Archive for July, 2007

Open Up your Office

July 16, 2007

Open is already being used in a number of government offices , businesses and academic institutions in the country. This requires users to undergo a transition from old ways of doing things to new ones. Installing is probably the easiest part of the process. The greatest hurdle is getting officemates to embrace the new application. Whether you’re the self proclaimed evangelist or the IT support officer tasked to integrate into the work environment amidst irate or anxious MS Office-using officemates, here are some tips and resources that could make that transition much easier.

1) Top management should be your ally. If you argue compatibility, open documents or open source code to top management, you might never get that “go ahead” to drop MS Office for But they do appreciate and understand the bottomline figures. Make a proposal that includes cost savings potentials that just might convert into greater net profits, and performance bonuses for everyone or investments in something else (like a new company car for the boss). One concern that top managers could have is that the training costs of such a move could be time-consuming and costly. But what if training costs absolutely nothing? There are lots of free training resources onlline. Support page lists links to free community support, commercial support and training. It can be accessed at:

The website, NewsForge offers 11 training videos for anyone to use. It uses video segments that demonstrate installation procedures as well as usage of Even without your help, your officemates can learn easily, visually. The video clips will play on any browser on any operating system as long as Flash is available. One important tool that middle managers might be interested in first is the topic, ‘making a slide presentation in a hurry.'”

The website also offers free easy-to-comprehend video clips . It can be accessed at:

2) “Keep Your Mind Wide Open”. After Leslie tells Jesse to keep his mind wide open, in the movie, “Bridge to Terrabithia”, Jesse’s view of the dull forest turns into a magical canvas with sparkling rivers and a castle far away. As the office’s Open Office advocate , you are likely to be an experienced computer user. You have probably played with a lot of software applictions in the past, and know that underneath the glitzy user interface, they more or less work the same way. As an experienced computer user, you can easily transfer your existing knowledge to any new office suite without much of a problem. As a result, you just might find it inconceivable that many of your officemates have never used applications other than MS Office in their lives. Assuming that they have the skill sets necessary for a smooth transition to Open might be the biggest mistake you make.

3) Listen- but more importantly, find out. Evaluate your officemates’ skill sets, then formulate a plan that will to address their “transition” issues. While your officemates wouldn’t have a problem asking you some pertinent question, they wouldn’t dare to ask you the simplest , but more relevant questions that they fear could make them look like idiots . In this case , it’s best to do the asking. You can do this using a questionnaire that asks about their basic computing skills, or concerns about transitioning. You can converse with them casually at lunch time, or after work. If their pride becomes such a barrier that that doesn’t work, send out the troops! Ask some of your more personable IT staff to get out of their cubicles and observe your officemates using the computer. If your officemates are comfortable having you around, then get out there yourself! This way, you will discover which skills your officemates are missing. This lack of skills should not hinder you from completing a successful transition to .

4) Show them. People have a fear of the unk nown. They could express their fear by ratting it out with their mouths, complaining to bosses or fellow officemates, or by refusing to participate. What must you do? Show your officemates how the new software looks like. Emphasize its learnability due to its similarity to MS Office. Show the similar commands, icons and toolbars. You must also assure them that their old files are still accessible with For people who remain angry and resistant rather than fearful and dodge all opportunities to learn OO, then that’s not a transition issue. It’s more likely to be a management one.

5) Be there for your officemates. Dont just throw into their computers and figure your job is done. The less experienced computer users would resent that. The end result: increased tech support calls , angry voicemail and complaints to your immediate superior about your “attitude”. Once the transition damages employee morale and eventually work productivity, top management begins to question whether the transition is worth the disruption.

6) Concentrate on immediate needs. People who do repetitive tasks all day, like write memos, faxes, or mail merge documents, can be your ally. Help them first, and do it well. Teach them how to do these specific tasks using templates and documents that come with Make sure you also leave them documentation for how to do those tasks. Then when they have mastered the skills, they will brag to officemates and supervisors how easy it is. Their supervisors would be ashamed not to master themselves.

