materials, add-ons, etc) is far superior to the alternatives.

That mean that Office still makes sense in the open world. But if only if :

The main problem with the Office is that both MS Word and Excel documents formats are proprietary and undocumented. But you can export documents in Open formats including RTF and XHTML. The latter needs some postprocessing (see, for example demoroniser), if you want to publish it; raw Ms Word xhtml contains too many Microsoft styles).

Still absence of the internal representation accessibility somewhat limits what you can do in MS Word (and complicate debugging). That's probably the most severe shortcoming of MS Word.

The absence of the internal representation view limits what you can do in MS Word  and complicates debugging of complex documents

Contrary to the opinion of typical Linux zealots, I am convinced that Microsoft Word was and still is a very good program that was innovative at the time of introduction and positively influenced the field previously dominated by somewhat backward WordPerfect (which, paradoxically, has an access to the view of the internal representation of the document).  I would agree that from the point of view of supporting open formats like HTML and XML, MS Word still have room to grow, but I am surprised how Adobe managed to get the field of document viewers despite the fact that MS Word viewers would be clearly adequate (and somewhat superior due to the quality of MS Word as a tool for creating them) tool. 

In the past (in the MS DOS environment) MS Word was always underdog to WordPerfect, but despite this second place that most PC magazines assigned to in in 1987-1994 (or may be due to it) it was always more innovative word processor than WordPerfect:

BTW it is funny that generally conservative WordPerfect's has "show the source" concept of showing raw source format similar to HTML editors of today. If you remember the days of character-based WordPerfect, you will remember the "reveal codes" feature, which shows an editable view of the current file with the internal formatting codes visible. This gave the user more control of the underlying text-processing than MS Word. That why lawyers always prefer WordPerfect and that's why many advanced users (including myself) for simple documents are now using FrontPage instead of MS Word (FrontPage is now part of Office Professional).

Inability of MS Word transparently show its internal format
 always was one of the biggest shortcomings of this very powerful program

In addition to being rather expensive outside of North America,  today's versions of Microsoft Office are huge and try to implement everything  possible under the sun. The best original ideas are buried under the bloat of "me too" features. For example how many people use MS Word outlining capabilities. If you do not need all the capabilities you can probably use cheaper substitutes. What are the alternatives?

Nue - a derivative of Netscape Composer based on the Mozilla platform and its Gecko layout engine. Primarily made for Linspire and other Linux flavors, its cross-platform architecture makes it available on a wide variety of other platforms. Nvu binary test builds are now available for Linux, Windows, Mac OS X and FreeBSD.  Check out the latest features and screenshots for Nvu:

Theoretically XML-based tools looks more viable than TeX, and OpenOffice seems to be a leader in this category.   I just do not like XML and consider XHTML quite adequate for most purposes.

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov

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2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999

[Feb 14, 2006] Microsoft New Scripts Page

[Feb 14, 2006] MS Word is notorious for containing private information in file headers, but not any longer.

Microsoft has quietly released a tool to scrub leaky metadata from documents edited with its software.

The Remove Hidden Data Add-In will permanently remove hidden and collaboration data, such as change tracking and comments, from MS Word, MS Excel, and MS PowerPoint files. For Office XP/Office 2003 only, we should add.

[Nov 9, 2005] The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities

A very interesting selection; definitely gifted author !

There are a lot of great freeware products out there. Many are as good or even better than their commercial alternatives. This list features my personal pick of the "best of the best."

All these utilities in this list have been featured in past issues of of my free monthly newsletter "Support Alert" More freebies are featured in every new issue. If you are interested in great utilities and freeware you really should consider subscribing. It's free.

You'll get the most from this list by browsing through it at leisure. The pathologically impatient can consult the index.

10 Best Free Software Suite
The Open CD site offers for free a wonderful collection of just about every application software product you need to run a PC including the latest version of OpenOffice. Many of these freebies substitute admirably for expensive commercial products. There is Abi Word as an alternative for MS Word, OpenOffice for MS Office XP, Thunderbird for Outlook, The Gimp for Adobe Photoshop, 7-zip for WinZip and many more. If you then add to this collection some of the other utilities from my "46 Best-ever Utilities" collection you will have all the software you'll ever need without spending a cent. Note: All of the Open CD utilities can be downloaded for free as a CD ISO image. If you have a slow connection you can purchase the CD for a as little as $1.99. In addition to the Windows versions, the CD also contains the same collection of programs implemented under a version of Linux called Ubuntu that can be booted and run directly from the CD. That way you not only get to try all these great programs you can try Linux as well, without interfering in any way with your current Windows installation.

