Are opensource versions of Office, Flash, etc. as good as the paying versions?

I’m just curious if the opensource versions of old programs that are coming out (like OpenOffice, for example) are as good as or better than their predecessors. I looked at a book recently about free software and I saw that there were open source programs for a number of programs I use on a regular basis.* I’m wondering how these programs rate concerning their non-open source cousins.

*not including Firefox, because I already know that’s better.

OpenOffice isn’t an open-source version of MS Office, it’s a completely separate piece of software, descended from Sun’s StarOffice line.

It’s pretty good, but whether or not it’s as good or better than MS Office really depends on what you’re going to use it for. It can read most MS formats and do most of what the MS stuff can do, although things may be arranged a bit differently.

But it’s free isn’t it?

I might be calling anything that’s free “open source”

Whether or not these things are “open source,” I’m just talking about the free ones…

By bad.

There’s a big difference between “free” and “open source.” “Open source” means that the original code to write the program is available and anyone with the proper knowledge can modify the program. (I trust that I don’t have to explain what the word 'free" means.) As to if they’re as good as the MS versions, that depends upon the program and also the opinion of the user. Certainly, most non-MS browsers are better than IE from a security standpoint, and the same can be said for a few other programs (Word and PowerPoint have had some security problems that OpenOffice and others don’t have), but it is really an opinon based answer. I personally like OpenOffice loads better than Word for a variety of reasons (including that there’s no damned “Clippy”), but that’s just me. However, we’ll probably see an increase in the use of free and open source programs when Vista and Office 2007 are released. Vista’s a massive resource hog, from what I understand, and according to people who’ve used the beta version of Office 2007 is so damned confusing as to be nearly unusable.

And just to confuse the issue further, there’s also “free software”, which is released under the same terms as open source software but has a slightly different goal(put briefly: open source advocates say that software should be open source because better software is produced that way; “free software” advocates say that software should be open source(although they use the term “free”) because proprietary software is immoral).

Anyway, OpenOffice is both free and open source. The point that freido was trying to make is that OpenOffice is not intended to be a clone of MS Office. It does compete with Office, of course, and offer similar functionality.

I consider myself to be a pretty “neutral” user of computer software. I neither hate nor love Microsoft, I think XP and OSX are both fine OS’es although I prefer XP, etc.

That said, I think one would have to be crazy to think that OpenOffice was equal to Microsoft Office, cost aside. I think that perhaps Office 97 and the current version of OpenOffice are about comparable.

However, the economic question is an important one. If my parents didn’t let me use their licenses for Office or if Office wasn’t available to me at academic pricing you can be sure as hell that I wouldn’t dream of shelling out $500 for the retail price of Office.

Basically, OpenOffice is a perfectly serviceable and nice productivity suite. It isn’t as fast or effective as Word, but 95% of Word’s users or whatever don’t really take much advantage of its full feature set anyway.

Also, Outlook is a program which I might just die without and OpenOffice cannot really compete in that respect although there are programs like Thunderbird available. Still, I think Outlook is a great program.

Finally, I am currenly running the Office 2007 Beta and I think Word 2007 is great. I find the organization to be slightly odd at first but takes about 15-20 minutes to adapt to. Afterwards it seems to be much faster and I’m a huge fan. Outlook 2007 seems to run more slowly without much additional functionality beyond the “To-Do” bar and increased item-tracking, so I’m not too hot on Outlook 2007. Excel seems largely unchanged except for the new “Vista” style interface or whatever it is. PowerPoint seems just as functional as ever with a large number of graphic design improvements (important for presentation software IMHO).

So, to sum up: Office 2007 Beta is currently free, so you might as well run that right now if you’d like. After the Beta period is over, Office might be worth up to $100 or $150 depending on how rich you are and how much you’ll need the software and what you’re trying to do.

It sure as hell isn’t worth the $500 business user retail price.

OpenOffice is better than the Office 2007 Beta (but Office 2007 is hot.) Overall, MS Office is better than OpenOffice in my experience; it’s faster to load (when not using the quick loaders) and far more stable.

I don’t think I’ve used any open source/free software that is better than the retail stuff. However, there is an open source/free program that’s good enough to get the job done for almost every situation. The only thing I haven’t been able to find a good program for desktop pubishing.

Perhaps you (or I) should, since it can mean two different things. On the one hand, “free” can mean "without monetary cost, and on the other, it can mean “unrestricted”, and both senses are used in connection with software. There’s a significant overlap, but there are some programs which the owner distributes without cost, but for which reverse-engineering, decompiling, etc. is forbidden in the licensing agreement (Some versions of some Microsoft products, such as IE, would fall into this category). And there are also cases of a company which charges to distribute a product, but the user is then free to re-copy it, edit the source code, recompile it, distribute the modified version, or (almost) anything else they want to do with it (though usually, the cost is very low: Red Hat Linux is one example of this). Which piece of software is more free, Internet Explorer or Red Hat? It depends on which meaning of “free” you use.