What’s Behind the Move to OpenOffice.org, Can OpenOffice Replace MS-Office?

With more than 100 million downloads in the past year alone, OpenOffice.org has clearly impressed enterprise IT managers worldwide. If you still haven’t made your move to OpenOffice, maybe it’s time to take a closer look.

It’s a paradox. Many of the same IT managers who have embraced open source software for everything from development projects to mission-critical systems are still shelling out big bucks to Microsoft for proprietary “personal productivity” software.

With OpenOffice, you can have all the features of Microsoft Office for zero cost. So why not do something more productive with your budget?

Maybe you’re feeling locked in. Maybe you don’t believe there’s a high-quality open source alternative available. Or maybe you are aware of the momentum behind OpenOffice.org but are unsure how to get started with the migration process.

Let’s take a closer look at the reasons behind the accelerating adoption of OpenOffice.org, so you can make a more informed decision about your own migration opportunity.

OpenOffice.org: Open Source at its finest

OpenOffice.org is the open-source, multi-platform, multilingual productivity suite that’s free to download and free to use. It is a shining example of the advantages of the open source model, and that’s why it has been downloaded more than 100 million times in the past year alone.

Simply put, OpenOffice.org delivers not only sophisticated functionality but also a new form of liberty. You are free to use OpenOffice.org for any purpose; you can modify the software for your specific purposes; and you can pass it along to anyone you please — with no cost and no fear of legal entanglements. (For a full discussion of the advantages of the open source model, read Open Source: Where We’ve Been and Where It’s Headed by Sun CIO Bob Worrall in this issue.)

Because it’s open source, the immediate cost savings of OpenOffice.org can be huge — and the savings can be even higher over time. For example, Microsoft charges extra license fees for additional machines belonging to the same user; OpenOffice.org licensing is free for unlimited use. So even if you purchase commercially supported versions of OpenOffice.org, such as StarOffice and StarSuite, you can cut your costs significantly — and use the savings to fund new IT initiatives.

The open source model also makes enhancements to the software more accessible. OpenOffice.org software is enhanced and updated continuously — by a global community of more than 10,000 enthusiastic developers, not just a single vendor. So you have free, unfettered access to all software improvements right away, again at no cost. And you can draw on the expertise of the OpenOffice.org community for support when you need it, or you have the option of purchasing commercial support.

Can OpenOffice.org really replace Microsoft Office?

100 million downloads can’t be wrong. OpenOffice.org provides word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases, and more. It can read and write Microsoft Office files. It is available in more than 90 languages and works with many different operating systems. More than 450 free add-ons (extensions) are available.

100 million downloads can’t be wrong. OpenOffice.org provides word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases, and more.

And the latest features, capabilities, and enhancements have made OpenOffice.org even more useful. For example, start-up performance has improved by 40% in OpenOffice.org 3.2, so files pop open right away. Usability features have also improved — everything works consistently between applications, even the help system. And OpenOffice now stores all your data in an ISO standard format and can read and write files from other common office software packages.

Equally important, Sun offers indemnified and supported versions of OpenOffice.org with its StarOffice and StarSuite packages, so you can get patches, hot fixes, and support when you need it. In addition, if you prefer to stay on OpenOffice.org, Sun offers enterprise-class support and services for OpenOffice.org as well.

Who’s using OpenOffice.org?

Enterprises, governments, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, and free/open source software (F/OSS) groups around the world have migrated to OpenOffice.org. The software is in use in companies as large as Sun, Novell, Red Hat, the ICICI Bank of India, and Banca Popolare di Milano, and in government offices from Brazil to Malaysia to the Bristol City Council in the UK. OpenOffice is especially popular in schools and universities, from SchoolNet Namibia to the University of the Philippines to Brandon Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia and schools across New South Wales, Australia.

Sun offers indemnified and supported versions of OpenOffice.org with its StarOffice and StarSuite packages, so you can get patches, hot fixes, and support when you need it.

Consider just a couple of recent examples:

  • The administration of the Italian city of Bologna has migrated 3600 PCs to OpenOffice.org. This municipality now plans to include free and open source software in all parts of its IT infrastructure and says this will result in significant cost savings. “We expect to save some 160,000 euro,” said Massimo Carnevali, IT manager of the municipality.” And this is not just about saving money,” added Sergio Lo Giudice, leader of the local Democratic party (PD). “We also see this as a way to build lasting relationships with small and medium sized business in the region.” The move to OpenOffice is also considered a strategic step, preparing the way for the city to also use this type of software for other desktop client applications.
  • The Danish municipality of Gribskov has saved about 270,000 euro over the past two years by switching the public administration and schools to OpenOffice, according to Michel van den Linden, responsible for IT in the municipality. These savings are not just on procurement, but include savings on maintenance and support. Van den Linden said another reason to switch to OpenOffice was to increase competition among vendors of applications that are linked to the office suites. “Starting a new municipality meant we had to renegotiate all our contracts, and we could make new demands, including support for the Open Document Format (ODF).” Van den Linden said he expects that Denmark’s deciding on open IT standards will lead to increasing competition. “There will be competition on services that add value, instead of battling for standards. Wherever the IT market is not functioning well, it will feel the pressure from open source.”

Here’s a current list of major deployments.

Expert migration assistance

The platform-independent architecture of OpenOffice.org allows for a smooth and easy transition to a non-Windows operating system, and this can open additional cost-saving opportunities from your migration to OpenOffice.org.

To help you get started on your path to OpenOffice.org, Sun experts offer the following migration roadmap and advice:

1. Implement a pilot phase. OpenOffice.org is compatible with Microsoft Office, but a pilot can help you identify how the differences between the applications will impact both end users and IT staff and help ensure that everything works as expected.

2. Create an inventory of tools and Microsoft Office-dependent solutions. Many CRM, ERP, and other business applications may depend on or provide interfaces to Microsoft Office, and you’ll need to identify them so that you can get them to work with OpenOffice.org.

3. Identify documents and macros that are still in use. Chances are many existing documents, templates, and business applications in your organization are no longer in use, so the migration to OpenOffice.org provides an opportunity for “house cleaning” — removal of old files and templates from Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.

4. Organize the migration team. Your project team can define the post-migration environment, including scope of the project, priorities, trade-offs, employee needs, available resources, and time frames.

5. Convert workflow-critical documents, templates, and macros. If you have a small number of documents and templates, you can automate the conversion process with the built-in Document Converter AutoPilot; alternatively the StarOffice 9 Server is an option.

6. Get training and support. The training can be short since the user interface of OpenOffice.org is familiar; there is a wide range of on-site and online options available. More information is provided in the Sun OpenOffice.org Learning Path.

Get more details

Sun has prepared a Migration White Paper to step you through the process of migrating from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org or StarOffice 9. The paper covers the potential benefits of the migration, the migration process itself, and a number of scenarios and case studies for companies of all types and sizes.