OpenOffice.org at Esha

When one first heard about Open Source, one thought it was for geeks. For a lot of years, thats just what one thought. Until, one day, one saw an inconspicuous looking pen drive being inserted into a machine, and the computer getting transformed. It was literally a case of jaw dropping open.

We could not afford a computer for Esha. Finally, we got a donated computer. But there was no question of affording all the software that we needed – Asset management, Accounting, Donations management, Library catlaoging for CLABIL… so on and so forth. For recording, we already use the Open Source Program – Audacity. In the process, one discovered a treasure trove of open source software – even for the Windows platform. All Esha applications were in open source or freeware, and we did JUST FINE!

And then, last month, in earnest, i turned to Open Office.org’s Office program for Windows. Which means – NO MS OFFICE. That was a HUGE saving for us. No, you need to read this again – NO MS OFFICE.

And this is what we have to say after a month:
1. Open Office works so well, its criminal to use MS Office only for the enhanced graphics. The keyboard shortcuts, the toolbars, all feel VERY familiar. My learning curve was pretty short.

2. The interface is very familiar, but is even better in the sense that you dont have to open different root programs to open or create different kinds of documents. One interface, and you can access everything.

3. It takes some getting used to – there arent any jazzy, flashy ribbons, or animations. The look and feel is most like Office 2003-Office 2007, and that is my personal favorite. In fact, if MS ever takes a vote, i will beg them to kill the ribbon and bring back the toolbar.

4. Here is the best part – ALL MS OFFICE documents open in Open Office, and you can save them back as .xls, .doc, .ppt, and send to your stakeholders who are not on Open Office. But you cannot save an MS Office document as an Open Office Document. Beat that!

To sum up: As an NGO, we have benefited HUGELY from Open Office. In fact, its the BIGGEST saver for us, because the alternative was to use a pirated copy of MS Office, which we would not have done.

I personally recommend freeware and open source now. You know why? When the US imposed a trade embargo on Iran, MS Windows and MS Office could not be bought legally in the country. This meant that the govt, businesses, schools et al, could not open THEIR OWN DOCUMENTS using legal software. QED.

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