I am not crazy about the idea of paying for expensive upgrades every few years for the software I use to do my writing. I'm even less enthusiastic about the idea of those upgrades making it impossible or difficult to open and edit files I created only five years ago. So for a long time I've been using open source software, bypassing Microsoft and Adobe and other big software developers. I don't even use much of Apple's software, mainly because Apple has stopped maintaining Appleworks, which used to be a pretty good little package.
However, I'm also spoiled. I don't want to give up those features I like. So I don't want to use some piece of software that does maybe five of the fifty things Word can do. What do I turn to?
Until this week I was an enthusiastic devotee of OpenOffice. This open source software works just fine on Windows and Linux, and pretty well on Mac (I use, in one typical business day, all three of those operating systems). OpenOffice contains a word processor that works almost identically to Word, can open, edit and save Word .doc files with ease, and includes an Excel spreadsheet clone, a drawing program, a database program, and a presentation program that can open PowerPoint files just fine. There are a few things it does not do well--master documents are a mess, for example, and the List Number function is as screwed up as Word's. But for the money ($00.00), you can't beat it.
Or so I thought. The one thing I didn't care for in OpenOffice for the Mac is that you have to have X11 running in order to use OpenOffice. Not a really big deal, since X11 ships with all flavors of Mac OS X. Install it from the DVD, and you're good. To run OpenOffice, you doubleclick the icon just as you would any other application. It loads the X11 window and then loads OpenOffice. Piece of cake. However, having to wait while it loads the X window, and having the menu bar in the window instead of at the top of the screen, Mac-style, can start to grate after awhile. It's not a big deal, more like having a stone in your shoe, but it's annoying.
So I was delighted to find NeoOffice
. It's a port of OpenOffice to the Mac OS X platform. It has an Aqua-like interface, with all those little touches I come to expect on a Mac: 3-D, colored icons, the menu at the top of the screen, etc. Best of all, you don't need X11 to run it. Doubleclick the icon, and it launches. It's a clean, pretty, functional interface, and has a few features the bare-bones OpenOffice does not. For example, there's a grammar checker. This is a feature of Mac OS 10.5 (Leopard) that Apple added, and this release of NeoOffice uses it. I haven't used it yet but it's a great idea.
Anyway, for any readers who write on a Mac and are on a limited budget, I can heartily recommend NeoOffice. It is a free download, easy to install, and as easy to use as Word or OpenOffice. And since it is an open source project, the file formats are not proprietary and will be good for years to come. Good news for those of us who are slow writers. :)