Sunday, October 05, 2008

Credibility Of 3.0 As An Alternative To Microsoft Office 2003 - My Transition Experiences (And More)

From a month or so I've been trying out the new 3.0 Release Candidate 1 (I've previously been using Microsoft Office- XP, & 2003- for well over 6 years).

Why am I trying out
  1. To build an understanding of its capabilities, ease-of-use, quality & performance
  2. To find out the issues which are inhibiting its mainstream adoption
  3. To compare it to Microsoft Office & list out major positive & negative differences
  4. To find out if it can really be an alternative to Microsoft Office (This feasibility study is for both my personal use and for deciding whether is ready for adoption in SMBs/Enterprises)
Results of my month-long tryout:-
  1. is very suitable for my personal needs. It can fulfill all my 'creative' Office-Suite needs. By 'creative' I mean that is suitable for purposes of creating documents. It isn't the perfect solution for importing/opening documents in the Microsoft Office binary formats. The importing is buggy and just plain dissatisfactory, and leads to significant productivity loss in form of manual cleanup/editing required to restore the document's original form. However, broader adoption of Office Open XML and OpenDocument formats and improvements to's import filters for Office Open XML formats should considerably solve this issue.
  2. applications start-up considerably slower than Microsoft Office applications, and this is a significant issue. The effects of this performance lag can be imagined from the woes Web-browser users faced a few years back when Netscape and Mozilla browsers would start-up painfully slowly. Quick application launch is a mandatory requirement for good user experience, and needs to bridge this performance gap sooner rather than later.
  3. applications require considerably more system memory than Microsoft Office applications. Also, the responsiveness of user interface of applications is considerably less than that of Microsoft Office applications (Although in absolute terms it is above satisfactory). In summary, has performance issues that need to be addressed immediately. would benefit immensely by stringently following the Google User Experience Design principles.
  4. is a feature-rich, high-quality and easy-to-use suite of applications. It is close-enough to the ease-of-use of Microsoft Office 2003 applications for it to be declared fit for consumption by general public.
  5. Apart from the performance and file-format-compatibility issues, another significant issue inhibiting mainstream adoption of is the lack of awareness (among masses) about its existence, its quality and its suitability as an alternative to Microsoft Office. People just don't know that there exists an office-suite out there which is a credible alternative to the expensive Microsoft Office. How many of us, who are aware of, know that there exists an extension system for which is akin to Mozilla's Add-ons system? needs to learn from Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation to solve this issue.
  6. Finally, masses (and in this case SMBs and Enterprises as well) are unaware that use of in conjunction with the free (and official) Microsoft Office Viewers can be a largely complete and compromise-free combination for users whose needs revolve promarily around opening/viewing Microsoft Office documents obtained from third-parties and first-hand creation of their own documents.
In summary, 3.0 is a serious and credible challenger to Microsoft Office 2003. Version 3.0 is well ahead of its relatively unbaked predecessors, and minor annoyances apart, 3.0 promises to be the first credible challenger to Microsoft Office. Customers looking to save hundreds or thousands of dollars should adopt with open arms, if their specific needs are in line with those outlined in this post. Recommended for adoption by individuals, SOHO and SMBs, since cost of acquisition is a relatively more pressing factor for them than for cash-rich large enterprises which are not willing to make any compromises, whatever be the monetary cost.

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