From time to time, in my consulting business I get requests for a “free copy” of Microsoft Office. Almost without hesitation I recommend instead OpenOffice as a very viable alternative. The file compatibility is better than Microsofts own – Open Office both reads and writes more old Microsoft Office formats than Microsoft itself. And the word processing, spreadsheet, slide presentation programs are right on par with their Microsoft Office equivalents. And Open Office Draw is not matched at all by Microsoft. But ….

Ahh, the big “but” and the upto word “Almost”. Microsoft Office has Access and until now Open Office has had a lot of pretenders. And the biggest advantage that Access had was the ability to visually create tables, plan queries, and do visual layout of forms and reports. These ease of development features are compensation for the Access database engine which now has been effectively supplanted by SQL Server technology.

Well with Open Office 2.0s Base, users now have nearly identically the same visual development power with the added benefit that it is linked to JDBC, ODBC, XML data sources as well as a native HSQL database. I have already done some nifty projects with the Baseball Lahman database. Very Fine ! So now remove the “almost” and without hesitation I can recommend Open Office to you.

(c)JBSurveyer 2005