Microsoft has long dominated the software market, but in recent years, the open source movement has made significant inroads against the Washington-based giant. One of the most successful open source products has been OpenOffice. Apache OpenOffice is the premier open source suite of office-related software. Originally developed by Sun Microsystems, OpenOffice has been through a number of revisions and a number of owners. As of mid 2014, Apache OpenOffice 4.1 was the current release version of the product.
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The primary advantage of using Apache OpenOffice as a productivity suite comes from the cost. OpenOffice is open source software that is free to download and free to use. It includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, vector graphic editing and database management components. It's easy for beginners to learn to use, but it is powerful enough to do the advanced tasks experienced users want. It's designed so that the commands and functions you perform in one component of the software work throughout the entire suite.
There are a number of potential disadvantages to Apache OpenOffice, as well. The primary document format supported by the software is the ODF format, while the most common format in use is the DOC format. OpenOffice can open and edit DOC format files, but they are not its primary medium. Open source software in general has its downside. Without the requirement to create a profitable product, open source software developers might focus more on their own wishes than on the needs of the end user. Open source software also creates a potential for malicious users to introduce bugs and other security risks into the code.
Compared to Microsoft Office
Any discussion of OpenOffice will naturally include a comparison with Microsoft Office, the industry-leading office software suite. Each has strengths over the other. Microsoft Office, for example, has built-in grammar checking tools, while such a tool for OpenOffice requires an add-on. Microsoft Office has more document viewing options, as well as greater diagram-creating capabilities. OpenOffice offers a single interface that provides the user access to the entire suite, while the Microsoft product requires separate applications. OpenOffice also includes robust tools for Web designers who write in HTML.
Technical support for an open source suite of applications isn't quite the same as technical support for a commercial product. Support for Apache OpenOffice comes from the development community, rather than from a single company. This means that bug fixes are often addressed faster because there is no immediate barrier between end users and designers. On the other hand, one-to-one tech support isn't directly available for OpenOffice users the way it is for users of commercial products. This kind of support typically requires a contract agreement with a service provider.