Tag Archives: Linux

Linux/OpenOffice will never be fully compatible with Windows/Office

In my experience, the biggest obstacle to user conversion from Windows to Linux are the little incompatibilities that trip up users. Some of the incompatibilities may be minor. However, users can get frustrated even with minor issues when they occur often enough or during situations when they are important.

In order not to create unrealistic expectations, I often tell offices and people I advise on this matter that they should expect some incompatibilities and they should learn to work around them or to live with them. This is the price of freeing themselves from giant monopoly and the fear of raids from the software police.

How can I be so sure that Linux/OpenOffice will never be fully compatible with Windows/Office? Because incompatibilities work in Microsoft’s favor. In the past, Microsoft has taken advantage of these incompatibilities to eliminate competitors. IBM’s OS/2 was touted as a “better Windows than Windows, and a better DOS than DOS”, and many independent reviewers and users agreed. Incompatibilities, however, kept cropping up between OS/2 and newer versions of Windows, keeping users from switching to OS/2.

Even if, for the sake of argument, we assume that Linux/OpenOffice manage to become 100%-compatible today, you can be sure that Microsoft will soon release a newer version of their programs containing enough new incompatibilities to cause more problems among free software users.

Microsoft doesn’t take enough care to ensure that their own older versions are fully compatible with their newer versions, why would they do so with competition?

Expect Microsoft to make sure that Windows/Office will stay incompatible with Linux/OpenOffice.

If you want people to stick to free software, do not create unrealistic expectations about compatibility. Tell people upfront to expect incompatibilities, and to learn to work around them or to live with them.

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Why buy what you can copy for free?

Computers today have become standard equipment in government, businesses, schools and even non-government organizations.

In the past, when one bought a computer, it came with the operating system and applications software at no extra cost. Today, commercial software — Windows and MS-Office of Microsoft, for instance — cost several thousand pesos for a single copy. If you have 10 computers, you also need 10 copies of the software, and must now pay for each copy. If you don’t, you run the risk of being sued or, worse, raided by the software giant.

This makes using computers very expensive indeed.

There is an alternative. It is called free software, because you are free to copy it and to share it with others. You are even free to modify it, if you have the inclination and skills to modify software. Best of all, it gives you freedom from fear of harassment, suit or a raid by the local software police.

Free software is also called open software. The most well- known is Linux/GNU, which replaces Microsoft Windows. It is as good, and in many cases, better than Windows. To replace MS- Office, there is OpenOffice which often comes on the same CD as Linux/GNU. For every major type of commercial software, there is usually a free software counterpart.

Where do you get these free/open software? Computer shops might sell them. Shops that sell software often sell Linux CDs too. There is even a Philippine Linux Users Group. Look for it on the Web.

It is not difficult to learn how to install and use these programs. As former President Francisco Nemenzo Jr. of the University of the Philippines said, when he explained why the U.P. System was shifting to free software: we managed to shift from Wordstar to WordPerfect, and then from WordPerfect to MS-Word; we should be able to shift from MS-Office to the compatible OpenOffice will less problems.

Companies like IBM, PAL, Jollibee, Globe and Smart are already using Linux and other free software. If it is good enough for them, it should be good enough for the rest of us.