7)Show them the cool stuff. has many hidden treasures. They’re so cool that it’s not constrained into any of those Open users manuals but are cool enough to be the subject of discussion on the Web. Here are some of the OO features everyone’s blogging about.

You can use Writer to browse theWeb. To do this, open a Writer document containing text. Select View – Toolbars – Hyperlink Bar from the Main menu. Select text or set of text that are adjacent to each other. The selected text appears in the left text box of the Hyperlink Bar. Click the rightmost icon on the Hyperlink Bar. A dropdown list of Internet search sites appears. Select a search site. The default Web browser opens and displays the search results. You can also search text is not found in the document. Simply type the text in the text box beside the Hyperlink bar. Then clilck the icon to the right of the Hyperlink Bar.

You can use OpenOffice,org Calc to open a game. The Star Wars game is a perk is hidden inside Open Calc. To access the game, open a new Calc file.

1.Enter this formula in a cell : =game()
2.Then press the Enter key. The cell will display “say what?”
3. Enter this formula: =GAME(“StarWars”)
4.The Star Wars game window opens. The first window is in German.The succeeding windows are in English.
5.If you closed the game, then decide to open it again by typing the using the same commands, the cell will return the display “oh no, not again!”
To be able to play again, exit and then launch it again.
Note that this game only works with, v1.9.109 (2 beta version) and later versions. It will also work with the Portable apps version of open office for for U3 Smart jumpdrives.


Sharing Files between Writer and MS Word

July 16, 2007

You’ve made the switch to Open . You downloaded the software, installed it, and started using Open Writer. Then your boss sends you a report that you’re supposed to study, update and format. It’s in MS Word ( .doc ) format. Since OOo can open .doc files, there shouldn’t be any problem. (Writer can open, import , and save files in multiple formats.(.doc, .dot , .wpd, .xml, .wps, sdw, .sgl, .vor , .jtd, .jtt, .pdb, .hwp, .psw, .rtf, .txt, .csv, .htm and .html).

However, you notice that the text formatting and paragraph styes are very much different from the boss’ original document. The objects and images have gone missing. What do you do? First , don’t panic! Put the mouse down and read on. Second, be prepared. With a few mouse clicks , you can rid yourself of the troubles that come with sharing files with users of proprietary software . Here are some steps you can follow:

Step 1: Adjust the conversion settings within itself.
On the menu bar, select Tools > Options > Load/Save > Microsoft Office. Select all the options. When you open a Word document that contains an embedded object, this step ensures that OLE objects can be loaded , converted and saved from MS Office format to OOo formats and vice versa. This allows converted Microsoft Office OLE objects to be edited in Open For example, when opening a Word document that contains an embedded equation editor object, selecting the [L] checkbox for MathType to Math/ Math to MathType in the Tools > Options > Load/Save > Microsoft Office box automatically converts the MathType object into to an Math object.
This step improves the way OLE objects are handled. However, this only works if you are using in an operating system that supports OLE Objects, such as Windows . OLE objects that are saved on a Windows application but are not in MS Office format will not be editable in on a Linux machine. although the object will still be displayed correctly and can still be resized.

Step 2: Adjust the VBA Properties
On the menu bar, select Tools > Options > Load/Save >VBA Properties). Check all the options in this box. The option, “Load Basic code to edit ” loads and saves the Basic code from a Microsoft document as a special Open Basic module with the document. doesn’t run Visual Basic scripts. However, it saves them anyway so that they are still there when you send the document to MS Office users. When you open an MS Office file in OO format, the MS Basic Code is not saved unless the Save original Basic code again option is selected.

Step 3: Adjust the compatibility settings for the document.
Launch Open Writer. Then choose File>New> Text Document. Once the document is open, select Tools > Options > Writer > Compatibility. Check all the available options . These options make Writer work a little more like Microsoft Office Word.

