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There was much excitement around the release of OpenOffice.org 3.0 last month. Download servers were overloaded with the initial demand and many tech blog posts were written. But now the dust has settled it is a great time to look at some of the reasons that this version of the ever popular open source office suite could offer serious competition to its proprietary equivalents.

10 reasons to (possibly) stop using Microsoft Office and start using OpenOffice.org

1. Its Good Enough.

The latest release OpenOffice.org 3.0 provides enough functionality from an office suite for probably 95% of the computer users in the world. Most people’s use of Word Processors and Spreadsheets are not pushing the functionality now available. For the 5% or less of ‘power-users’ a closer look is required to understand the differences and how these can be overcome. Often if there is a specific issue someone else has also had this problem and very probably found a solution, as often is the open source way.

2. Familiar Consistent Interface

In the last 15 years most office suites have settled on a pretty familiar interface with consistent layout and descriptions, With the release of Office 2007 Microsoft have completely changed the interface of some but not all of its office products. OpenOffice.org uses a very familiar ‘classic’ interface which would be recognisable to most users allowing them o be up and running very quickly.

3. You Can Redistribute

Being able to redistribute copies of OpenOffice.org for free is incredibly useful especially if you are an organisation. For example a school could give copies to all students and parents and  a company could give all employees and partners a copy. Currently parents are feeling pressure to purchase copies of Microsoft Office as their children are using it at school or worse still are pirating it.

4. Extensions

Just as Firefox, the very popular open source browser, there is a full ecosystem around OpenOffice.org including extensions. These are where someone has added a particular piece of functionality that they wanted. These extensions can be downloaded from http://extensions.services.openoffice.org/ and easily installed. There are many extensions available but currently some noteable and popular extensions are ‘Writer Tools‘ adding some useful functionality for Word Processor users and Google Docs integration allowing you to automatically transfer documents to Googles on line office suite.

5. Open Formats

The default format for OpenOffice.org is ODF (OpenDocument Format) each program has its own ODF format Writer has .odt. Calc has .ods etc. With the release of Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2 Microsoft’s own office suite will support ODF. This means that an OpenOffice.org user will be able to exchange documents, edits and updates with a Microsoft Office user all using an open standard format, this really is a great step forward. Of course there are many other products that support ODF, not just the two mentioned, from web applications such as Google Docs and Zoho to office suites including IBM Lotus Symphony and WordPerfect Office. Until Microsoft catches up OpenOffice.org can not only read and write .doc and .xls but can also read the new Microsoft 2007 format .docx and .xlsx. I have spoken about open formats before but suffice to say sharing and preserving documents in an open format has many benefits for individuals and organisations.

6. PDF support

OpenOffice.org has been ahead of Microsoft Office with regard to PDF’s for a long time making it easy to produce documents in a PDF format since early versions. Now there is an official extension which allows you to open and edit basic PDF documents within OpenOffice.org.

7. More Software

There is only one edition of Openoffice.org the ‘all of it’ edition. There are more programs with OpenOffice.org when compared to the Home and Student Edition of Microosft Office. OpenOffice.org includes a Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Presentation program, Vector Graphics program and a Maths calculation program.

8. Cross Platform

For the first time with version 3.0 OpenOffice.org now runs natively on Apple Macs (OSX) both for intel processors and the older PowerPC processors (strangely the PowerPC version is not available from the main download page but is available from other places on the web like http://ooopackages.good-day.net/pub/OpenOffice.org/MacOSX/3.0.0rc4/ where you can download RC4 which is the final released version). It has long been the office suite of choice for most Linux versions and of course has a full Windows version. Added to this support for BSD and Opensolaris it really is true cross platform application. Having a fimiliar inteface across platforms using Open Formats has many advantages but ultimately offers flexibility. For example you may have to use Microsoft Windows at work but use a Mac at home and want to share a document with a family member who runs a new netbook running Linux, all this is easily achievable if all pc’s are running OpenOffice.org.

9. If you already run Microsoft Office (or another office suite) there is nothing stopping you installing OpenOffice as well.

You can run more than one office suite. Using OpenOffice.org does not have to be an all or nothing situation and can be introduced gradually.

10. Its Free

OK, I deliberately put this point last as I believe it is not the reason to use OpenOffice.org. All of the 9 points above are more important than it being free. If OpenOffice.org is not fit for your purpose then I would not recommend using it and would say have a look around for some thing else.

Ultimately it will come downs to an individuals or organisations circumstances as to whether they could switch to OpenOffice.org. In the case of new businesses I would like to think they would choose to use OpenOffice.org before paying for a proprietary equivalent. Hopefully what version 3.0 does show is that OpenOffice.org has a bright future. Already we are seeing support for OpenOffice.org and open formats by enterprises and exciting projects like QuasiWiki, ODF@WWW and O3Spaces which use OpenOffice.org to help collaborative working.

