There's been considerable debate of late over the use of Open Office in preference to Microsoft's Office suite. The general argument is that Open Office is 'good enough' for most work, and that documents are interchangeable for the most part. I'm about to provide two screen shots showing that for my work (and the work of a lot of other engineers) Open Office is inferior to supporting engineering, and in particular system engineering.
The issues I'm about to write about cropped up when I opened a large MS Word document in Open Office Writer under SuSE Linux. I then rebooted my notebook under Windows and created the much smaller sample document that captured two of the problems I found on the Linux side. To keep from having to boot back and forth, I installed the Windows version of Open Office, and found it had the same issues as the Linux version did.
This first image shows the example document opened in MS Word.
Note the comment block to the right. Also notice the graphic at the bottom of the page. Now, the same document opened in Open Office Writer under Windows.
There are a number of differences to note between the two. First, the comment block on the right of the document is missing in Open Office. The graphic at the bottom of the page is not rendered correctly (it's too wide, and the bullet character is not properly rendered). The graphic in the example document is a stripped down version of a more complex drawing. The original so overwhelmed Open Office Writer that Writer displayed it as large blocks of black-on-black, with the text showing up as gibberish.
Open Office Writer might be suitable for basic editing or document preparation. But for large complex documents with complex embedded graphics, or using collaborative features such as the comment block, Open Office is a poor choice at best. The comment block is an incredibly useful collaborative feature used extensively on many engineering projects, especially during a system engineering review process. It keeps track of multiple reviewer comments. After being introduced to it, I can't imagine not having it available any more.
Many critics of Microsoft Office like to point out that Office users don't use most of the features available under Office. And I'll be the first to admit I probably don't use most of the features. But it is surprising how poorly Open Office Writer supports the features I do find important and useful in Microsoft Word. Folks considering Open Office need to be very careful about switching. You may not like Microsoft, but moving over from Word to Writer can leave you in a precarious situation, especially with partners who will not leave Office, and who use the latest Office releases and features.