Step 4: Set the default file format saves files in the OpenDocument format by default . To change the default settings for the file format , go to Tools > Options > Load/Save > General. In the Standard File Format section of this page, choose a document type (for example, “Text document”) and a file format from the Always save as list.
If you save text files using the .rtf format , you are likely to experience loss of formatting and images when the file is opened by Microsoft Office. The best way to transfer a file created in Open Writer to a Microsoft Word user is to save it as Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP (.doc).

Step 5: Apply good practices for wordprocessing
Once the settings have been fixed, you can start importing files. Now the only problems that could possibly occur are concerned with the text itself. To avoid these problems, apply some good practices for wordprocessing.
• Use character and paragraph styles instead of direct formatting.
• Use paragraph formatting for space before and after instead of hard returns. This is specially important when using numbered or bulleted lists.
• Use paragraph text flow properties (for example, keep with next) rather than using
manual page breaks.
• Set specific tab stops or use a table instead of pressing the space key multiple times at the start of paragraphs.
• Use common font styles. However, you must be aware that even if font names in different applications may be similar, it may actually render different font styles. Thus, it is better to select common font styles rather than font names.

Exporting to PDF
One way to make files easily transferable to users is by exporting the file to Portable Document Format (PDF) and XHTML. Files using the PDF format are compressed and can be read across different platforms using Acrobat Reader . To export directly to PDF , click on the “export to PDF” button on the standard toolbar or select file > Export as PDF, which allows you to select some detailed options. To export as XHTML, use File > Export and for File format choose XHTML In the dropdown box.

There are some features in OOo that are not supported, or partly supported in Microsoft Office. When a file is converted into .doc format and MS Office opens the file, it simply drops these features .

From Word to Writer

July 16, 2007

Learning how to use Writer after years of using Microsoft Word is easier than you think. Many tools are similar to those of MS Word. These similarities are sufficient so that productivity does not suffer much during a transition. You can even customize the interface and preferences to make it look and feel a little more like that MS Word application you have used for years. Although the MS Office interface had been rehashed with MS Office 2007 , the basic tools, icons, menus and concepts are still similar to older versions of MS Office. Of course, each has features that are distinctly its own, too. This article identifies the similarities and differences between these two applications.

The View
Word 2003 has 5 views.
-Normal view is what is used to type and edit . Writer has no real equivalent to this view.
-Print Layout shows a print preview . This is equivalent to the Print Layout view in Writer.
-Web Layout shows how the document would look like when it is viewed on-line. Writer’s equivalent is a view option called Web Layout. To access this view, select View > Web Layout.
-The Reading Layout view formats the screen to make documents easier to read. In Writer, you can find the view that’s best for you by adjusting the Zoom percentage. Go to View > Zoom then select the percentage.
-The Outline view is used to display the document in outline form. To move an entire section, just move the heading in outline view. Writer has the Navigator, which also lets users move within documents.
-Writer also has an HTML source view that could be displayed only when editing an HTML document. To access this view, select View > HTML Source. Word displays more information about the field than Writer when the field codes could be turned on.

The Navigator
The closest equivalent of Word to Writer’s navigator is the Outline view. The navigator lets the user jump between sections in a document. It is particularly useful when you are writing lengthy documents such as textbooks or reports. To launch the Navigator, press F5 or click the Navigator icon on the Standard toolbar. At the top part of the Navigator’s list box, you will find Headings. If you click on Headings, the Navigator displays the outline of the document.
There is a drop-down list box at the bottom of the Navigator. This displays any of the Writer documents that are currently open. The contents can be dragged and dropped between documents. The selection that is dragged and dropped can be inserted as Hyperlink, Link, or Copy. This can be specified using the Drag mode at the top part of the Navigator box.

