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OpenOffice vs. MS Office for Education?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the search-for-a-red-tape-solvent dept.

Education 1039

dbrian asks: "I work in a large high school district where there will be some discussion on whether or not to purchase another term of 'Software Assurance' for MS Office licenses on thousands of computers. This seems to be an ideal opportunity to promote an alternative such as OpenOffice. It will not be an easy sell, even though OpenOffice should more than satisfy all curricular needs and save the district lots of money; like many other districts we have political and cultural 'challenges'. So, I ask you, have you been successful in moving your education or business organization from MS Office to OpenOffice? What were the pros and cons from your migration? What advice do you have in selling this to tech coordinators and administrators who are not enlightened by Open Source?"

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Hard one (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315290)

$0 vs $140?
I donno.

EDUCATE THIS! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315291)

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Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315294)



Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315456)

Shouldn't that be "A greased up Yoda doll up my ass, I have"?

Demo it? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315295)

Can't you just do a demo? Call it "microsoft office" and show them the latest features. Then say "oh, by the way, this isn't microsoft office after all. It's a $300 competitor. Then say, "Oh wait. It's not $300 after all. It's free"

That way you kinda ease them into it.

Just a thought.

Re:Demo it? (3, Insightful)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315435)

I bet you have a harder time selling the district on a free, less popular product than on an expensive, popular one.

Not a testament to M$'s programming, but it a testament to their marketing department.

Re:Demo it? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315485)

It could be a testament to Sun's programming that people would rather pay for MS Office than use OpenOffice.org for free.

Re:Demo it? (1, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315516)

If you think "OOo vs. Office" can be summed up by the price difference, you're a fool:

1 - How much will it cost to reinstall everything? That's IT time, == $$$.

2 - How much will it cost to upgrade some computers, since OOo is usually more resource-hungry than Office?

3 - How much will it cost in money and grief to retrain everybody (yes, there are people who just get by with Word provided you don't ever change anything to their computers).

4 - How much grief will the remaining file format incompatibilities with Office bring to the school?

So please stop being the typical mindless free software drone and start being a bit more realistic.

there will be hell to pay... (3, Insightful)

tkavanaugh (863507) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315297)

the first 1000 times a student brings in a disk with their homework or report in a format that can't be read on the teachers' computer

Re:there will be hell to pay... (2, Informative)

member57 (680279) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315336)

??? Format that can't be read, maybe they used a Mac. Oo can read virtually ANY format.

Re:there will be hell to pay... (2, Funny)

ZephyrXero (750822) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315452)

I won't read MS Works files (yes, people still use it sadly enough)....but then again, neither will Word ;)

Re:there will be hell to pay... (1)

ZephyrXero (750822) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315497)

I = it. Stupid un-editable comments ;)

Re:there will be hell to pay... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315392)

So just give all the students copies of Open Office on cd. With the saving in licence fees you'll be able to afford it!

Re:there will be hell to pay... (5, Informative)

Y2 (733949) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315405)

the first 1000 times a student brings in a disk with their homework or report in a format that can't be read on the teachers' computer

Guess what?

If you're used to using other office suites - such as Microsoft Office - you'll be completely at home with OpenOffice.org 1.1. However, as you become used to OpenOffice.org 1.1, you'll start to appreciate the extras that make your life easier. You can of course continue to use your old Microsoft Office files without any problems - and if you need to exchange files with people still using Microsoft Office, that's no problem either.

http://www.openoffice.org/product/index.h tml

If the punk brings a wordstar file, to heck with him.

Re:there will be hell to pay... (1)

aldousd666 (640240) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315451)

WHAT?!? No WordStar? I'm going home. (And I want my money back.)

Re:there will be hell to pay... (2, Informative)

KhanReaper (514808) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315420)

I can already say that Open Office, for as nice as it is, cannot load MS Word files that have embedded jpeg images. Even the latest beta versions have this problem.

Outside of this problem, I have been able to use Open Office completely this semester for all of my word processing and data needs. It works really well, most of the time.

My only real regret was writing a full paper in the latest beta version of it, for the thing crashed consistenly when performing a File>Save, no kidding here, resulting in a crashed word processor with a blank saved document.

Re:there will be hell to pay... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315454)

It seems pretty fucking obvious that this would already be an issue if the school has not defined acceptable formats AND versions, moving to open office doesn't necessarily have to even affect the list of approved formats, as long as none of the latest MS versions are on the list. Or are you trying to suggest that disk formats would be an issue?

Re:there will be hell to pay... (2, Insightful)

Detritus (11846) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315475)

Who told the student to use Microsoft Office? No school system should require students to submit their work in a proprietary file format.