The future is bright, the future is OO.o (well for me at least).

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I am giving a short workshop at the upcoming IAAITC’s Business Continuity and Risk Management Summit where I will be talking about open source security software. As I have only got a short time and I think it is quite topical I will be basing the workshop on open source encryption software. It appears that not a week goes by without a story in the newspaper about a laptop/hard drive/CD/USB stick containing sensitive and confidential data being lost or left in a train/taxi/car park. Events like this are inevitable as data becomes more and more portable. Of course we should continually work towards minimising these situations but one of the best practical steps a practice can take to protect data is to ensure that any ‘at risk’ confidential information is encrypted. The latest saw a USB RAM stick of confidential Government information found in a car park in Cannock, Staffordshire. Link to the news story here.

It was noted that the USB was encrypted so at least that was something but as detailed below many of the ‘proprietary’ encryption systems on USB sticks have been compromised.

At this stage it is worth defining what encryption is:

‘Encryption is the process of transforming information using an algorithm called a cipher. Once data has been encrypted then it can only be read by users who have the encryption key.’

Using software to encrypt data has been used for a long time by governments and large organisations. Today it is becoming common place, often being found on the better quality USB RAM sticks. The problem with a lot of the software supplied with such devices is that it is often ‘proprietary’ meaning that the source code of the software is in itself a secret. At first this may appear to be the best approach, after all does the code being a secret not make the solution more secure?

What has actually been proven time and time again is that security through obscurity is no security. Good security software’s source code should be available for all to see to ensure that it is secure. The science of encryption is well documented and any software implementation should be made available for checking. Many of the proprietary systems have been compromised by attacks and often it is a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’ they will be compromised.

Truecrypt (www.truecrypt.org) is one of the best known and well trusted encryption software programs available today. Truecrypt, as recommended above, is free and open source, meaning that anybody can see the source code. Truecrypt will work on Windows, Apple Mac and Linux operating systems and can be setup to encrypt a whole drive, a single folder or a portable device like a USB Flash RAM stick.

The one possible downside of Truecrypt is that it requires a client install to read a an external drive like a USB or portable drive. If it is required to be able to use a portable devise on a machine that would not have Truecrypt installed then for Windows users there is FreeOTFE (www.freeotfe.org) which is free and open source encryption software that can also be installed on a USB stick and does not require a client install. FreeOTFE can also be used on a Microsoft PDA.

As well as other open source security software the latest version of Linux Ubuntu 8.10 comes with encryption built in making it even easier to keep you laptop data secure.

openoffice_logo.jpg Every day it seams a new version of someones favourite software is released somegreatphotosoftware version 5.5.5 or thebestmusicplayer version 1,1,01. Little excitement is seen around the world except by the group fanboys and girls of that product waiting for the latest and greatest, checking the new features list for whistles and bells like children crossing off their Christmas present list (and equally frustrated when the one special present/feature is not delivered as expected).

But every now and again new versions of software come along that can affect many people and that can take a product mainstream. The best example of this was probably Windows 95 and both Word and Excel both had landmark versions that saw them over the ‘tipping point. (there are many reasons for the Word and Excel success including price and distribution but both products required to be at a level of maturity and usability for popular widespread adoption).

For many followers of software the upcoming release of OpenOffice.org 3.0 is possibly just such a release and there is a belief that this could be the tipping point for OpenOffice.org leading to worldwide adoption from schools and colleges to homes users and businesses of all sizes.

At this point it is worth explaining what OpenOffice.org is. Without a large marketing budget Openoffice.org is not the most well known. Openoffice.org (sometimes known as ooo the .org is always shown as someone else owns the trademark to ‘open office’) from Sun Microsystems is an open source equivalent suite of products to Microsoft Office or other office suites (yes there are few others still left). Where Microsoft has Word Openoffice.org has Writer where Microsoft has Excel OpenOffice.org has Calc. For many these two programs cover 95% of their software use but Openoffice.org also has equivalent presentation programs and a database. It does not include an email and calendering application although there are many alternatives to Outlook but does offer programs for drawing and mathematical formulae.

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For the ‘iPhone generation’ this is not a release full of the latest whiz bang features and cutting edge innovation (c’mon this is office software) but the final product appears a more complete office suite that could have all the functionality for the majority of users. OpenOffice.org has been the office suite of choice for most Linux distributions for some time and a version for Windows has had a reasonable adoption but up until now there has not be a native Apple Mac version, yes you could install it with some messing around or you could even use a Mac modified version called NeoOffice. Now finally with the release of version 3.0 there is a full Mac version (intel only not power pc) and it should not go unnoticed that the most popular software purchased for Mac’s is Microsft Office. Until the recent release of iWork for the Mac there was no popular complete office suite apart from Microsoft Office. With so many new and young users of Mac’s OpenOffice.org have a real opportunity, after spending a lot their money on the hardware not everybody wants to spend more money on Microsoft Licenses.

