Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hello, I’m a Proprietary Office Software Application

Over the last couple years, I’ve slowly tried to wean myself off proprietary software and find free and/or open source alternatives. This is not because I’m some weird hippie, but rather because I’m a cheapskate.

Well, actually, the more accurate reason is because I’m finding that proprietary software prefers placing the user in an “upgrade or become irrelevant” vicious cycle. For example, I still use Windows 2000. I never upgraded to Windows XP because I checked carefully and decided that the new features were either features I did not need, or features that I didn’t think were worth the cost and hassle of upgrading. As I write this, Windows XP is already yesterday’s news (although still worth at least $120 dollars on Ebay for XP Pro, apparently) and Windows Vista is what Microsoft wants me to use. I actually acquired (legally!) a free copy of Vista Business from the “Power Together” promotional website, and I still haven’t installed it, again, because there really isn’t anything there that I feel I need. I paid good money for Windows 2000, and it works fine for me, so why is Microsoft insisting that I’m a moron for not upgrading? Oh, and tell that Steve Ballmer to get off my lawn before I hit him with my cane.

So, anyway, rather than spend the money on something I don’t need, I figured I’d either stick with what I have, or look into free/open source alternatives. I’m fairly happy with some of the things I’ve found. I browse via Firefox, check email with Thunderbird, avoid virii thanks to Grisoft’s AVG Anti-Virus, use Comodo as my firewall, let IZArc handle my zip-file needs, and use ConTEXT as my text editor of choice this week, among many other nifty programs (legally) available for free.

Unfortunately, there are some pieces of my software toolbox that I’ve resigned to stick with whatever I currently have. Adobe Photoshop continues to not be truly challenged by things like The Gimp, in my opinion, at least when it comes to the interface. But I’ve stayed with version 6 for the last several years. Another fairly important one is the dreaded Microsoft Office, of which I’m “frozen” on Office 2000.

I tried to switch to the free alternative, OpenOffice, once, and felt the performance and feature set wasn’t quite up to what I needed and got from Office 2000. This was a little while ago, so today I was tempted to download the latest 2.1 version of OpenOffice and try again. But I didn’t. Why did I balk? I’m not really sure.

It might have something to do with the size of the task. I switched from Outlook to Thunderbird, and I don’t miss Outlook at all, but my email needs are rather simple. I use Word and Excel for a variety of tasks, however, and some of them are, well, not necessarily complicated, but “unique”, perhaps. I’ve spent a bit of time getting acquainted with both applications as I needed to. I’m not saying that OpenOffice couldn’t do what I need, nor am I saying that Office 2000 is a particularly great application. But at my age, do I really want to experiment?

I guess my conclusion to all of this is, when it comes to software, I'm cheap and resist unnecessary change like a grumpy old man. Maybe in 30 years I'll download OpenOffice and try again.


Ken said...

Do not kid yourself, Dan. You are well on your way to dirty hippiedom.

Also, the plural of "virus" is "viruses," you weirdo. The only words I hate more than "virii" are "machinima" and "boxen."

Oh, I hate "podcast" too. And, of course, "blogosphere."

Kaj Kandler said...

Hi Dan,
being frugal with your money and not running on the upgrade dreadmill sounds like my cup of tea.

I wonder what you would think of documentation that is actually useful for non technical users. Would that be any help in switching to OOo?


Dan said...

Ken -- Apologies for use of the non-word "virii". To make my apology more formal, I will create a very deep and moving machinima about the dangers of using the word "virii", and advertise it to the blogosphere in my next podcast.

Kaj -- Thanks for the link. I will definitely check that out!

Hector Yee said...

Don't forget Google Apps. Useful for writing those random notes and text spreadsheets.

I also use Clamwin for my anti-virus software

- The Hectorgon

Dan said...

Hector -- I'd never heard of Clamwin. The idea of an open source virus checker is interesting, although it seems a little strange and flawed to me.

Google apps is definitely cool, but for my Office-ish purposes, the one feature that Google apps has that makes it stand out is the one feature I really don't need (yet) -- the ability to edit/share your documents from any browser. I generally do all of my work from the comfort of my home PC.