It's quite simple really: (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315300)

1. OpenOffice is free, but support may be obtained from a very popular computer company. (Sun Microsystems)
2. OpenOffice fully supports Microsoft Office file formats.
3. OpenOffice can be distributed to students without cost.
4. OpenOffice (and its sister project NeoOffice/J) run on ALL popular OSes, including Macintoshes.
5. OpenOffice is continually updated to have the latest features, again at no cost.

Re:It's quite simple really: (5, Insightful)

lintux (125434) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315385)

2. OpenOffice fully supports Microsoft Office file formats.

I just wish this were true... It gets close, but there are still many, many problems. :-(

Re:It's quite simple really: (-1, Flamebait)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315441)

I just wish this were true... It gets close, but there are still many, many problems. :-(

Most of which are irrelevant for school use. Business caliber documents need precise formatting, fancy effects, and other gizmos that aren't needed in a term paper or book report.

Re:It's quite simple really: Not all that simple. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315403)

"2. OpenOffice fully supports Microsoft Office file formats."
Really want to seem some files that do not import correctly? What about macros?
OpenOffice is great but it is not "Really quite simple"
You also have to look at it from a job placement point of view. Many places want Microsoft Office experience not all that many want OpenOffice experience.
I have migrated my office to OpenOffice and yes it works fine but it is not as simple as you make it out to be.

Re:It's quite simple really: Not all that simple. (4, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315466)

Keep the administrators on MS Office. they will no doubt need some of the stupid things that openoffice cannot do, like macro support for weird school system things.

Move students and teachers to OpenOffice, since their needs are different. I hate it when organizations do a total switch to something... use each tool where appropriate!

Re:It's quite simple really: Not all that simple. (4, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315481)

Really want to seem some files that do not import correctly? What about macros?

I used OO at university without problems for a year until I had to take a class that used a macro-filled Excel file. Had to break down and buy the student version of Office. I think macros, especially for heavy Excel users, are the showstopper. A lot of people with complex spreadsheets (sometimes inherited from former employees) are going to be the biggest group of 'No' votes in the article poster's project.

Re:It's quite simple really: (1)

capt.Hij (318203) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315404)

Unfortunately, it is not so easy. First and foremost, change is hard. *ANY* change causes discomfort. In this case you have some people turned into ad hoc system admins out of necessity rather than desire who will have to install a new piece of software in a heterogeneous environment. The admins will not be happy.

Second, openoffice may not support Office formats in the future. Add the expectation that everybody in these people's world do not think twice when assuming that everybody must be able to deal with office files.

Finally, openoffice does not look exactly like nor does it print out exactly like office. For example, some documents that are on one page in office might be 2 pages in openoffice. When it comes to processing cover sheets this is bad bad bad!

When computers become something that people understand rather than have to put up with then your arguments will hold true.

Re:It's quite simple really: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315408)

2. OpenOffice fully supports Microsoft Office file formats.

So all my VBA applications and Access forms still work? Oh, that's good to know.

Re:It's quite simple really: (1)

Shky (703024) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315409)

Have a convincing reason why it's free, though. People still associate price with quality. People assume that they'll get what they pay for, that's why they'll shell out for the high price of MS Office -- they expect high quality in return. When people get something for nothing, they expect nothing of it.

Re:It's quite simple really: (0, Flamebait)

Swamii (594522) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315465)

Not to flame, but #2 is a tad misleading. While OO supports .doc, exporting to the Microsoft .doc format isn't there, meaning people who only have MS Office (i.e. most people) can't open your document.

The default swx format can't be opened by MS Office either, which means there will be some trouble viewing student/teacher documents unless the defaults were changed (or if one was to teach everyone to export to some cross-office compatible format, but that's boiling the ocean...)

what about technical support (2, Interesting)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315307)

I am not claiming to be an expert on Open Office, but did you consider the tech support of it? Also the compatibility? I know that we cannot use Open Office in our firm because our documents will not open properly there. We have documents that are hundreds of pages of custom work, including our normal.dot files.

THere are benefits to using industry standard programs.

Re:what about technical support (1)

postalrat (519662) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315362)

Yes. And there are even more benefits to using industry standard formats.

Re:what about technical support (4, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315383)

I know that we cannot use Open Office in our firm because our documents will not open properly there. We have documents that are hundreds of pages of custom work, including our normal.dot files.

The issue you're seeing is not relavent in a school environment. Students will regularly start with a blank page, or a template created specifically for the course. They will NOT have three hundred page manuscripts that describe... actually, what the heck DO people put in those 300 page documents? I have never figured that out. The only document I've ever had trouble porting was a resume I did with Word 97. The formatting got screwed up in OpenOffice, but then again it got screwed up in MSOffice 2000 as well. *shrug*

THere are benefits to using industry standard programs... ...such as being forever locked into their "standard". Welcome to illegal monopoly practice hell.

Re:what about technical support (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315505)

We have documents that are hundreds of pages of custom work

You have those in Word? My condolences. We switched word processors because at around 200 pages with a dozen or so graphics files would not reliable save and reopen. Word is a steaming pile of crap when it comes to long documents.