The other compelling reason to look at OpenOffice.org is formats. OpenOffice.org 2.x could read and produce .doc, .xls and other proprietary Microsoft formats and this should be improved in in version 3.0 plus the addition of being able to read .docx, .xlsx and .pptx (which is more than Microsoft office 2003 user can do as standard) Openoffice 3 will not be able to produce in these ooxml formats but in my opinion that is a good thing. One of the greatest benefits of using open source software is also adopting open formats the default format forOpenOffice.org is ODF (OpenDocument Format) each program has its own ODF format Writer has .odt. Calc has .ods etc. With the release of Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2 Microsoft’s own office suite will support ODF. This means that an OpenOffice.org user will be able to exchange documents, edits and updates with a Microsoft Office user all using an open standard format, this really is a great step forward. Of course there are many other products that support ODF, not just the two mentioned, from web applications such as Google Docs and Zoho to office suites including IBM Lotus Symphony and WordPerfect Office.

With full cross platform support, fully open source, really useful open formats supported by the major players and a Firefox-like extensions-ecosystem has OpenOffice.org’s time come? Only time will tell. I hope so.

Wikipedia logoGood documentation can separate great software from good software. Documentation is an area where open source often beats proprietary solutions hands down. Often up to date and user friendly documentation for proprietary software does not exist, is not available or is restricted by software vendors or resellers for commercial gain.

Many, but not all, open source solutions have a far more open and collaborative approach to documentation recently highlighted by Compiere’s launch of their wiki.

The definition of a wiki aptly taken from Wikipedia, which of course is the most well know wiki, is as follows:

“A wiki is a collection of web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language.Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites.”

Wiki WednesdayWiki Wednesday’s is a group of people who are interested in Wiki’s and social media. The next London meeting is on 13th August details here.

A have put a list of links to some of the most well know FLOSS business software wiki’s below but of course there are many more.

MediaWikiThere is no shortage of open source wiki software and MediaWiki is the software used and developed for Wikipedia is open source under the GPL. Of the above wiki’s SugarCRM, Alfresco and Openbravo all use Wikimedia.

431E3D95-5615-4909-BA1B-DC3F9863E673.jpg Floss Weekly is an excellent podcast from The Twit Network and Leo Laporte. Originally co-hosted with Chris DiBona it is now hosted with Randal Shwartz. It covers many different projects from the world of Free Libre Open Source Software but not usually open source business applications for enterprises. Until this week when it had John Roberts the CEO of SugarCRM talking about the Open Source version of SugarCRM. Well worth a listen for anyone interested in SugarCRM or commercial open source business software in general. Link to the podcast here

openofficeOpenoffice.org 3.0 will soon be available (there is a second beta out now). Below is just a couple of quick links that I have come across in the last couple of days. When it is released I will write a piece on crossingplatforms.com as it should be truely compatable with the Mac. Up until now the Mac version has only been available with a work around or by using the Neo Office a mac native version based on openoffice

Finally with the release of the iPhone 2.0 software the much discussed App Store was open for business. If Friendfeed and Twitter are anything to go by the release did not go smoothly for everyone (iBrick jokes were common).

It took me a few attempts with the obviously overworked Apple server (have they not heard of amazon scalable web services) to update my iPhone but once done I could add apps from iTunes or direct from the iPhone. Before today I had a short list of what I wanted. Which were:

  1. ebay client
  2. WordPress app (for blogging)
  3. RSS reader
  4. Todo list (I really wanted a client for Remember the milk)
  5. Delicious app – not sure how it would work
  6. Twitter app

I have not done too badly although I have not found the ebay app yet, no Delicious app and no Remember the Milk app (there us a web app). At least the WordPress app should be here soon.

The apps I have installed are

  1. Twitterrific – great free (with sponsorship) Twitter client
  2. NetNewsWire RSS reader – Looks interesting
  3. ereader client very slick
  4. Facebook client
  5. Paypal
  6. Phonesaber – a must for all iphone owners

I am amazed with the number of games that are availble although it has always been an area neglected by Apple. Monkeyball looks great and also Crash Bandikoot.

Super Monkey Ball on the iPhone! (iPhone SDK)

Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart Iphone

The one area which I will follow with some interest is business
applications. With the iPhone now supporting Exchange Server I expect
that many units will be shipped to business users. No surprise to see
Salesforce getting an app on there straight away but I was surprised to
see an Oracle app on there. Hopefully we will see many more business
applications on there in the new future.

Great video with John Locke from Freelock Computing who has now started twittering. John wrote the book ‘Open Source Solutions for Small Business Problems’ and although it is a little out of date now it is still a fantastic book for anyone looking to understand the benefits of open source software. See a link to the book on good reads below.