Entering numbers and formulas
Unlike Word, tables in Writer can do calculations like spreadsheets. You can insert formulas inside any table by simply entering the cell and pressing the equals sign (=) , then typing the formula. You can reference the cells in the same table or in another table . When the entries in referenced cells are changed, the calculated values are updated automatically.
In MS Word, choose Table >Formula. Enter the formula in the Formula field then select the number format from the menu. When you change the values of referenced cells in a formula, the results will not appear automatically. To update the calculations, you need to select the cell that contains the formula and press F9 , or press CTRL-A to update every table calculation.

When you copy a chart from a Calc spreadsheet and paste it into a Writer document , they are recognized as embedded objects. Thus, you can change the values of the chart from inside Writer. When you click on the embedded object, you can enter and edit values and formulas as you would in a spreadsheet. In Microsoft Office, copying and pasting a chart also embeds it. However, it would increase the file size of the Word document considerably. If the Excel workbook was 10 MB in size, then copying and pasting that Excel workbook into a Word document would increase the Word document by 10 MB.

Page layouts
Page layouts determine a page’s margins, headers, and footers. The concept of Page layouts differ between Writer and Word. In Word , setting the page layout means setting the layout for the entire document . After setting the page layout, you can divide the document into specific sections then specify each section’s layout.
In Writer, Page layout is a property of the page style. In the Styles and Formatting box, you can specify the page layout of a particular page style. For example, Page 1 can have a different page style from Page 2 , Page 3 and so on. You can change the page layout of each page by selecting which Page style you want it to adopt. The page style feature in Writer lets you define what the default page layout should be or what page style should follow another. For example, you can define the Page 1 page style so that it is followed by the Default page style.

Customizing Open
A shift from MS Office to will not require significant changes in the way you work. If you are not comfortable with using OpenOffice straightaway, you can customize the Open workspace to suit your needs.
To customize toolbars, select View> Tools>Customize> Toolbars. In the Customize window, select the icons that you want to include in the toolbar. Then press OK.
To customize the menu contents, select Tools>Customize>Menus. In the Save In drop-down list, choose whether to save this changed menu for Writer or for a selected document alone.
To customize the shortcut keys, select Tools > Customize > Keyboard tab. On the Keyboard tab of the Customize dialog , select the desired shortcut key in the top list box labeled Shortcut keys. is Best for Education

July 16, 2007

Open source software is ideal for use in the education sector. It teaches the value of sharing, a sense of community, citizenship and collaboration. It typifies what learning should be about – the free exchange of ideas and the discovery of new ones.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Our best thought come from others”. Educators have long recognized the importance of the open exchange of ideas and information within the classroom. This process opens the mind, ignites creative thoughts, sparks curiosity over things undiscovered, which ultimately leads to the advancement of human knowledge. It is thus the responsibility of the educator to ensure that information exchange is free, open and uncensored across verbal and non-verbal communication channels. Open source software makes this easier across varied platforms and applications due to open file formats.

Open source software shows users what lies beneath. Students can discover the technological principles of the software through analysis of its structure, function and operation. It’s reverse engineering made easy. Learning is not only concerned with acquiring a skill for use today. It requires acquiring the fundamental skills that will benefit students in the long term. Thus, skills taught should be generic rather than tied to one vendor’s product.
Because Open is free, the student can even take a copy home , thus allowing the student to continue learning after school. This ripples to other member of the family, who get the value of a computer education without the need to spend money on software.

Open source software is ideal for use in education because of the values that it teaches the children. We are often told, “It is better to give than to receive”. The very existence of open source software is based on this idea- – giving something away to total strangers and not expecting anything in return.

The Education Project embodies this ideal. This education initiative aims to help teachers , students or anybody involved in education to enter the project .

One particular school , Wilmslow High School , located in the United Kingdom, took up the task. As part of this project, 11 students were challenged to create and distribute 50 copies of 1.1 CDs to schools and students in countries where commercial software is considered too expensive and/or where Internet access is limited. One group of students downloaded the ISO from a mirror site. Another group of students created customised CD labels and wallets using the resources from the website.

