Printing and Scanning
by Tony Butka
on the OS/2 Platform
I am actually writing this column using the Beta3 release of Innotek and Serenity Systems joint venture'd OpenOffice 1.1.0 word processor under Warp 4 FixPak 15. And it's actually working very well – not that I'm pushing the system at the moment, but everything seems stable. Now I have actually purchased (about US $40) the final version of 1.1 from Mensys, but despite a promised shipping date of April 5th, I haven't received my order as I write this column. And since there have been a few, ahem, gaps in the Ink columns, I didn't want to wait any longer.
OK, so how does this puppy install, and why am I so happy? Well, for one thing this software is working well under a fairly stock Warp 4 system. Very nice, and I wanted to try it for myself to make sure that folks with older versions of OS/2 are OK with the product. You do need to download and install 4 pieces of software to get there, but it turns out that this is a good idea (really it is). First is the Innotek font engine; if you're like me and running Mozilla, Firebird, or Thunderbird, you have probably already downloaded this file and installed it. Free, and makes everything on the screen really look nice. Second, you need to download the Innotek Runtime for OS/2, again free and works with a variety of Innotek programs. Third, although it's listed as optional, do download and install the Java Runtime Environment version 1.4.2. If you're running Warp 4 you should do this anyway, since you are frozen out of the IBM 1.31 Java stuff unless you have a Convenience Pak subscription. So, you might as well be running the current and free version of Sun's Java program. Finally, of course, you need to install the OpenOffice 1.1 for OS/2 program itself.
For all of the software, the updated install programs provided by Innotek worked flawlessly. Just run the exe file, point to what drive you want, and bim bam the program installs without any of the tweaking of settings or directories that the early versions of these programs required. Installation of the Java Runtime and OpenOffice suite take a while – these are not trivial programs and they do a bunch of things, but once installed the program seems to be fairly responsive (and remember, I'm using the beta to write this article, which I imagine is not as tweaked as gold code). Notwithstanding all the talk of running OS/2 on older hardware, I would not run this combination of software on your old 486 or P200; something more like an AMD 1800+ or faster with about 512 Mb RAM and a 7200 rpm hard disk works just fine.
OK, so why do I think that the port of OpenOffice is so important a development for OS/2 that I've plunked down hard earned money? Two reasons, really. First, at least as far as Microsoft Word is concerned ('97 through 2003), the new OpenOffice environment simply reads and writes Word documents seamlessly. If you live in the corporate world, this is seriously important. I haven't had a chance to wring out the calc program, but from the mail lists I follow, it seems that OpenOffice has the same high degree of file level compatibility with Excel as it does with Word. Again, if you live in a corporate environment, this is very important. It's also a very good reason for folks that do use OS/2 to keep using it – after all, the biggest rap on OS/2 I've always heard was that it didn't run Microsoft Office and Outlook. Setting aside Outlook for the moment, and all the virus stuff that goes with that quirky program, we now have an office suite environment for OS/2 where you can take files to and from work, edit and fool with them at home, and then take them back to work without penalty or file incompatibilities. This is very very cool.
For me, there is another compelling reason that OpenOffice is neat. I variously use Windows 98 Lite, Windows 2000, Linux (Debian), and OS/2. Now I have an office suite that I can run on every one of these operating systems seamlessly. I can share files, use the same keystrokes (e.g. - no steep learning curves for a bunch of separate programs), save to any MS Office format, save to the same open source file format, save to PDF – well, you get the picture. If Microsoft isn't afraid, they ought to be.
Are these programs exactly like Office? No, key combinations are different, macros are different, and so the gainsayers can say that OpenOffice isn't really the MS Office suite. From my standpoint, so what? 90% of the users I see out there use their personal computers/workstations like a giant typewriter, except for browsing the 'net. And while using their computer as a giant typewriter, they don't use 10% of the features built into the program. I say good for them. And for the other 10% of the world who really use or push features of MS Office, good for them as well. Maybe it's worth the $200 to $300 per seat costs for software that they don't own and buying into Microsoft's subscription system. For the rest of us; we can read and write their files, so who cares.
Whoops, out of time. By next time, hopefully I will have a chance to play with the final 1.1 version of OpenOffice and wring it through some paces. In the meantime, you can reach me at Tony@scoug.com.
You might want to read last month's Ink.
By day, Tony Butka is a bureaucrat for Los Angeles County. While he used to live in a loft surrounded by computers, printers, and a host of vinyl records, he's married now and a tiny bit more conventional.
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