Seeking Office 2007 Alternatives
The VAR Guy spent most of last weekend reaching out to experts in the open source community, trying to determine which alternatives to Office 2007 are worth his consideration. While Office 2007 has earned rave reviews from eWeek and Walt Mossberg at The Wall Street Journal, The VAR Guy likes to keep his options open.
At first glance, OpenOffice appears to be a natural alternative to Microsoft. The suite has major momentum in the Linux community and is gaining interest from some Windows users. Selected government organizations are testing OpenOffice. And a new OpenOffice toolkit, announced today, allows developers to extend Open Office for collaboration, communication and content creation. Very interesting, but The VAR Guy is a Macintosh user–and OpenOffice only has limited support for Apple’s Mac OS.
That’s where NeoOffice enters the picture. NeoOffice extends OpenOffice to run on Mac OS. Although the software is still officially in a beta period and may still contain bugs, the current NeoOffice 2.0 Aqua Beta 3 release is “probably our most stable release yet of any version,” asserts Edward Peterlin, the software’s creator.
NeoOffice tends to use the term “beta” not as an indicator of the quality of the software or service — but rather to let people know that it still is in active development and they will need to apply bugfix “patches” to get the suite to its latest state.
NeoOffice 2.0 Aqua Beta 3 extends OpenOffice.org 2.0.3 with Mac-specific features–such as native Aqua interface support, direct integration with Mac OS X fonts and printer drivers, native open/save dialogs, interapplication drag and drop, Spotlight support, and more. Even before these enhancements, NeoOffice has run natively on Mac OS X, Peterlin notes.
Still, Peterlin is refreshingly honest when comparing NeoOffice to Microsoft Office. “While I do believe there are reliable
alternatives in the market, I have no problem recommending people buy Microsoft Office to get a good Mac experience,” he says.
OpenOffice and NeoOffice are intriguing options for VARs that want to make their own code enhancements. But VARs seeking more of a commercial alternative to Office 2007 have another option: ThinkFree. This productivity suite comes in four flavors: ThinkFree Online (similar to Google’s approach), ThinkFree Server (for users to access via business servers), the traditional ThinkFree Desktop approach and ThinkFree Portable (which is slim enough to run on iPods).
Avanquest distributes ThinkFree Desktop and Portable in the US, and ThinkFree is currently seeking distributors outside of the country. The company is also looking for solution providers to help reach wider audiences for our online services through technology licensing deals, according to Jonathan Crow, director of marketing at ThinkFree.
By contrast, ThinkFree Server currently does not have any resellers. “We are interested in signing some, but we may need to put some more of the internal infrastructure in place before we actively start recruiting,” Crow says.
In addition to embracing Google’s online apps, The VAR Guy plans to test ThinkFree and NeoOffice later this month. Will you follow his lead or will you make the march to Office 2007?