Based on the teacher, students learned more than just how to download, copy , label and distribute open source software. They learned about citizenship, co-operation and time management skills.

Because is an international community which encourages user participation in marketing, documentation, programming, and other aspects of the software, students are able to build co-operative skills across the internet .

Steal or share?

Would you rather steal or share? Open source software eradicates the ethical dilemma faced by students who are forced to buy pirated software because their teacher requires them to use MS Office for reports, projects, etc. Five to nine thousand pesos (P5T-P9T) for a genuine copy of MS Office vs. a bootlegged copy for P50- the temptation is great to go for the pirated copy. But why steal when you can share? Educators should be open as well. Open can save to .doc, .xls, .ppt formats so students can use Open at home and continue working on the document elsewhere using MS Office . Educators who have existing files in MS Office file formats can still open their files in
Even support is shared . Support for is provided by the community for free. Comprehensive online support is provided through newsgroups, forums or mailing lists that consist of hundreds of experienced users.

The OOo Help Outline contains FAQ’s, HowTo’s and per-application help documentation. It can be accessed at
User Help – FAQ Project FAQs are accessible at

Free training materials can be accessed from ( These materials are free to download and use. However, permission is required if the material will be used commercially .

The website ( shows a list of websites that offer free cliparts, templates, samples and macros

In Good Company

Many schools all over the world are already using open source software. Since 2003, the University of the Philippines advocates employees and faculty to use open source software, Linux and The University of the Philippines Open University is currently using Moodle, a free, open source software package course management system popularly used by educators to create effective online learning communities. A large number of open universities worldwide are already using Moodle.

To see the list of schools and government agencies using , visit the OOo Market Share Analysis website, (

Your school can use it too. On top of the non-monetary benefits of using open source software, there’s also one enticing aspect-its cost. Zero. As school budgets become tighter and tighter , inevitably, the education sector will look towards adopting to meet its software needs.

A preacher once said: “There is no greater crime than to stand between a man and his development; to take any law or institution and put it around him like a collar, and fasten it there, so that as he grows and enlarges, he presses against it till he suffocates and dies”

RUN FOR YOUR FILES! : Migrating from MS Office to Open

July 16, 2007

Run for your files! It’s time to move on. Microsoft’s proprietary file format had been losing out to the OpenDocument format. It seems a bright “vista” is not in Microsoft’s long term future. Their grand scheme for world domination that involves achieving sole control of file formats is slowly becoming futile. In fact, I would predict that if Microsoft does not embrace open standards soon, their precious MS Office suite will soon join the ranks of washed-up has-beens WordStar, VisiCalc, Lotus 1-2-3, dBase, and other former office leaders. Anything’s possible.

Personally, I think MS Office will die a slow and painful death unless Microsoft reconsiders and accepts that their ship has got a tiny little crack called proprietary file format that’s bound to be fatal one day. Losing the market for office productivity suites would cripple this software giant, since MS Office contributes 40% of their revenue. If MS Office fails, inevitably, Windows will follow. That ship would be very hard to save. There’s a valuable loot on that ship…the Microsoft proprietary file format. Thus, the urgency for the rest of us to get off that sinking ship and take our files with us while we still can.

The OpenDocument format is slowly winning the war. Governments such as the State of Massachusetts and the European Union voiced their preference for open document formats. And people all over the world are all ears. Why this success with the government sector?
Open Document format guarantees the file longevity that governments need. Documents should be readable after several decades or centuries and accessible to citizens , without regard for the kind of software they use now or will use then. MS Office documents become unreadable once new versions of MS Office are released. And that’s about every 3-5 years!
Open Document format is more trustworthy because the source code is open. Would you rather eat mom’s freshly baked pie that was made right in front of your eyes or buy one from the grocery , baked at God knows where?
OpenDocument format is backed by standards groups, ISO and OASIS and not controlled by any company with some form of interest.

