Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Have Your Ammo Ready With OpenOffice

I've blogged about it before; users have a deep emotional connection with Microsoft Office. I'm not talking about those of you that are super power users and make use of advanced features. I'm talking about regular clerical and office workers that are not creating documents much beyond set margins/bold this/italic/insert graphics and print. What we have found is that a lot of people really struggle with word processing, regardless if it's OpenOffice or Microsoft Office. The problem with deploying the former is that they are then able to "blame the tool", and as an IT member it's important to ensure that management knows the root of their complaints. The biggest comment that they make is "it takes 10 steps in OpenOffice to do what you can do in Office in 1 step". Of course, we all know that's absurd.

I have been working with Solveig Haugland for a number of months in coming up with a word processing test that follows closely the skills required for MS Office certification. A huge side benefit of creating this test is that we created a grid matrix on these features and counted steps in both products to complete the tasks. This type of grid can then be taken to management and you can show them that the 10-to-1 complaint that you hear is unfounded. The beauty of this plan is that going into the future, the more they complain the more management knows that they don't know MS Office either!

Here is a summary of the data.

No MS Office equivalent to OpenOffice feature: 36
Openoffice can be configured to work like MS Office: 3
OpenOffice has fewer steps than MS Office: 4
Identical language and steps in OpenOffice and MS Office: 68
Slightly different language, but same number of identical steps: 41
Different steps, but not more clicks: 15

and the big one:

More steps in OpenOffice vs MS Office: 3

This disproves the theory soundly that users are hindered by the steps in OpenOffice. If you aggregate the instances of OpenOffice being easier, you actually can build a case for OpenOffice being fewer clicks on commonly used features.

If your Governmental agency is struggling with funding, this is an excellent first step to take to reduce costs. It scales well on Linux and can be deployed to hundreds of people easily.

If you need training for your organization or would like to speak to Solveig about the test, feel free to contact her from her web site.


Anonymous said...

Is this Office 2005? I would imagine Office 2007's results would be rather different as a result of the Ribbon UI.

Dave Richards said...

Yes, it was tested against older versions. I don't know how easy it would be to gauge clicks and compare the ribbon vs more traditional pulldowns. We also used the older versions because when people talk about "Office" they are not referring to 2007 normally.

Anonymous said...

Could you post a sample of the tasks evaluated?

Anonymous said...

I'm struggling with this a bit where I work. I manage ~200 pc's at four locations, but work for a parent company that has a total of ~5,000 pc's. They've standardized on Office 2007, but I've made OpenOffice our office suite. Only about 15 people persuaded me after whining for days that they HAD to have the real office, even if it was Office 2007 and acted totally different. Some of it is psychological, but some of it was genuine - OO.org doesn't like 10MB Excel files with dozens of tabs and lots of macros, but the biggie for me is xlsx/docx/pptx files. OpenOffice 2.4 has a good plugin from Novell I believe that helps but isn't perfect. I'm really looking forward to OpenOffice 3 and really have my fingers crossed that it will be really easy for us IT folks to deploy with an MSI and have it be the default for Excel/Word files and maintain that setting for new users logging in, and have 2007 compatibility. Here's hoping! I really detest spending $300 per seat for the M$ tax.

Dave Richards said...

somnoliento: Ok, posted the objectives as a new blog. Hope it helps.

Anonymous: Having a mixture of products in one organization is a challenge for sure. Even if you are on different versions of Office, it's difficult to share documents. People have no clue about file formats and how different file formats can store different features. I think it will be easier for you when you move your users to 3.0, which opens all Office files much better. Also, Office 2007 is getting native .odt support in SP2 (first quarter 2009). In theory, that would allow your whole company to change file formats and everyone use the software package best suited for their skills and budget. In the pulldowns of OpenOffice there is a wizard that lets you convert entire directories from .doc->.odt. The file format is the key to openness.

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