In any case, they shouldn't have to worry about anything but the most basic Word compatibility for an education environment. Compatibility should actually be better since all the students can have a free copy of OpenOffice to take home and use on all platforms. Word on the other hand comes in so many versions none of which are completely compatible and you can't expect students to shell out a hundred bucks for a newer copy.

There are disadvantages to using proprietary programs only available at great cost from a single vendor.

Re:what about technical support (2, Insightful)

idsofmarch (646389) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315509)

But most students don't turn in papers with 'custom work' rather they create documents that, except for some minor font changes, could have been done on a typewriter. OpenOffice should be a fine change in a computer lab, with a few legacy copies of Office kept around to ensure compatibility. Frankly, even with Word you can run into problems with students who are still using WordPerfect, WordStar or some other ancient program. There are benefits to using industry-standard standards, not programs.

Free = better for low income students? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315308)

It is free. This means people don't need to shell out for software.

PC's can be picked up dirt cheap these days (I've seen 299 retail in the UK) if your child can get the software that the school uses for free it can only be a good thing.

Not impossible but... (5, Interesting)

MPHellwig (847067) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315309)

Be sure it it is indeed a viable alternative, it doesn't need to be better as long as it is good enough for that situation.

I work as an administrator/application manager at high school, the point you have to consider when trying to switch is:
Documentation, some teachers probably need to adapt their lessons, are they motivated for that and do they have the experience to make a change for them self?

Why should teachers be motivated to switch? Because it is a moral obligation for non-profit organizations to use product that are more suitable for the common good and not just profitable for a monopoly.

Education should be accessible to all layers of society, even the ones that don't have the money to buy "big bucks office".
So by using open source they aren't forced to use illegal software just to be able to get educated.

should more than satisfy? (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315311)

Dont you think that it does in fact satisy your needs should be the very first thing you determine?

I don't know about you... (4, Interesting)

gandell (827178) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315312)

But I'm not impressed with Open Office's load times. One of the reasons we aren't moving more people to this particular open source package is that it typically takes 5 times as long to open the Text Document app if you don't have the tasktray icon loading.
So no, we're not planning on moving anyone to Open Office. We have, however, moved a few workstations to Star Office.

OpenOffice, Hands Down. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315318)

It will give the students a more solid understanding of Marxism, which will help for their history classes.

Will it be useful? (4, Interesting)

Monf (783812) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315319)

When a kid leaves the school and tries to get a job and says "Yes, I am proficient in OpenOffice", how many employers are going to say "That's great, but we use M$ Office..."

Re:Will it be useful? - oops (1)

Monf (783812) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315359)

Or did I just miss the point, and this is about the administrative side of things....?

Re:Will it be useful? (4, Funny)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315426)

And when I go to an employer, and I say "I can code in C and C++', and they say "That's grea, but we use Visual.net", I'll give them the finger.

Re:Will it be useful? (4, Insightful)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315437)

Good education will teach skills and not teach to a particular application. For what 90% of people use something like Word, WordPerfect, or OOo Writer for is really basic, and how to do it really doesn't change much between programs.

Re:Will it be useful? (5, Insightful)

CheeseTroll (696413) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315496)

I certainly hope my kids will learn more in high school than how to be good secretaries. I wrote school papers with pen/paper, and later with AppleWorks, yet I have somehow managed to move on.

Give it to your secretaries (1)

Raleel (30913) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315321)

If your secretaries can use it, then it should work. If it's for labs, then that's even easier.

Crappy Tech Policies (2, Interesting)

suyashs (645036) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315332)

My school district has the most backward Tech policy I have ever seen. Every computer is licenced for all the MS Office apps, many random apps, and one cannot buy anything from anyone unless that vendor is "approved". This leads to some interesting pricing issues such as $200 for a stick of 128 MB ram, $50 mice, and very expensive computers. Furthermore, the computer science classes are stuck with old 233 Mhz Pentium IIs while keyboarding classes are upgraded to new 2.8 Ghz P4s. It's a big mess and nobody seems to care.

Re:Crappy Tech Policies (1)

member57 (680279) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315416)

Well gosh, the Computer Science Dept. is only full of geeks, while even the popular kids have to take a keyboarding class...

Re:Crappy Tech Policies (3, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315511)

"and one cannot buy anything from anyone unless that vendor is "approved""

Most schools are like that. 99% of the time, people on the schoolboard are getting illegal kickbacks. It happend really bad here in GA a while ago...

Openoffice 2 is superb (4, Interesting)

johansalk (818687) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315333)

I'm a power user and have been using openoffice, and before that staroffice, since 2000. I can't see why kids in a school would need any more than I do. I have access to MS office 2003, yet openoffice, and especially with the promising beta of version 2, remains my choice for now and perhaps a time to come.