Get off that sinking ship! Migrate to open source software like Open and do it soon! These are the list of things that are involved in the initial migration:

Sharing files with MS Office users can open Microsoft Office files . However, Microsoft Office is not yet capable of opening OpenDocument formats . Thus, if you are sharing a document saved in an format with an MS Office user, you have to save it in a Microsoft Office format. To save to Microsoft format:
Choose File-Save As from the menu bar then scroll down the file type box to choose the file format.
Note that can not open or convert Microsoft Access files (.mdb) files directly but it can access the data in the tables using DAO and ODBC.

Bulk conversion
You can convert large numbers of documents straightaway using the Document Converter. However, you should consider this option thoroughly. Two things you need plenty of are time and disk space. OOo files generally take up less space than Microsoft Office files, so in the end, you still get some extra disk space after conversion. However, conversion takes quite a while. It’s best to be cautious by keeping backup copies of MS Office documents until you are certain that all files were successfully converted.
For Bulk conversion:
Click File > Wizards > Document Converter.

Choosing the default file format saves files in the OpenDocument format by default . However, the default can be changed even to an MS Office format.
To change the default file format:
Select Tools > Options > Load/Save > General

Object Linking and Embedding (OLE)
To change the settings for Microsoft Office OLE objects, use Tools > Options > Load/Save> Microsoft Office. Check all the options so that embedded objects would be converted and thus be editable in both MS Office an suites. However, Windows application based OLE objects will not be editable in on a Linux machine but can still be displayed and resized.

Linked files
Cells that were copied and pasted from Excel into Word are recognized by Writer as a normal table. Thus, links are lost.

WordArt and Fontwork
Microsoft Office’s WordArt objects could look slightly different when imported into as Fontwork. Fontwork automatically becomes WordArt objects when the document is saved in a Microsoft Office format .

Macros cannot run Microsoft Office macros. To set whether keeps attached macros (so that they are still available for use in Microsoft Office) for Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, use Tools > Options > Load/Save > VBA Properties.
Note that Microsoft Office files that are infected with a macro virus can be safely opened in

MS Office vs. Open – a writer’s point of view

July 16, 2007

A few years ago , I was developing elementary-level textbooks which included tutorials on MS Office applications – MS Word, MS Excel, MS Powerpoint, and MS Access . I run these applications on a Windows emulator called Virtual PC on my Macintosh computer, for the purpose of capturing screen shots. I used an Apple Mac utility called Grab to capture the screenshots , and Open Writer ver 1.x to write the textbook . Running these two applications at the same time gave me the opportunity to compare MS Office 2003 and Open 1.x. At that time, I had the impression that MS Office 2003 was superior to Open 1.x in terms of features and performance.

My stern deadlines had consistently pushed me to find better, more efficient software. I experimented with several kinds of software- both proprietary and open source- for wordprocessing, drawing, flowcharts, spreadsheets, presentations, and many others. A few years on, I tried using the newly released version of Open 2.2 . Originally designed to compete against Microsoft Office – emulating its interface and capabilities, it had similarities with MS Office 2003 but it also had some unique features.

A very important Open 2.2 feature for me as a writer is the Navigator, which let me jump from “Chapter 3: Wordprocessing” to “Chapter 9: Computer Ethics” in a single click. It also lets me transfer an entire chapter from one location to another without having to use cut and paste. All I had to do was click on the name of the chapter in the Navigator box, then click on an up arrow to go up a chapter ahead or the down arrow to go down a chapter below. It saved me a lot of time . Open 2.2 also has a Styles and Formatting box , which let me format and modify page, frame and list styles. MS Office 2003 has neither, and is limited to providing an outline view of the document.

I needed lots of cliparts to complete my textbook. OOo’s Gallery does not have a search feature and contains very few cliparts . Due to my pressing need , I purchased cliparts on CD’s, which turned out to be a pitiful waste of my P3,000. It was a few months later when I learned that there were hundreds of free public domain clip-arts from . let me search and download as much cliparts as I needed. I just downloaded the whole night away !

