How do you convert Microsoft Word files to PDF for free and solve a dozen other problems? Install OpenOffice from www.openoffice.org.
OpenOffice is an alternative to Microsoft Office for most of the things you do with Microsoft Office. OpenOffice has alternatives to Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. OpenOffice also contains an alternative to Adobe's expensive PDF creator. If you do not use absolutely every feature of those Microsoft and Adobe products, try OpenOffice. You may never need to buy expensive software again.
The OpenOffice people want you to call the product OpenOffice.org and abbreviate the name as OOo instead of OO. Sun purchased OOo from StarOffice and now Sun is owned by Oracle. All the branding on the OOo site changed from Sun to Oracle. Perhaps we will see Oracle OpenOffice.org abbreviated as O_OOo.
May 5, 2010
OpenOffice 3.2 arrived in February 2010. There are few changes from version 3.1 released back in may 2009.
The start time was reduced in 3.1 compared to 3.0 and is reduced again in 3.2. After the first start for the day, OOo is left loaded and subsequent starts are almost instant.
3.2 won another battle in the war to support Microsoft Office 2007 files. Expect OOo to fight more problems over the next few releases.
I have everything in OOo set to English but when I create a new document, OOo still displays American as the language default. This is exactly the same as Microsoft Office. Will OOo fix the problem or will they wait for Microsoft to fix the problem then copy the change?
On October 28th 2009, the one hundred millionth person clicked on the Download OpenOffice.org button since version 3.0 of the software was announced just over one year ago.
That many downloads in a year is impressive. Some of those downloads are for organisations where the one download is used to install on hundreds or thousands of computers. I estimate, based on observing download usage, the total number of installations would be two to three times the total downloads.
Offsetting that are the facts that version 3.1 was released and a lot of 3.0 users went back to download 3.1 plus a lot of users keep Microsoft Office installed along side OpenOffice for many years. A really useful number would be the number of people who stopped buying for Microsoft Office updates because they find OpenOffice a complete replacement.
For years I had both products installed because people send me Word documents for editing and OpenOffice did not have a compatible revision marking system. OpenOffice now has a compatible revision marking system that is bit hard to find. Almost everything else in OpenOffice is as easy to use as the equivalent in Microsoft Office.
To use revision marking, select Edit » Changes » Record to start recording changes. Read the Edit » Changes menu options to find other revision related actions and options.
Free from Cost
OpenOffice is free which means you do not have to pay money to try it. Instead of testing it for a 30 day trial period, like most software, you can try it for 30 years without paying anything. You do not have to pay for updates. There is no $200 going out every year for an update. The most OpenOffice will cost you is the Internet access time while you download OpenOffice.
Free from Licence Audits
There are no licence restrictions on OpenOffice which means you can install it as standard on every computer you ever use. You can download OpenOffice on to a CD and hand out the CD to anyone you like. If Internet access is expensive in your area, get together with friends, download one copy to CD then share the CD. You occasionally get OpenOffice included in the CDs attached to some computer magazines.
If you look at the work performed by a medium size company to manage software licences for proprietary software, you can see why software with no licence problems is a real benefit. Many medium size companies could free up a person for more useful work simply by switching to OpenOffice.
The latest release of OpenOffice is more reliable than the latest Microsoft Office products. I use both on lots of machines. Starting from OpenOffice 1.1, I get fewer problems with OpenOffice than with the equivalent Microsoft products.
When I update OpenOffice, the updates work. When I update Microsoft Office, the updates damage all sorts of settings throughout Microsoft Office, Microsoft Windows, and totally unrelated software. An update from Microsoft is a bit like letting an elephant loose inside your car, an elephant that has just eaten a very big dinner and is about to mess up everywhere.
OpenOffice works on all the useful computer operating systems. You can use OpenOffice on NT, Linux, and Windows. Apple dumped all their own operating systems and switched to Unix so they can use normal software. You can use OpenOffice on most versions of Unix including the version used by Apple.
Convert to PDF
PDF is a popular file format when you have to send a document to someone else for printing. PDF locks the document in to a print ready format. Some people load PDF's on to Web sites so customers can download a document in a fixed format. PDF is also popular when you want to send a Microsoft Word document to someone who does not have Microsoft Word.
Adobe sell a product to convert Microsoft Word documents to PDF. OpenOffice includes the conversion free. You open a Microsoft Word document in OpenOffice then export the document as a PDF. you just saved $200.
In fact OpenOffice opens Excel worksheets and a dozen other file formats. Anything open in OpenOffice can be exported to PDF. You just saved a lot of other conversion tools.
OpenOffice 1.1.1 lists 84 file formats including JPEG images. To test JPEG to PDF, I opened a JPEG in OpenOffice then exported the image to PDF. The whole process required less than 10 seconds including thinking about how to do it.
I saved a Web page to disk including all the images, using the Web browser "save page as" feature. OpenOffice then opened the saved HTML file including all the images, and converted the lot to a PDF.
