Generally speaking if you are accustomed to the Microsoft interface for Word, Excel and PowerPoint, these products are enough alike that with an occasional jump into help, you’ll have them mastered in no time. They all are feature rich and provide more functionality than the average person needs.
There is a problem however when you take finished documents saved in Microsoft formats and open them in Microsoft applications. Some characteristics do not seamlessly carry over to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Often frames created in Writer get skewed when they are moved to Word and you have to readjust them.
But it is much worse if you try and take a Microsoft Office created document and bring it up in OpenOffice. Then you can really see the consequences of Microsoft code wreak havoc on an OpenOffice document. And it doesn’t seem to matter too much what format you choose in saving the document. I’ve tried saving as Word 6.0/95, as Word XP, as Word 2003, only to see my formatting go kaboom when I open the document in OpenOffice. Similarly,.PPT files created in PowerPoint don’t come out the same when opened in Impress.
But one feature of OpenOffice is truly fantastic. You can save files as PDFs, the format of Adobe Acrobat. This is a format unsupported by Microsoft Office. Adobe Acrobat is, for the most part, a pretty good way to send shared information that is unalterable. That is why I do all of my money and contract documents with OpenOffice.
For someone who is counting their pennies and looking for a powerful set of business productivity tools, you cannot go wrong with OpenOffice. Just be willing to accept some of the warts that come along with the product. OpenOffice is supported by Sun Microsystems and by the open source community. You can download it at http://www.openoffice.org/.