It's a straight "savings" pitch (5, Interesting)

winkydink (650484) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315335)

The decision-makers will be finance-oriented, not technologists. Keep the "just like MS Office" points at a high level and keep pushing how much money it will save. Worst case, MS radically discounts their sw to play for the block. With either outcome, ther's more money to spend on the students, and that is what it's really all about.

OpenOffice of course (2, Informative)

PenguinBoyDave (806137) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315338)

I use both. At work I just have too many instances where the compatability just isn't there. However, I believe you should use OpenOffice in schools. Why? The biggest problem with people adopting open source in my mind is that they are afraid to try something new. Introduce them to something new in the beginning and they will use it. Chances are they will stick with it. If they move to Word later, at least they gave it a chance.

Re:OpenOffice of course (2, Insightful)

MisanthropicProgram (763655) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315458)

At work I just have too many instances where the compatability just isn't there.

I'm really confused, now. What did you find that wasn't compatible?
I'm seeing two different attitudes here: OO is fully compatible with MS or OO has some incompatablities.

I'm not trying to flame or anything, it's just that I really want to know why there's two differing opinions. Is it a version issue?

What else could you do with the money? (1)

DaveInAustin (549058) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315342)

Aren't there some other things the school could do with the money you would send to MSFT? Why not focus on that? Of course, you could just refer them to this story [slashdot.org] which states that you are better off not giving the students anything.

The real question (1)

Raster Burn (213891) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315348)

The real question is why would you want to switch a school to OO.o? If a company is hiring high school graduates for jobs requiring computer literacy, they usually want students with Microsoft Word experience. Don't let your zeal for OSS hurt the kids job search!

Re:The real question (2, Interesting)

philipgar (595691) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315523)

Honestly are the computer skills really that different. Most companies hiring kids out of high school aren't expecting the kids to be masters of MS Office. Most schools teach kids the basics of office. Such as writing letters, changing fonts, making a presentation, etc. If the school teaches it properly, switching from using Open Office to MS Office is about as difficult as transforming from using office 2000 to xp. Its just not a big deal, the concepts are the exact same.

Now of course there are exceptions to this general rule. There are some advanced features in MS Excel that I have yet to be able to do within open office. However I doubt the high schools are coverning those things in the first place.

A company hiring kids out of high school is not generally expecting the best and the brightest (as those students are generally going to college at least in the USA). They may expect computer skills, but to the extent that they know how to check things on the web, use a mouse, type documents etc. Hell for the most part I think schools should scrap half the computer stuff they teach kids. Do they really learn anything when they play with putting a million clip arts in a document? They'd be far better off just teaching them to type as well as business skills. they'll go much further than knowing how to make hideous word documents with flashy graphics, or worthless powerpoint presentations with a million sounds and transitional effects. Stick to the basics.


Free.... (1)

Reignking (832642) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315355)

Remember the days when Apple simply gave their computers to schools, in a brilliant, philanthropic marketing move?

It really helps, down the road, to teach kids how to use your OS of software. Giving kids a chance to learn OpenOffice et al could have interesting repurcussions down the road.

Re:Free.... (1)

Jeff Hornby (211519) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315495)

And of course that was such a good strategy that Apple is now the largest selling brand in the software industry....


Seriously though, is OpenOffice really good for the kids. The purpose of our schools is to educate children and get them ready for the "real world" not to provide a platform for religious zealots, whether they be fundamentalists, anarchists or open source advocates.

Won't happen anytime soon (1)

jasonmicron (807603) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315358)

You can give it a shot. The only advice I would recommend is to find an answer to the problems that the students and staff would have getting into the systems from home and how they would do their assignments.

Meaning, almost all students that have computers at home are usually working on "mom & dad's" PC, which is usually loaded up with Windows XP and AOL Internet. I don't work a lot in OpenOffice but I do understand that there are several compatibility issues between MS Office and OpenOffice. If a teacher assigns a paper to be due and the students hand it in on disk or e-mail it to the teacher at work, how well would the file open under OpenOffice?

That is just one example that is sticking out in my head right now. I worked for 5 years in IT at a district here in the Houston area and it was a main sticking point for us to stay Win32 and not go to Linux on most of the servers & workstations.

Politics is probably your biggest hurdle though. What vendor do you purchase your machines through? Dell? If so you will probably be working with Windows for a good few years.

Good luck!

It should be a hard sell... (1)

Thaidog (235587) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315363)

Since OOo is completely free...

You should have them look up AOL Keyword: Large School District

You could save them thousands of dollars and give them a superior product all at the same time.

Compatibility (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315365)

As much as I am a fan of using all Free software, the only thing that's going to be a big factor for educational establishments is compatibility. Are students and teachers going to be able to access their old assignements/faculty documents?