In terms of capabilities, MS Office 2003’s Media Gallery was much better than Open 2.2’s Gallery. MSO 2003’s Media Gallery is tied to the Web , contains a search facility, and the cliparts are organized by Themes. The downside is that Microsoft does not give away free cliparts.

I always include my name and the name of the document in the Properties dialog . To do this, go to File > Properties > General. The Apply user data checkbox includes or removes information .

OOo 2.2 also includes some features that MSO 2003 does not , such as the built-in Export to PDF option and the word completion feature. In MS Office, word completion is available in MS Excel, and not in MS Word.

An interesting feature of Open 2.2 is version control. I can save more than one version of a file under one file name and each version that is saved is complete. Then I can select the version I want to open in read-only mode using the version drop-down . To access this option , use File > Versions . In MSO 2003, only the current version can be opened because each version contains all of the changes that have been made to the document.
It is a good idea to set the default locations for file storage . When the file autosaves, it is stored in the default location. This serves as a backup of your file. In Open 2.2, it can be specified by accessing Use Tools > Options > > Paths. In MSO 2003, the default location is in My Documents.
Both software have support for digital signatures, strong encryption, and have secure paths for macro execution. The languages available in Open 2.2 for macro development are OpenBasic, Beanshell, Java, JavaScript, and Python. However, MSO 2003 only suppports VBA . Aside from macros, some office suites can have extended features with plug-ins. In the case of, the source code could be modified using C and C++, Java and Pyton . MSO 2003 only uses C and C++.

One last feature to discuss: price. To get Open, simply download it from or ask a friend to download it for you. You can burn as many copies to CD legally and give it away to friends. One copy of Microsoft Office 2003 Basic Editon will cost you at least P11,000. (The Microsoft Office 2007 Home and Student OEM costs P7,000 plus).

MS Office vs. Open – which would you choose?

Give Me Free Software Or Give Me Death

July 16, 2007

Would you rather have some software capitalist decide what you can do with your computer, how you do it, and when you do it? Is the idea of software emancipation so terrifying that you would rather suffer the ordeal of having your hands tied behind your back, and your eyes blindfolded, not knowing what capabilities your sofware vendor would bestow upon your software applications or operating system, and wait miserably for that time when it develops the functions you need, if it ever does at all?

When you purchase and use proprietary software such as MS Office, you are giving the software vendor a certain degree of control over your computer. Proprietary software is closed source, thus you really do not know what lies beneath it. Proprietary file format specifications tend to restrict data longevity and data interchange with software developed by other vendors. When the software vendors that own these file formats are gone and decide to take their file format specifications to their grave, so is your data – every single bit of it. Data unrecovered is as final as death itself. Remember those documents you saved in WordStar in the 1980’s? Can you still open them today?

I am not saying that proprietary software is not a worthy investment. When free software is not available to meet my needs, I still patronize proprietary software myself. It’s just a matter of distinguishing which ones are worth your hard-earned money and which ones are merely out to rip you off.

As a student, I was a heavy user of proprietary software. MS-DOS , WordStar, Lotus 123, Win 95, Win 98, Windows XP, MS Office – I used many of them. I had not encountered much problems except for the occassional crashing and the inability to edit documents using previous versions of the same application.

The world changed drastically a decade hence. The most significant change was that unlike then, I now have to start paying for stuff. Free home cooked meals, free electricity, free clothes – all a thing of the past.

I had become a teacher at UP Diliman. Being on a very low salary scale, I found it incredibly ridiculous to pay at least P8,000 for a copy of MS Office…a CD containing a few lines of code doesn’t even cost half that price to mass produce! Nonetheless, I wasn’t the least interested in buying pirated software either. No self-respecting teacher would be caught dead with pirated software on her hands! Thus, I bid that P8,000 adieu.