Not for Everyone
There are some things I occasionally need that are in Microsoft Office but not in OpenOffice. For that reason I keep a copy of Microsoft Office 98 on my main workstation. I have licences for later versions of Microsoft Office, have installed those versions, but have reverted to Microsoft Office 98 so I can get my normal work finished.
Microsoft Office has deteriorated in releases after 98. I find the changes slow down the product and make regular use much more difficult. To use the latest version of Microsoft Office, I have to apply a long list of changes to turn off annoying and time consuming "features". That means I am unlikely to ever buy another Microsoft Office even if OpenOffice did not exist.
Every update to OpenOffice reduces the need for Microsoft Office. Other free open source products are removing the need for the features of Microsoft Office not in OpenOffice. At the current rate of development, I will no longer use Microsoft Office for anything after 2005. (Update: This turned out to be 2008)
The latest release of OpenOffice has spelling dictionaries, hyphenation dictionaries, and thesauruses in multiple languages including English. OpenOffice lets you spell English in English, American, Canadian, and Australian. Yeah mate, a real dinkum Aussie dictionary.
Unfortunately OpenOffice uses Java which means you first have to download Java or install a version of OpenOffice that includes Java. If you do not know what Java is, install the version of OpenOffice containing Java. If you do know something about installing software or Java, bite the bullet and install Java first. You can then update to the latest Java at any time. You can also share the latest Java with anything else that uses Java.
I recommend installing OpenOffice on every computer before you buy a licence for Microsoft Office or Adobe's PDF converter. You can then wean people off Microsoft Office. In a few years, you will have once less set of licences to worry about. That is saving of about $200 per person per year.
OpenOffice Version 2
OpenOffice has a new file system in version 2. The data for a document is stored in several XML format files that are then zipped up in to one overall file. For version 2, the XML files contain an OpenDocument structure. Microsoft's Word is copying the move to XML but is not going to use the OpenDocument structure.
I saved the word "hello" in a new OpenOffice file named hello.odt. The test is to see if OpenOffice works like Microsoft's Word and stores lots of junk in an almost empty file. OpenOffice scored about the same as Microsoft Word.
The test document is a file occupying 5,880 bytes which on most file systems chews up 8 KB. If OpenOffice used a more efficient storage method and reduced the file to a few hundred bytes then some file systems, including as NTFS and ReiserFS, would use only 1 KB for the file.
By comparison the Microsoft Word test file occupied 19 KB before being zipped. When I zipped the 19 KB Word document, the result was a file of just 1652 bytes or less than a third of the OpenOffice size. If Microsoft Word automatically zipped files then Word would beat OpenOffice for the storage of small documents.
We are unlikely to store many documents as short as one word but in a modern rich text content management system we could end up with millions of documents containing only a line or two of text. OpenOffice could work on making those documents smaller.
The test document file unzips to several directories and files.
The unzipped document contains the following directories.
The unzipped document contains the following files.
The five characters of content are stored in a 2,432 byte file named content.xml and is stuffed full of unused XML namespace declarations. OpenOffice declares everything that might ever be used one day if you produce a giant technical document. This puffery is exactly what people complain about when they use Microsoft's Word. If you are not using something then it should not be include it in the document.
The manifest is a list of the files and directories. The manifest is useful when you want to check the content of the unzipped document to ensure it is complete. To make the manifest an accuracte way to check the files, you could include file sizes and a CRC check.
You do not need some of the files or most of the directories in the unzipped document. The manifest could indicate something is part of the structure but not supplied because it is empty. If you are going to use a manifest then you might as well use it to save processing and disk space.
The meta.xml file is over a thousand bytes of data that does not contain much of use. The small number of useful items could be included in the content and the rest thrown away.
The document's mime type is stored in the manifest.xml file and then duplicated in the mimetype file. Duplication is bad. Perhaps the OpenDocument people have never studied data structures or data storage. Perhaps the manifest was added after the mimetype file became part of the standard or perhaps the mimetype file is some sort of programming shortcut to fit a problem with Unix code. OpenOffice could save processing time and disk space by dropping the mimetype file.
The settings.xml file is 6,607 bytes of information about the way OpenOffice is used at the time you last update a document. If you create a thousand documents then all those settings are duplicated one thousand times across all your documents. The settings should be in your user profile, not individual documents. General display settings should only end up in a document if there is a specific option to set something for the current document instead of the current edit session. The setting should also have a way to completely remove the setting from the document so that the document reverts to the session setting.
Almost all large editing applications fail in this area because nobody performs full width tests on the documents produced by the editing applications. If you are about to buy an application then ask the vendor for proof that they conduct full width testing. Send them to me if they have questions.
The styles.xml file is over seven thousand bytes of styles that are not used in the test document. There is an argument that you should store all styles in a document at the point of document creation. The more common requirement is to store only those styles that are used and acquire styles when needed. That lets you acquire the most up to date styles. I would like the option to not store styles until they are used and I would make it the default.
The thumbnail.png file is empty, should be dropped and only used when needed. The software should know what to do when the file is missing.