MS Office - 100% compatibility with MS Office documents
Open Office - 99% compatibility with MS Office documents
It's the 1% that's going to go against use of OO in educational establishments.

Compatibility (5, Interesting)

ZephyrXero (750822) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315366)

I work as sys admin at a dept. of my University. One of the teachers was having trouble getting a powerpoint to open. It seems she had used Office XP at home to create it, but for some reason Office 2003 at the school would not open it. I opened it with Open Office just fine though....problem solved.

Just because OO isn't always perfectly compatible with Office doesn't mean anything since MS Office isn't even compatible with itself sometimes...

What is used at home (2, Insightful)

mauriatm (531406) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315372)

I think an important question that needs to be asked is: what do students use at home? I remember countless frustrations when I was in high school (back in the day) regarding compatibilities with AppleWorks, Word and Wordperfect. What made it worse was people who insisted on using graphics and fancy formatting. Simply put it is not enough that the educational institute uses it, but also important to try to "educate" people at home to also use it.

Schools usually don't have the cash they need... (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315373)

..so let them know that OpenOffice is free. If your school system is like most others, it'll be a seriously compelling argument. Money talks, and it talks louder if you're poor.

Take Microsoft's "Software Assurance" quote, and show them exactly what that money could be better spent on. Break it down in terms of "this unnecessary licensing expense could buy X amount of new textbooks, X amount of new football equipment, X amount of materials for the science club..."

And of course - use OpenOffice to make your presentation in as a final sales point. =)

OpenOffice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315380)

I personally can see no reason whatsoever not using OpenOffice, I mean, if you know one word processor, you know them all (well, except wordperfect, but that is a completely different matter:). Calc is very similar to Excel, and when OO.o 2.0 is out, Access will have a run for it's money.

No, way pay a lot of money for something you can have for free? An office package is for typing letters and calculating numbers. OO.o is excelent doing just that.

That is my opinion at least :)

Tough sell (5, Insightful)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315384)

What advice do you have in selling this to tech coordinators and administrators who are not enlightened by
Open Source?

Short of "Don't even bother", I'd say that you have your work cut out for you. Undoubtedly these people will be familiar, even comfortable, with MS Office and you will face huge momentum because your target audience probably sees no problems with MS Office. All the benefits of OSS except price will likely fall on deaf ears, so you'd better do your homework and have a very compelling presentation.

I can't offer specifics because I'm not really familiar with OO. In my mind it is self-evident. Office sucks more ways than you can count. Period.

However, you can't make this sell by bad-mouthing Microsoft or Office. Most non-techie people won't see it that way, and in fact will probably have a high opinion of Office since it's all they know. OO can't be just "good enough" to replace Office. It has to be made clear that it is superior... and not in the ways that we computer folks tend to think, but ways that will be convincing to non-technical people. You got a "gimme" on price, but the rest will be a steep hill.

Good luck, I wish you well.

Re:Tough sell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315526)

MS Office = better on resume

Microsoft Programs (1)

LoganAvatar (869001) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315387)

Microsoft offers some programs and grants to help defray the cost of technology. They can be found in the Partners in Learning [microsoft.com] section. I'm not saying don't go through OO.Org, I'm just saying that MS has some programs :)

I've found (4, Interesting)

whackco (599646) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315389)

It is difficult for people to go from Open Office > Microsoft Office, but if they start on Microsoft Office they tend to be much more proficient at Open Office as MS Office tended to set the 'standard' for them on how to critically think where things are and such.

Rate me flame bait, but this is honestly what I have found. Take somebody that never used MS Office and only used other products, and put them infront of Word and get them to do something reasonabily complicated, they are lost.

Take the person raised with MS Office and put them infront of OO and they seem to find their way around.

Strange but true! So I have personal reservations about using one or the other in a public (or private) school or body.

we just went through this ... (2, Interesting)

Triumph The Insult C (586706) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315391)

our choice was more of choosing between MSCA (pay $X every year, 'free' updates) and MOLP (pay $X once, use the software as long as you want, new version comes out, you have to pay for it)

we have spent $22k over the past 3 years on MSCA. this year was the final straw, since MS changed the licensing and is hitting us up for many more things (we are a smaller unit in a big .edu)

so, this is the last year we'll be doing MSCA. we have decided that for the next year, we will be educating users about OO (and Firefox) and encouraging them to switch and letting them know that next year, they'll be on their own for MS software packages

meant to add ... (1)

Triumph The Insult C (586706) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315503)

that in this next year, we're educating the users by installing OO alongside MS Office. we've been doing this already for about 3 months and results have been pretty positive thus far

On the contrary.... (1)

Danborg (62420) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315394)

One thing you need to consider is that the majority of businesses today use Microsoft Office, so therefore to adequately prepare your students for employment you should consider teaching them to use the software that has the most market share.