25 Best Free Hotkey Utility
Hotkeycontrol XP is a free utility that allows you to define your own hotkeys so that a single key press can launch an application, insert commonly used text, change your volume, or just about anything else. Hotkeycontrol works with all versions of Windows from 98 onwards, though some features will only work with Win2K or XP. Some folks with slower PCs have reported that Hotkeycontrol can be a little slow to react. If you experience this, you might like to try PS Hot Launch VVL as an alternative. It works on all versions of Windows and is an excellent performer even on slow PCs. A third alternative is not really a hotkey utility at all but achieves the same result by using "magic words." It places a tiny text box on your screen and when you type specially assigned words into the box, they will launch a program, go to a web site or whatever. For example if you type "mail" it can launch your mail reader. Type in "46" and it can take you to the web page of the "46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities." Of course, it's up to you to define these magic words and you can have as many as you want. It all works very neatly with some really nice touches like auto-complete for your magic words which means you only have to type in two or three letters and SlickRun will complete the rest. Nice too, is an eyedropper tool that allows you to identify a program you want to "hotkey" just by clicking in its application window. There's also a built-in note jotter and a calendar date display. It requires Win 98 or later. (0.91KB) (743KB)

45 Best Free Outliner
I'm not a great fan of outliners - my brain doesn't work that way. Some folks however, swear by them and if that includes you, then you should check out Keynote, an Open Source freeware program that has a dedicated band of followers. Its major design attribute is its ease of use. Words like "natural" and "seamless" come close to the mark but really don't capture the essence of what is really a great design. What do you do with it? Well to quote the web site “KeyNote is used by screenwriters to draft screenplays, by medical doctors to keep patient databases, by developers to store source code snippets - and to everyone it serves as a place to put all the random pieces of information that have no particular structure of relationship to other data, and do not fit easily in task-specific applications such as word-processors, databases or spreadsheets.” (1.7MB)

Slashdot OpenOffice Bloated

ZDNet's George Ou has been writing a series of posts about Open Office bloat. Includes some interesting system usage comparisons"

From the article: "Even when dealing with what is essentially the same data, OpenOffice Calc uses up 211 MBs of private unsharable memory while Excel uses up 34 MBs of private unsharable memory.

The fact that Calc takes about 100% the CPU time explains the kind of drastic results we were getting where Excel could open a file in 2 seconds while Calc would take almost 3 minutes.

Most of that massive speed difference is due to XML being very processor intensive, but Microsoft still handles its own XML files about 7 times faster than handles OpenDocument ODS format and uses far less memory than" 2.0 Has Edge over Its StarOffice 8 Cousin 2.0 and StarOffice 8 share the same code base and are nearly identical. The primary differences are in packaging and certain non-free software components that come bundled with Sun's suite.

The purchase price of StarOffice 8 also includes support from Sun, where 2.0 support comes at an additional cost. 2.0 and StarOffice 8 use the same native file format, OpenDocument, and the same macro language.

Organizations that mix the two suites, therefore, can expect complete compatibility. (The Project recently made available an update to its earlier version, 1.1.5, that includes the capability to open, but not to create, OpenDocument-formatted files.)

Read more here about why StarOffice 8 rivals Microsoft Office.

We tested 2.0 on Ubuntu Linux 5.10, SuSE Linux 10 and Windows XP, and the suite performed similarly on all three systems. One difference we noted while testing OpenOffice on SuSE 10 was the way that the suite took on the appearance and functional qualities of the GNOME and KDE desktop environments, depending on which we were using.

Unlike StarOffice 8, adopted environment-specific dialogs for opening and saving documents, a nice integration touch.

Another benefit that OpenOffice 2.0 offers on Linux systems is better integration with the various packaging systems with which different Linux distributions ship. Sun ships StarOffice 8 as a set of RPM packages.

NewsForge Basic button-pushing with macros

There are two ways to create a macro in OOo. One is to use Basic to write the macro. The other is to use the macro recorder. That will be the approach we focus on.

