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What Is NeoOffice/J (and Can It Replace MS Office)

by Matthew Russell
08/09/2005
NeoOffice/J
NeoOffice/J is the Mac-friendly version of OpenOffice.org. This full-featured office productivity suite includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, vector drawing, database, and macro functionality. NeoOffice documents are interchangeable with Microsoft Office and OpenOffice, even on other platforms. NeoOffice/J adapts the OpenOffice.org code, then leverages Mac OS X's Java integration to tap into the Macintosh user interface. This open source productivity suite can be downloaded for free and is available in 40 different languages.

In this article:

  1. A Quick Comparison of NeoOffice/J and MS Office
  2. Word Processing with Writer
  3. Presentations with Impress
  4. Spreadsheets with Calc
  5. Common Objections Against Using NeoOffice/J
  6. Interview with Patrick Luby, NeoOffice's Lead Developer

NeoOffice/J provides Mac OS X users with a completely free office suite. Prior to this release, your best bet for running OpenOffice.org was to get it from Fink. OpenOffice wasn't originally designed to play with Aqua, so you had to also run the X Window System (X11). For some people, that was just a bit too much. And besides, X11 doesn't have that smooth Aqua interface that makes the Windows crowd jealous. NeoOffice/J addresses those problems by providing you with a friendly drag-and-drop disk image installation and the standard application bundle you'd expect.

Here's the foundational pieces of OpenOffice.org that you get with NeoOffice/J:

  • Writer: a word processing and desktop publishing tool
  • Calc: an all-purpose spreadsheet tool
  • Impress: a slideshow/presentation creator
  • Draw: a graphics package for creating sketches and drawings
  • Math: an equation editor

In the first half of this article I'm going to focus on the word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation apps, since they reflect similar offerings in Microsoft Office. Then in the second half, I interview Patrick Luby, the programmer who is NeoOffice/J's primary mastermind. Patrick's comments about how this office suite came to life, and about open source programming in general, are a must-read for Mac developers.

A Quick Comparison of NeoOffice/J and MS Office

Since playing nicely with Microsoft's de facto file formats is a primary need for most people, I went out to Microsoft's Mactopia and picked out a few random templates to load into NeoOffice/J. My intent was to do a quick comparison of their appearance in NeoOffice/J and Microsoft Office. For the particular templates chosen, NeoOffice/J did quite a good job, and was quite user friendly.

main menu
Create office documents from NeoOffice/J's main menu

Word Processing with Writer

The word processing template I chose is really just a simple table with some color and text. Here's a comparison of the two. (Click on each thumbnail to open a larger image and prevent eye strain.)

Word Writer
A simple template opened in Word and NeoOffice/J looks nearly identical.

What types of documents do you normally use a word processor for on a daily basis? If you need to readily convert double column documents containing embedded spreadsheets and multiply nested tables from your colleagues who strictly use Microsoft Office, then NeoOffice/J might not meet your needs. In the end, you have to be the judge, but you certainly wouldn't want to run out and buy a new copy of Word just to make a resumé or read documents you occasionally get in your email. You can get this "Microwave" template here.

Save As
Try saving your existing documents to and from different formats to test out NeoOffice/J's conversion capabilities

OpenOffice.org Writer

Related Reading

OpenOffice.org Writer
The Free Alternative to Microsoft Word
By Jean Hollis Weber

Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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