Segragate your users! (4, Insightful)

zulux (112259) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315396)

Break the problem down into server groups of users:

The ones that just need to write english reports would be well served by Abiword.
The ones that need just a bit more page layout flexability and a good spreadsheet could use OpenOffice.
The 'Power Users' that use Excell like a psudo-database, and have gotten used to Word's horrably random page layout should stay with MS Office. L


Kindergarden through 8th Grade -> Abiword
8th through 12th -> OpenOffice
Normal Teachers -> OpenOffice
Crazy Teachers, Faculty etc with hard to port custom grading scrips, tables and other crap -> MS Office

Evaluation (5, Interesting)

davecrusoe (861547) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315397)

The best way to determine if it's going to work for you is to set up 5-10 machines running OO and have a handful of students work with the program for a bit. Have each student complete a short survey, and you'll quickly identify who uses it best, and where the difficulties lie. Otherwise, many of our comments are heresay. Be sure to take into account all the normal uses students might want, for example: dropping images from the web into a document, printing small charts and graphs, and spellchecking. I'm sure you can think of others. Best of luck...

Effective Tactics (1)

MisterLawyer (770687) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315401)

What advice do you have in selling this to tech coordinators and administrators who are not enlightened by Open Source?"

Try bribery, exthortion, or kidnapping, in that order. If none of that works, make them an offer they can't refuse.

btw, IANAMG (I am not a Mafia goon)

why? (2, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315406)

First, you have to convince them that OOo doesn't suck. That's going to be a problem, because OOo does suck. In particular, it's slow.

Then you have to convince the people who hold the purse strings that this will save money. That's going to be a problem, because it won't save money. The cost of giving a secretary Word is negligible compared to the the salary you're paying her to be productive. There are also going to be training costs. This may seem ridiculous to Slashdotters, but this really is an issue. Where I work (at a community college), some of the secretaries and office managers (mostly the younger ones) are very smart and adaptable, but some of them are not. When we switched from WordPerfect to Word, our old office manager was completely unable to handle it. This was a lady who had trouble with cut and paste in the first place -- she would usually retype things rather than cutting and pasting, because she claimed it was faster and easier. They kept scheduling her to go to training classes, and she would always fail to show up.

And then you have to ask yourself why you want to do it -- is it to strike a blow for open source? Well, OOo is a badly designed, bloated project that has very little involvement from developers outside Sun, and can't be built using free-as-in-speech tools. It's hardly the poster child for the free-information movement.

Enlightenment (1)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315407)

What advice do you have in selling this to tech coordinators and administrators who are not enlightened by Open Source?

I recommend transcendental meditation. Through meditation on Open Source, one will achieve enlightenment or awareness of the true nature of source code. After attainment, he will be freed of the cycle of Microsoft updates, reboots, virus scans and reinstalls.

(not trolling: merely rephrasing [wikipedia.org] )

Depends on your deployment (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315410)

It will not be an easy sell, even though OpenOffice should more than satisfy all curricular needs and save the district lots of money; like many other districts we have political and cultural 'challenges'.

If you are simply replacing MS Office with OO in a Windows environment, it may be an easier sell. Most people abhor change so replacing one software with another is more palatable than changing the OS and the application. If this works well, you can then work on changing the OS later.

Pros and cons (4, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315412)

What were the pros and cons from your migration?

Easy that one:

Case #1: students and/or personel work exclusively with OOo:

* PROS: OOo costs $0 and it's more than adequate
* CONS: None or nearly so

Case #2: student and personel want to exchange file to/from MS Office, to work at home or communicate with other non-OOo organizations:

* PROS: See above
* CONS: plan on commiting suicide soon after deploying OOo, when everybody comes to you and says "this documents looks like @*#& on Word, it's all your fault, it worked before!!"

Since case #2 is prevalent, as much as I enjoy OOo myself, I say stay the hell away from it if you're in any position to be blamed for problems.

Sad, but that's the way it is...

StarOffice 7 is the way to go (1)

csoto (220540) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315423)

It's absolutely great. It's free (as in beer). You can even buy support for it.

OpenOffice aint' so bad, neither, but I prefer SO (and take advantage of the .edu license).

A Common Question, with Answer (1)

menace3society (768451) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315425)

People often ask how to convince schools to use OOo over MS Office. The usual counter-argument is that the kids all have Office at home, and it would confuse them to have a subtly different thing in front of them at school, especially if the default format of the school computers is incompatible with their home computers.

One solution I heard suggested is to burn a whole bunch of OOo CDs and distribute them to the students; that way, they can install it on their home computer too. If you don't tell them that it's perfectly legal to do so, they'll likely be excited about the prospect and do it right away.

As an added bonus, you could include source code and a free set of Windows build tools. Or even a small linux distro!