Free software came to me like rain on an unbelievably hot summer day. It was free in terms of costs, yet it was incredibly useful . The refreshing fact is that Open was the product of collaboration between people who contributed their time, experience, and money to develop a product that they can share to the world. It includes the same applications as its major proprietary software counterparts, but is perceived to be superior in terms of performance. Because of Open, I did not need to empty my miserable pockets to purchase software licenses or yearly upgrades that fall short of its promise anyway.

Open was free in many more ways. It was free from viruses, free from those ridiculous “bells and whistles” found in proprietary software that no one really needs, but are placed there anyway. It is also free from payments to tech support, who more often than not, offer that single ultimate solution: “reinstall windows”, or “reformat your hard drive” .

An important aspect of Open is its file format . Open 2.0 and later versions use the OASIS Open Document XML format as the default file format. The OASIS Open Document format is a vendor and implementation independent file format. Proprietary software such as MS Office use a proprietary document file format (e.g. .doc, .ppt, .xls , etc) that restrict data flow to software from other vendors. Open document formats , however, are easily interchangeable. An important yet often disregarded aspect of proprietary file formats is that documents saved under proprietary file formats are at risk of becoming unusable once the software that uses it is no longer supported by any vendor. Open standard format specifications , however, are public and guarantees freedom and independence.

Open 2.2 is compatible with MS Office. Open Writer could open .doc files that I saved in MS Word. Files could be saved with the same .doc format or using open document text (.odt) format, used by Open Its spreadsheet application, Calc, and presentation program, Impress , can also read and write to .xls files , used with MS Excel and .ppt files, used with MS Powerpoint, respectively.

The greatest freedom that open source software like Open offers is personal in nature. It offers me the freedom as a computer junkie to do with my computer , what I want , when I want it, and how I want it. I am able to manage my own computer – not let a software corporation manage it for me.

I have used Open on Windows and Linux operating systems . I have used it to teach a course called Introduction to Information Technology at UP. Currently , I am typing this article using Open 2.2 on a Macintosh computer. I use the same application to develop course modules and write lengthy textbooks. Not once did it crash , catch a virus, or stop me from opening documents saved on other file formats. The current version, 2.2, is a huge improvement over previous versions. If I decide to use it on other platforms such as Solaris and Free BSD, it’s supposed to work there , too. Based on my experience, is indeed a product worth downloading and installing onto your computer .

It is not difficult to migrate from MS Office to Open The user interface is similar. There are many common functions. Thus, learning it is simply intuitive. 2.2 will run on Microsoft Windows versions 98 and above , Linux kernel version 2.2.13 or higher, glibc2 version 2.2.0 or higher, Power Mac G3 400Mhz or higher, Mac OS X 10.3.x (10.3.5 recommended), Mac OS X 10.4.x. It requires at least 128 Mbytes RAM on all operating systems, (except for MacOS, which requires 256 Mbytes RAM) and a resolution of 800 x 600 or higher with at least 256 colours . The available disk space required is 800 Mbytes for a default install on Windows, 200 Mbytes on Linux, and 400Mbytes on a Macintosh.

The best way to get Open is to download it via Download Central at:
You can also download it via Peer to Peer networks, which require that you have a bit torrent client .

It is a good idea to use a download manager to protect your download from unreliable connections . A download manager lets you resume the download when such an interruption occurs.

For more installation information , download the SetUp Guide (.pdf format) from:

Since discovering , I have explored a variety of free , open source sofware to help me develop course modules. There’s Edubuntu, Gcompris, the KDE Edutainment Suite, Tux4Kids, and many others. You might find some of these useful too.

There could possibly be a number of reasons why some of you would choose not migrate to 2.2 right away:
Learning a new application that looks very similar to the one you are using right now is just too difficult.
Your boss had been using MS Office for a very long time and would hate to know that you know something he/she doesn’t.
You hate your money and like giving it away to large corporations like Microsoft.
You’d rather be dead than get free software.
For more information about Open, visit