Printing and Scanning
by Tony Butka
on the OS/2 Platform
The fact that this column is late is more a statement to the power of OpenOffice 1.1.1 than to my penchant for overcommitting my time. As hinted in last month's column, I purchased the shipping version of Innotek/eCS's OS/2 version of OpenOffice last month. At the SCOUG meeting a couple of weeks ago, we did a clean install of the software on an eCS 1.02 partition, although I had also previously installed the software on a stock Warp4 Fixpak 15 partition. Thanks to our members, who in effect contributed to this column by attending the meeting. Regarding cost, I paid about $32 Euros, which was under $40 US at the time I purchased the product from Mensys. I know that this isn't free as it is for the other operating systems, but the price is certainly reasonable compared to the $400 plus that Microsoft charges for their Office Professional Suite.
As to the installation, in both cases the install went flawlessly. The software is bundled with an installer that includes Innotek's installer/wrapper (a juiced up version of Odin that makes sure that all of the Innotek ports play nice with each other), the Innotek Fonts for OS/2, Java 1.4.2, and the OpenOffice software itself. At each stage of the install you are directed by prompts as you complete the stage of the install, you are allowed to pick the directory for your installation, and I have encountered no problems so far. As a nice touch, the Registration wizard picks up the information needed from the e-mail that Mensys sends you, and handles the software registration. As with most of the Innotek products, these software versions are up to date with the Windows version stuff (since that's the code base being used). Just a note, you have to install the Innotek OS/2 Kit for Acrobat Reader software separately, but it's a free download from
If you are running multiple partitions on your system, I would recommend doing the install to somewhere other than your boot partition, since once you choose the drive to use for the installation, the program creates a subdirectory structure under \Innotek that emulates the Windows file directory structure, and it is here that all of the programs get placed.
OK, having explained all about the installation, how does OpenOffice stack up against Microsoft Office? For all of the disclaimers, that's really the question that every computer user asks me, and that question is the one that all developers dodge and weave around if they are smart. Being neither a developer nor particularly smart, my short honest answer is that at least for the Writer (Word equivalent) portion of the software, it stacks up 'well enough.' This opinion isn't unique to me. From lurking on the OpenOffice users group (subscribe to email@example.com), here are the major comparisons:
- Bulleted lists don't always translate well
- VBA macros don't work at all (there being no Visual Basic)
- Word-Writer conversion is excellent
- Word-Calc conversion is less reliable, particularly with charts.
- PowerPoint-Impress conversions are 'ok' but have the most problems overall of any of the Suite's components
This overall impression is echoed by this month's Maximum PC Magazine. At page 20 of the July 2004 edition, they have a Head2Head column comparing Office Professional Edition 2003 with OpenOffice 1.1.1. They awarded Office a score of 9, and OpenOffice a score of 7. I agree wholeheartedly with their scores as well as the magazine's overall assessment. To quote, "If you can get by with just the basics, like creating spreadsheets, typing papers and letters, and building multimedia presentations, then OpenOffice.org is a capable alternative at a killer price."
Another plus for OpenOffice from my point of view is that the Suite is more cross-platform than Microsoft's Office is. Remember, as we speak OpenOffice works under Linux (I'm using it with a Debian distro called Mepis), Unix, Solaris, OS/2, Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP, Mac, and (I think) BeOS. This is not trivial. As an experiment, I recently had to do a fairly complex bid proposal for my day job as a County bureaucrat. These are those dreary requests for proposals that go for well over a hundred pages of excruciating detail, involve collaboration between a workgroup of many people, and a serious amount of editing. I'm sure you've heard about them. Anyhow, I installed OpenOffice on my Windows 2000 machine at work, as well as Office Professional 2002 SP2 which is the Suite that our computer staff support.
The documents, as they grew, involved color coding, strikeouts, and comments and annotations. I was able to track this document in Writer without losing any basic information. The main discrepancy is that Writer did not display the comments and change information that Word did. On the other hand, it handled complex formatting, tables, graphics, color information, strikeouts and such, without a hiccup. And, just as an experiment (well, maybe to show off a bit as well), I emailed and edited these files using Word's .doc format under both Debian Linux and OS/2, as well as Windows 2000. No crashes, no file errors, no problems. This is very cool.
At last month's SCOUG meeting I showed the group side by side pdf files of the final Word document and the final Writer document for our County RFSQ, so that they could visually see the exact differences as to what is or isn't displayed under Word 2002 vs. Writer 1.1 (in fact, if you would like to see these files, I'll see about uploading them to the SCOUG server, or I can email them to you separately). What really impressed me is how little information loss there was taking the files back and forth between the two programs and saving as a Word document.
I will be continuing these comparisons and experiments over time to see how much compatibility there is between the software packages and how OpenOffice improves over time. For now, this is a very solid performing Suite that I can unhesitatingly recommend.
Finally, I feel compelled to mention the area of documentation. My short take is that there is quite a lot of documentation out there, and the amount and variety is growing. Sun Press/Prentiss Hall has published Solveig Haugland & Floyd Jones OpenOffice.org 1.0 Resource Kit, which also has a downloadable Special Supplement to the OpenOffice.org Resource Kit (1.1 Changes). In addition, Jean Hollis Weber has written a very nice 160 pp. shareware manual called Taming OpenOffice.org Writer 1.1. You either download the pdf file for $10 or you can purchase this manual in published book form from Amazon.com. Price is around $15 US, and well worth it if you want to really learn Writer.
There are also a number of HowTo's from OpenOffice.org, including articles on Creating and Maintaining a Table of Contents, How to Work With Templates, and an OpenOffice /DocBook tutorial.
Here are a set of url's to get you started on the path of becoming an OpenOffice user/supporter:
Obviously there are many other resources as well, and if you hear of a good one, please let me know and I'll share with the OS/2 community. Enough for now, I've gone on much longer than I intended. See you next month, and you can always contact me at
You might want to read last month's Ink.
By day, Tony Butka is a bureaucrat for Los Angeles County. In his other life he's surrounded by computers, printers, and a host of vinyl records.
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