Obstacle: Microsoft Drone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315433)

Our accounting team became concerned about license issues, so we had to buy copies of MS Office for all the machines we couldn't prove had a legal copy. I suggested switching to OpenOffice. Someone else in our IT Department (who is addicted to Microsoft's webcasts and "free" seminars) said that it wouldn't work because "it isn't a Microsoft product". Management agreed. Since I'm my own techncial support, I use OpenOffice. Our product engineer also uses it. So the obstacle I found wasn't a technical one, just a bozo in the IT department pointy-haired manegment.

OpenOffice not ready for prime time... (1)

nphinit (36616) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315440)

Office, with all its warts and proprietary nastiness, doesn't crash at random times.

OpenOffice, in all its free, open-source glory, does.

I use OO regularly and like it quite a bit, but it is missing the features and stability to be a *true* Office replacement.

I use it because of idealogiocal reasons, not beause it's a better product.

Offer both! (1)

riptide_dot (759229) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315445)

What advice do you have in selling this to tech coordinators and administrators who are not enlightened by Open Source?

Offer to support both platforms to save them money. For example, you could propose to install OO on the majority of the desktops, and they can only buy MS licenses for people who have problems with OO for whatever reason. Management likes choices...:)

My Kid's School uses OO (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315450)

Earlier this week I went to Open House at my daughter's school.

She is 6yo and in 1st grade at a private elementary school.

One of the things she had to show me was her computer project. It was an Impress slide show in Open Office. It was a presentation on the solar system, integrating stuff she had done in Draw.

I told the computer teacher (a 40+ year old woman) I was impressed they were teaching them Open Office. As I looked around the room and saw 12+ computers I said I bet it saved the school a bunch of money, if nothing else.

She made a "you know it" face and then said that last year they used MS Office, but it was always crashing and they had LOTS of problems. She figured over the summer, why not -- what have we got to lose. She said it was been wonderful and they haven't had a single problem.

This is heresay, but it is what I heard two days ago at a real school.

Depends how soon you need it (1)

koreaman (835838) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315455)

I wouldn't use OOo just yet. Wait until 2.0 is completely stable. 2.0 handles Microsoft documents types a whole load better than 1.x.x, but until it's officially released I would recommend sticking to the Microsoft product.

Not that the MS product is better, but you absolutely need to support MS formats, as previous posters have pointed out.

My 2 cents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315459)

As far as real-world training, I'd say that a student would be far better off learning how to familiarize him/herself with MS Office, because chances are, that is what they will be using in the real world.

Migration to Open source (3, Interesting)

Princess Tarja (876619) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315463)

While I have no experience in this sort of migration I feel that while "we" may see the light & benefits I have to say that when concerning something like a school district it will be a very hard sell. The feeling of dealing with a brick & mortar company is a great relief to people when it comes to support and the like. I think there also may be a feeling of "if they give this stuff away for free then it can't be all that good" They may also use the "kids" card. Just like politicians when they say "it's for the kids" knowing that their bill cannot stand on it's own, they use the kids as a means of playing on the parents feelings.. Whatever happens I wish you all the luck in the world on this endeavour

open office on your resume? (1)

ntxb229 (542609) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315467)

At the risk of sounding like a troll, I don't know how good being proficient in OpenOffice is on your resume. That's one reason I could think of that a highschool would be hesitant to move to OO. I haven't really used OO to much to know how similar/differnt it is from MS Office, but I doubt the average interviewer does either.

OO.o in Public Education (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315469)

When trying to get public schools to recognize the value of OSS and OpenOffice specifically, I would recommend looking up through the ranks. At least in the school district I worked for, many of the "rank and file" school-level tech support people were MS fans. However, as you look at some of the higher level positions, you occasionally find people with a more enlightened attitude. I know that when I showed the 2.0 beta for OO.o to the person in charge of technology, she was impressed. I suspect that the next few thousand PCs purchaced won't have MS office on them. I would recommend that you find the few key people, usually a "Director" or a sys-admin, and show them the advantages of OpenOffice. In my experience, people in the managerial side are much more interested in it because it offers a significant savings, while still providing necessary funcitonality.

Just remember though, it will take time to have any real affect. You have to build up good will towards OSS in general to fight off the FUD.


OO.org doesnt impress me... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315472)

Last year my Windows install screwed up and I had to reinstall, and instead of getting a copy of MS Office I tried Open Office. I wasnt too impressed. The compatibility was weak, for one thing, and there'd be lots of strangeness in my documents. I went to college at the time and didnt have a printer so Id print all my stuff from the library, and oftentimes things just wouldnt work right. One example is the formatting in my resume, which never looked right no matter what I did, and a few times I didnt catch it until after I submitted it for a job.

And I tried to make a presentation with it once, it also didnt work right with PowerPoint and I had to pull a near all-nighter at the library to redo the presentation in PP.

