Is OpenOffice.org 2.0 Ready For Mac?

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Is OpenOffice.org 2.0 Ready For Mac?

When it comes to productivity choices for the Mac, the pickings are slim. Microsoft Office for Mac dominates when it comes to fee-based licenses, and keeps several small packages as distance friends (or enemies depending on how you look at it).

If you’re the paying type, here’s a few fee-based solutions (mainly word processors) available for the Mac.

They all have their drawbacks, and if you want a seasoned word processor that’s compatible with the rest of the business world, you’ll probably want to stick with Microsoft Office for Mac.

When it comes to open source (non fee-based licenses), the pickings get even slimmer. The only viable packages are AbiWord and OpenOffice.org. However, AbiWord is so awful at handling fonts, that I won’t even consider it. With that said, OpenOffice.org is the only useful productivity package that has an open source license — but it still sucks.

Similar to Firefox, OpenOffice.org continues to struggle on the Mac platform. Whereas Firefox has a tendency to slow down, and compromise the stability of the OS, OpenOffice.org isn’t even Cocoa based. Instead, it relies on X11, and doesn’t play well with the GUI. For example, once you start up OpenOffice.org, and switch to another window (let’s say Firefox), and then try to switch back using Apple+Tab, no luck. You’re not getting back to OpenOffice.org. No problem you say? Just try clicking on the OpenOffice.org icon in the Dock. Again, nothing.

The inability to efficiently return to the application isn’t the only problem. Shortcut keys struggle to stay consistent. For example, sometimes when I start OpenOffice.org, I can use Apple keyboard shortcuts for simple cut and paste tasks. However, after I close my first document, use a different application, and then return to OpenOffice.org to start a new document, my keyboard shortcuts mysteriously return to Windows-based shortcuts (using the Control key, instead of the Apple key).

Toolbars are another concern. They too are inconsistent with how Mac applications work. The screenshot below shows the differences between OpenOffice.org, Microsoft Word, and Apple Pages. Notice how the menu is located with the OpenOffice.org document, instead of on the Apple menu (an expected result for any X11 application).

 

Fortunately, all hope isn’t lost — but you’re going to have to wait awhile. Tim Bray recently reported that the OpenOffice.org Mac team has recently announced that they’re going to port OpenOffice.org to Cocoa, instead of relying on X11.

So the Mac porting team (Eric Bachard presenting) announced that they’ve decided to give up on X Windows (hey, that reminds me of why I switched to the Mac in the first place), bite the bullet, and do the thing right, in Cocoa. It’s gonna be a big tough job, but it’s worth doing.

Bottom-line, OpenOffice.org 2.0 is not ready for Mac. At its best, it’s a technology preview. However, until the package is ported to Cocoa, Mac users would be better off using a fee-based productivity package.

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