John has an astounding knowledge of open source software and I hope there will be a new version of the book soon. In the meantine John is writng a great blog covering the latest in open source to accompany the book here.

GNUInteresting article over at information week here discussing the 1st anniversary of the GPL v3 (GNU General Public License Version 3). Now although a discussion about Open Source licenses is a bit like naval gazing or in TWIT speak ‘inside baseball’, as with most legal issues what may not be very important today can become essential when things change (like ownership, control, intent etc.).


One of the software projects under the new GPL v3 is SugarCRM which is probably the most high profile commercial open source projects and as such comes in for plenty of praise and plenty of criticism. With the release of version 5 SugarCRM moved from the Sugar Public License (SPL) to GPL V3 (so they were never a user of GPL v2).

I thought it would be interesting have a look at the most well known Open Source Business Enterprise software projects (OK ‘most well known’ being a completely arbitrary list although I did look at the Sourceforge most active projects in the last 7 days ) to see what open source licenses they use. At this point please let me make it clear that I have no legal training and that the information below has been found on the web in various places, although I have tried to take most from the projects own website. Even if the list is 100% correct today it will no doubt become out of date very quickly. So, if the license that a piece of software is using is important to you, which I think it should be, I would confirm with the project directly. If you are thinking of using a piece of software in a ‘mission critical’ or even a mildly important area I would recommend taking professional legal advise from a person with software license knowledge. Anyway, upon researching I found the following (I have also put links to some of the articles I found at the bottom):


SugarCRMSugarCRM or at least the open source version currently known as Sugar Community Edition 5

GPL v3 (from Version 5) prior to Version 5 the Sugar Public License being a version of the Mozilla Public License with an attribution clause. Attribution clauses are explained at the bottom of this post.


Openbravo

Openbravo
Openbravo Public License Version 1.1 being the Mozilla Public License version 1.1 with a permitted attribution clause. A copy of the license is available at http://www.openbravo.com/product/legal/license/.


Postbooks

PostBooks Accounting/CRM/ERP by xTuple http://www.xtuple.com/)-

Common Public Attribution License 1.0 (CPAL) based on the Mozilla Public license with a Attribution clause as explained below.


ADempiere

ADempiere ERP Business Suite (www.adempiere.com) –

GNU General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2).



CompiereCompiere ERP (http://www.compiere.com/) –

GNU General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2)


Jasper ReportsJasperReports – Java Reporting ) –

GNU Library or Lesser General Public License (LGPL). LGPL was designed as a compromise between the strong-copyleft GNU General Public License and other permissive licenses.


Pentaho

Pentaho (http://www.pentaho.org/) –

GNU General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2)


Alfresco


Alfresco CMS – (http://wiki.alfresco.com/wiki/Main_Page) –

GPL v2 + FLOSS Exception. The Floss Exception(http://www.alfresco.com/legal/licensing/floss_exception/ states basically that people using free software licenses noncompliant with the GPL can sill distribute Alfresco with their software without making their software GPL compliant.


MySQL

Mysql (www.mysql.com) –

GPL v2 + FLOSS Exception similar to Alfresco see above.


OpenOffice.org




Openoffice.org

GNU Lesser General Public License v.3 (LGPL) from version 3 onwards



Many companies also offer an alternative commercial licenses including MySQL and Alfresco. Some Project previousley having licences with attribution clauses have moved to GPL V3. Although the GPL V3 is not worded as stronlgy as any attribution clause mentioned here although it does mention ‘The GPL requires all copies to carry an appropriate copyright notice’ this is expeted to be enforced as badgeware but inly time will tell.

Permitted Attribution License or ‘badgeware’ as it is sometimes called requires anyone using the code in a distributed form to show ‘for of attribution’ such as a logo or a badge on the user screens to show the source of the code. The applicable section from the Openbravo license is shown below. In the situation with SugarCRM and Vtiger, as
this clause was not in the license before there was no legal requirement for them to show any such badge and due to this SugarCRM changed their license to include this to stop this happening again.



A
permitted attribution license

II. Openbravo and Logo.

This License does not grant any rights to use the trademarks “Openbravo
” and the “Openbravo ” logos even if such marks are
included in the Original Code or Modifications.

However, in addition to the other notice obligations, all copies of the Covered Code in Executable and Source Code form distributed must, as a form of attribution of the original author, include on each user interface screen and on program start-up or login screen the “Powered by Openbravo” logo, visible to all users. The dimensions of the
“Powered by Openbravo” logo must be at least 89 x 24 pixels. When users click on the “Powered by Openbravo” logo
it must direct them to http://www.openbravo.com.


II.1
The official “Powered by Openbravo” Logos


Powered by Openbravo official logoorPowered by Openbravo official logo

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