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Expert: Is OpenOffice lite? Bilingual? MS Publisher-friendly? OpenOffice expert Solveig Haugland answers questions about the open source office productivity suite from site users.

Solveig Haugland, author and Ask the Expert advisor, believes that interest in enterprise deployment of open source office suites is skyrocketing. IT managers seconded that emotion in their responses to our interview with her, Expert predicts OpenOffice revolution. Here, Haugland answers our site users' questions.

Why aren't there lightweight OpenOffice format file viewers or browser plug-ins available for download on the Internet?

Haugland: There does seem to be a Web site devoted to one, but darned if I can find an actual download link. So, it's obscure. This has also been discussed a fair amount on at least one mailing list. I've thought about it myself. I think the question is not 'Why aren't there any?' but 'Why aren't there any yet?' folks and people who think this is a good idea: Come on in, the open source is fine! That is to say, there isn't [a lightweight version] now that I know of, but I have faith in the open source community to spawn one quite quickly.

I'm a great believer in simplicity, and I dislike word processors. What does OpenOffice offer me?

Haugland: just gives you a more solid, techie-friendly, and of course free, way to deal with text when you're working on documents with other standard word processing people (most of the world). And when you do so, of course, you at least get really tiny file sizes, and a way to go into the source code and edit things from there instead of having to just try to fix everything from the outside.

I am considering using either OpenOffice or StarOffice for a small non-profit organization that will assist the development of schools in South America. My main concern is cost, but I also need an office suite that will be efficient in using both English and Spanish. Which one would you recommend?

Haugland: File format opening capabilities, clip art, support and the Adabas database are the key things StarOffice has that doesn't. Sun gives StarOffice away or sells it very cheaply to educational institutions, so either option is pretty good. However, unless you really need to open a wide variety of different file formats, should be absolutely fine and is -- of course -- absolutely free. I haven't used the Spanish version, but the Norwegian one is great, and I assume the Spanish one is, too.

I have Microsoft Publisher 97 docs. Will StarOffice or OpenOffice be able to open the files?

Haugland: I haven't heard of it working, and Publisher doesn't show up in the file type dropdown list in my StarOffice 6.0 install. It's easy to test whether it works, though. I've also heard Writer and Draw's layout capabilities compared favorably to Publisher, though, so if you can get the content out of Publisher via RTF or another means, you might just well be quite a bit happier with Writer.

Where can I find an up-to-date listing of educational organizations that are using or testing open source on the desktop and completing dumping Microsoft?

Haugland: A recent school project has been started, targeted at getting into schools. To keep up to date on the schools project and thus on the schools involved, you can subscribe to the mailing list. I think that's the most direct way to get the information you need. There's a flyer here on the project.

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Got questions about open source office suites? Just ask Solveig!


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