By the time I left high school not much was going on in the way of computing (up until my Junior year I think there was nothing but a single 56K line to the internet in my lab) but today Im sure a lot of kids have Word at home and will look to transfer files back and forth. With OO 1.1, itd be a disaster, I promise you. Hopefully OO 2.0 is better, but Im cautiously optimistic at best.

Appeal to the teachers. (4, Insightful)

Talinom (243100) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315473)

Tell the teachers that "every dollar that goes to Microsoft takes away from the salaries they deserve." This should break past the FUD that Microsoft spreads.
  1. It appeals to the "help the community" group by knowing that they are looking out for their teachers.
  2. It could be used to pressure the school board. "They are sending money to Microsoft rather than to our starving teachers."
  3. It helps the local economy by keeping the money, well, local.
Oh, and if it gets media attention then the pressure will really be on them. Just my two cents worth.

At the VERY LEAST... (2, Interesting)

Doverite (720459) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315479)

Use this as a barganing tool. MS does NOT want thousands of school kids learning OO.o and finding out about free software. If you can't get them to make the switch at least get them to blackmail MS into practically giving them the licenses. If they won't do that then someone getting kickbacks somewhere.

Why not Star office??? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315482)

Sun licenses the Staroffice product to educational institutions for the same price ($free). All you pay is a one time media charge ($25 last I used it) or just download it instead.

Same stuff, just has the added functionality (I think spell checker, some additional translations, etc.)

And it comes from a large software company. That can be enough sometimes to get past the stuff shirts...

I'll get blasted for this, but what the hey. (0)

demonic-halo (652519) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315491)

Microsoft Office got as popular as it is today by being a great progam. It's the 1 program I use both on my PC and on my MAC. The people at Microsoft put in the time and resources and market research and came up with a produce that is easy to use in most cases.

My impression is open office is an attempt to create a free alternative. Personally I think if you like how Microsoft Office works, use it. Part of the money will go back into market research and go into developing new features for the next Office (which openoffice will try to copy). If everyone switched to Open Office, then development of office software will stagnate since no research dollars are being spent.

My 2 cents.

go with OpenOffice (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315492)

OpenOffice has a large number of advantages. We already have been using OpenOffice on all our school desktops and it has been a full success. Just make sure to use OpenOffice 2.0. It is already very stable and superior in many aspects.

how to sell it (1)

Uzik2 (679490) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315500)

People seldom make decisions such as these for
rational reasons. They make them for political
and emotional reasons.

If they board that's making the decisions are
"activists" tell them "We don't want to buy
from a company that won't support human rights.
They're under investigation for corruption and
have been found guilty in European courts".

If they're conservative tell them "governments
and organizations all over the world are
switching to this because of the cost savings
(and the predatory practices of the supplier).
If they balk show them "the department of homeland
security recommendation to use firefox, another
one of those 'free' programs."

Find the appropriate spin for the audience.

Users Dictate? (1)

Steinfiend (700505) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315501)

My question would be, why does the school district really have to get involved in software choice? My thinking is the need (or lack there-of) for a piece of software is dictated by the users.

I'm sure I'm over simplifying but, the teachers have to be able to read and grade work handed in by their students. Most students are going to be using MS Office or something that is MS Office compatible. OpenOffice can decode almost all MS Office file features, and those it can't decode shouldn't be too important to an educational institution.

Show the person who makes the decisions on which software to install how much it costs for x MS Office licenses with support and how much it costs for x OpenOffice licenses with support and let simple economics win them over.

Not a good idea to switch to OO (1)

pl1ght (836951) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315510)

You should remember to teach our kids with MS products, since that is what they will need to know in college and in the workplace. I realize some colleges and workplaces use Open office, but in reality its a VERY SMALL minority. You might save your district money, but you would be doing a disservice to the youngsters. Sad but true.

MS Office skills... (1)

Andr0s (824479) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315513)

...are, certainly, a huge plus when seeking employment. However, I have to point out that we're talking about a school. Educational institution. Meaning you -can- set up MS Office classes without having to outfit every single PC in the school with MSOffice. One or two classrooms would suffice.

For everything else, well, from my long-term experiences with OpenOffice, compatibility / file readability issues will possibly appear only with complex documents containing macros etc - for a 'basic user' texts or tables, which is what 99.5% of grade/high school's documents would be, MSOffice's only advantage over Open Office is - amount of money you save if you go for Open Office instead.

My Company has made the switch... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12315517)

...to OO. It has been painless. In fact, we moved to Linux 90%+. We still have one or two machines with XP for that rare Word or PPT file that OO 1.x can't handle.

OpenOffice is better (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 9 years ago | (#12315527)

  • It has built-in "PowerPoint". Students can make presentations easily.
  • OpenOffice Draw is better than the one in Microsoft Word. (Visio costs extra, remember.)
  • It generates PDFs.
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