The macro recorder is great, because it lets you create a macro without any programming, and when you're done you can look at the code it built and add your own enhancements.

We'll sort a grocery list to illustrate how to build macros. I update my Calc-created grocery list spreadsheet weekly before trudging off to the store. I don't know how some of you shoppers do it with your handwritten random lists.

Before I run my macro, I delete the quantity of each item from the previous week. I sort the list alphabetically by grocery item (column A), then enter the desired number of each grocery item (column B). Once I've done that data entry, I want to sort the list from lowest to highest according to aisle (column C), filter the list so only non-zero-quantity items show up, then print the filtered list.

I created a macro to sort by item name using the macro recorder:

Why macros?
Why would you want to use macros? If you do repetitive jobs, like moving data around in a spreadsheet or regularly deleting old data from a column, some simple macros can save you lots of time and reduce your error rate. Automating tasks in might just turn you into the departmental macro guru, and managers and business owners like people who can make using spreadsheets faster and easier.

Running the macro is even easier than creating it. Step through the Tools menu, Macro, and Run Macro. Pick the macro out of the list and push the Run button at top right. In my case it was My Macros, Standard, Module1, and "sorta." The spreadsheet flashed briefly and then it was sorted alphabetically by column A.

Creating a macro to sort by aisle was the same process, except I sorted on Column C instead of Column A and named it "sortc."

I also created a "finddeli" macro that looks for all instances of the word "deli" in my list. You can record just about any sequence of actions or key clicks and turn them into a macro.

Attaching macros to buttons

Clicking through the Tools, Macro, Run Macro sequence is almost as much effort as just sorting manually. A worthwhile upgrade I made was to attach the sorta macro to a button that could be placed right on the spreadsheet:

You can now run the sorting macro by clicking on the button.

Creating buttons and macros for simple repetitive jobs like this can save you loads of time. You might look at your spreadsheets and make a list of the tasks that you do over and over, then record a macro and run it to see if it saves you some time. Any situation where you flip back and forth between some spreadsheet state is a candidate for some pushbutton automation.

If you want to get more sophisticated with your spreadsheets, you can also use text boxes, radio buttons, and list boxes. Controls like buttons and list boxes on forms are another way to interface with macros.

For a thorough education on macros be sure to get " Macros Explained" by Andrew Pitonyak. Don't let the book's massive 476 pages intimidate you. It has vast sections of basic programming practice that explain things in minute detail. It could be a knowledgeable silent companion for anybody who wants to be a departmental macro guru.

... ... ...


  1. "" -
  2. " Basic" -
  3. "" Macros Explained"" -
  4. "Rob Reilly" -

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This document discusses the document processing software that is available under Linux. Word processing software has been a matter of great interest for those that wish to see Linux more widely adopted for use in business.

There is a fairly sizable assortment of free software packages for this purpose. Unfortunately, they are not generally considered to be terribly ``credible'' particularly they do not generally read or write the data formats used by Microsoft Word, which is widely considered the ``industry standard.'' Furthermore, many projects to build ``free word processors'' tend to get started, but, unfortunately, few ever reach any degree of completion.

There are, in contrast, a number of commercial software packages that do a reasonable job of ``understanding'' various proprietary word processor formats.

This document also includes an opinionated discussion about word processing. I feel that the actual thing that people wish to do (doing stuff with documents) is not generally well understood and that peoples' expectations and use of word processing software is hence impeded.

WordPad Class

MozillaQuest Magazine - AbiWord - A Free, Decent, MS Word Clone for Linux, MS Windows, & Other Platforms

AbiWord has its own file format, .abw. However, it can import plain text, HTML, RTF, Word 97 (.doc), XHTML, and other formatted document files too. Export-wise, you can save your AbiWord documents as plain text, ABW, HTML, LaTeX, RTF, and other file types.

AbiWord does not have the rich set of language tools that MS Word has. However, it does have a decent spell-checker and also a word-count tool.

MS Word has lots more tool bars and is much more-fully featured than is AbiWord. On the other hand AbiWord is leaner than MS Word and mean enough for many word processing tasks. The AbiWord download binaries run about 3.5-MB (MS Windows) to about 5-MB (Linux tar.gz).

