Opinion: Yes, it's great news that Microsoft will be releasing a new version of Microsoft Office for the Mac, but before calling in your credit card number, you should check out a free, open-source alternative: NeoOffice.
Im sure that the new Microsoft Office for the Mac, which will be coming out in January, will be just dandy. Well, actually, given Microsofts track record and that Leopard has only been out for a few months, Im anything but sure that Microsoft Office 2008 for the Mac will even run.
Putting that aside, though, even if does turn out to be the Leopards meow, savvy Mac users should give the free, open-source office suite alternative, NeoOffice, a try.
"Neo what?" you say. "Wasnt he the hero in The Matrix?" Yes, Neo was, but NeoOffice 2.2.2
is a little-known independent port of the popular OpenOffice.org suite for Linux and Windows to Mac OS X. It deserves to be at least as well-known as its older big brother.
The program has all of OpenOffice.orgs functionality. What it doesnt have, though, is the support of Sun and IBM, which has helped to get OpenOffice.org attention. While OpenOffice.org has been working on its own Mac port, these efforts lag behind its Linux and Windows development. Sounds familiar, doesnt it, Mac users?
Read more here about the feature lineup for Microsofts Mac Office 2008.
So NeoOffice, while it uses the OpenOffice.org 2.2.1 code base, has been customized for Mac OS X and Aqua. It brings to the Mac essentially all of OpenOffices functionality, which I find is approximately the same as Microsoft Office 2004 for the Mac.
It is, however, an effort of love and volunteers, so as the NeoOffice developers themselves freely admit,
"NeoOffice is not perfect.
Our users still find new bugs and new cases that cause NeoOffice to crash. So, if you feel that you need software that has been heavily tested, we recommend that you use a commercially supported product like Microsoft Office or Apple iWork."
I run NeoOffice 2.2.2 on my late-model PowerPC Mac Mini. This early 2006-vintage system uses a 1.5GHz G4 processor and 512MB of RAM. For its operating system, Im still sticking with Tiger, Mac OS X 10.4. On this Mac, I find that NeoOffice runs without crashing and fulfills all my word processing and spreadsheet-ing needs.
Now, I am a more tech-savvy user than most, but honestly, NeoOffice hasnt given me any problems. Still, with the developers warning in mind, I cant recommend NeoOffice to users for whom the inner workings of Mac OS X are an unplumbed mystery.
That said, if you need more than iWork for your office, and you are Mac-smart, you really should look into NeoOffice. It may give you all of the office functionality you need without any of the costs of the new Microsoft Office.
After all, you dont have to be an open-source fan to appreciate saving a few bucks. Give NeoOffice a try; you might just find its all the Mac office suite youll need.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, editor-at-large for Ziff Davis Enterprise, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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