Installed, AbiWord sucked up less than 6-MB of hard drive space in Windows 98 SE. MS Word eats up 22.9-MB of Windows Memory compared to 5.37-MB of Windows memory for AbiWord.

The Windows version of AbiWord installs easily and in a snap. AbiWord seems to behave nicely when running in MS Windows.

(Note: in Linux, it's generally not a good idea to change libs or other system files or packages merely to accommodate an application -- unless you are a very experienced Linux user. Even if you are an experienced Linux user, you should proceed with caution before changing system critical files. Those changes could negatively affect other applications that are working nicely on your Linux system, or your Linux system itself. So, if you find that you do need to change libs or other system files or packages merely to accommodate an application, forget the application.)

On the other hand, we encountered (mostly lib) problems when trying to install, to upgrade, or to run the Linux version of AbiWord on Caldera OpenLinux eDesktop 2.4 and Red Hat Linux 7. Those are the only Linux distributions on which we tried AbiWord.

For more information about the status of features already implemented in AbiWord, please check the AbiWord Feature Matrix and the AbiWord User Interface Matrix. If you want to sneak a look at what features are planned for AbiWord but not yet included, check the AbiWord Roadmap. (Links in the Resources section below.)

You can customize AbiWord to your keyboard-picking heart's content. It's open source. That means you can change the widgets, modify features, or even add your own features. If you are into creating themes and skins for programs, you can use the AbiWord customizability to make your own AbiWord theme.

For more information about building your own customized version, check AbiWord Personal in the Resources section at the end of this article.


AbiWord is off to a darn good start. Even though it is still in the pre-release, beta stages, AbiWord is worth downloading, installing, and using. However, it's a preview release not a final shipping version. So expect to find that all AbiWord's features are not fully implemented -- or in some instances not implemented at all, yet.

It is not nearly as heavy duty as its commercial counterparts such as Microsoft's Word, Sun's StarOffice, or VistaSource's Anywhere Desktop (formerly Applixware). However, AbiWord's lighter features-package also makes it lighter-weight resources-wise. It takes less hard-drive space and less RAM.

Although AbiWord is a darn good MS Word clone, it is not MS Word. It is doubtful that MS Word users are going to part with their MS Word and flock to AbiWord. However, where resources or budgets are tight, AbiWord can be a nice supplement or alternative to MS Word on MS Windows PCs.

On platforms such as Linux and the other *NIXs where MS Word is not available, AbiWord has the makings of a very nice substitute for MS Word. As development continues and more features are added to AbiWord it might well become as good as the heavy-duty word processors -- perhaps better.

Of course the heavier word processors are getting better all the time too. Moreover they are becoming available for more platforms also. The bottom line here is that all this means even more choices for software consumers and users.

Ted -- RTF editor for Linux

Ted is a text editor running under X Windows on Unix/Linux systems. Use RTF as native format. Can be used as  as an RTF viewer in Netscape. Developed by Mark de Does. Home page is  Distributed under GPL license.

Ted was developed as an operating system accessory like Wordpad on MS-Windows. In our opinion, the possibility to type a letter or a note on a Unix/Linux machine is clearly missing. Only too often, you have to turn to a Windows machine to write a letter or an e-mail message. Teds function is to be able to edit RTF documents on Unix/Linux in a wysiwyg way.

Compatibility with popular MS-Windows applications played an important role in the design of Ted. Every document produced by Ted should be accepted as a legal .rtf file by Word without any loss of formatting or information. Compatibility in the other direction is more difficult to achieve. Ted supports most basic text formatting, as supported by the Microsoft applications. Other formatting instructions and meta information are ignored. By ignoring unsupported formatting Ted tries to get the complete text of a document on screen. Ted can be used to read formatted e-mail sent from a Windows machine to Unix, or as an RTF viewer in Netscape.


Microsoft Office Viewers

  1. Excel Viewer 2003
  2. PowerPoint Viewer 2003
  3. Visio 2002 Viewer
  4. Visio 2003 Sample: 20 Sample Diagrams
  5. Word Viewer 2003
  6. Humor - Hidden Settings in MS Office 2000

    Random Findings Python MS Office

    Here are some hints on using the Win32COM extensions for Python to write scripts, that use Microsoft Office Components. Thanks to Mark Hammonds excellent work, you don't need to bother with VB any longer and can automate Office from THE BEST PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE IN THE WORLD.


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