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German City Says OpenOffice Shortcomings Are Forcing It Back To Microsoft 480

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-of-worms dept.
The city of Freiburg, Germany adopted OpenOffice back in 2007, mostly replacing the Microsoft Office software it had been using previously. Now, an anonymous reader tips news that the city council is preparing to abandon OpenOffice and switch back. "'In the specific case of the use of OpenOffice, the hopes and expectations of the year 2007 are not fulfilled,' the council wrote, adding that continuing use OpenOffice will lead to performance impairments and aggravation and frustration on the part of employees and external parties. 'Therefore, a new Microsoft Office license is essential for effective operations,' they wrote. ... 'The divergence of the development community (LibreOffice on one hand Apache Office on the other) is crippling for the development for OpenOffice,' the council wrote, adding that the development of Microsoft Office is far more stable. Looking at the options, a one-product strategy with Microsoft Office 2010 is the only viable one, according to the council." The council was also disappointed that more municipalities haven't adopted OpenOffice in the meantime. Open source groups and developers criticized the move and encouraged the council to consider at least moving to a more up-to-date version of the office software suite.
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German City Says OpenOffice Shortcomings Are Forcing It Back To Microsoft

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Well, libreoffice could fullfill their all dreams. It's amazing! Using it every day with my cute Ubuntu 12.04

    • by hduff (570443)

      Well, libreoffice could fullfill their all dreams. It's amazing! Using it every day with my cute Ubuntu 12.04

      "Cute Ubuntu 12.04"? That's an Enterprise environment? Good argument.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Of course not, because Enterprise means slow, expensive and bug filled.

        Sadly this is more often the case than not.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Of course not, because Enterprise means slow, expensive and bug filled.

          Sadly this is more often the case than not.

          Wrong.

          Enterprise software means only one thing in business. Enterprise-level support. As long as someone other than me is to blame when it fucks up, I don't give a shit. Sadly this is the case. Always.

          And slow, expensive, and bug filled is difficult to see when the grease is still wet on the CxO's hand.

          • And for most Enterprise software you get the blame the support team a lot.

            I once had to "design" an enterprise system. I kept on getting all my design request tossed out the window in favor to completely idiotic request with their only excuse is this is how enterprise software deals with them.

            No no don't get the information you need get and load all the information, that fits the model. Oh there is something outside of that model. Instead of adding to the model go ahead and come up with a hacky way to get

        • by Znork (31774) on Friday November 16, 2012 @07:21PM (#42007649)

          Enterprise solution - solvent used for dissolving excessive piles of cash in corporate vaults.

      • by tylikcat (1578365)

        It's all fine and good (I'm on Kubuntu 12.10 on my primary box)... until you want interoperability with and MS stuff. Which I wish I didn't, but practically speaking, I often do.

        I recently was giving a talk for a class in another department, and created my slides in Libre Office. All fine and good, but when I exported them in .pptx (.ppt no longer even being offerred as an option) and then opened them *in Libre Office* the formatting was completely mangled. Powerpoint (which I hate, and which I hated even w

    • I bet OpenOffice could as well but the Germans had to do things the old way and OpenOffice wouldn't do that. Whatever functionality they were missing in OpenOffice would have been worked-around but sometimes the path of least resistance simply involves throwing (someone else's) money at the problem.
      • by The Moof (859402) on Friday November 16, 2012 @04:55PM (#42005689)
        Short answer: No.

        Longer answer: OpenOffice (and LibreOffice) chokes on documents created in newer versions of Office (2010, possibly 2012). It can leave out parts of the document entirely. The elements are usually the geometry objects (line arrows, word balloons, etc). This little problem actually got a customer pretty pissed off at me because I referred to the document missing some key components that were actually there when viewed in MS Word.

        For personal use, advanced users, or environments where you can strictly control document formats, OpenOffice can work. However, if you need to be able to read documents coming from uncontrolled sources, it still has a very long way to go to become viable replacement for Microsoft Office.
        • I know that LibreOffice chokes on a lot of docx formatting. For simple documents it does fine, but it's docx support otherwise sucks serious donkeyballs. We finally gave up on it. The price just wasn't worth the hassle.

          I think if you were running a pure OpenOffice shop with not much in the way of correspondence in or out of the organization, it would probably work fine.

          • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Friday November 16, 2012 @05:29PM (#42006183)
            They are running a local government. They do not need to listen to any private company. Make a policy which requires communication in ODF. block DOCX at the Firewall. Automatic security lockdown if the malware suite detects anyone attempting to lunch one. 90% of bullshit solved.
            • by tftp (111690)

              They are running a local government. They do not need to listen to any private company.

              It's easy for a US resident to overlook due to lack of experience, but local governments are supposed to serve the local people. A government of a German town is not like your average Latin American junta. They have to listen to complaints of their constituents - and they did, and we are reading the story about it.

        • by schitso (2541028)
          But is that due to a lack of standard conformance on the part of LibreOffice or Microsoft?
        • by Flammon (4726)

          LibreOffice 3.6.2 has mostly fixed the MS Office 2010 compatibility issues.

    • by ifiwereasculptor (1870574) on Friday November 16, 2012 @04:48PM (#42005581)

      Because they're stupid. They're using OpenOffice from 2007! Five years ago! Ditch your fancy Ubuntu 12.04 and run Debian Etch for a few weeks to understand the kind of frustration those dumb, dumb IT managers put their employees through.

    • I normally write in LaTeX but currently use it. Unfortunately I can't confirm your assessment. In my opinion it's a pile of crap.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 16, 2012 @04:13PM (#42005105)

    "Open source groups and developers criticized the move and encouraged the council to consider at least moving to a more up-to-date version of the office software suite."

    Newsflash: Government department can't figure out alternative software solution - geeks say "just download the update".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 16, 2012 @04:18PM (#42005175)

    OK, I'm not a word processor or office suite user in the slightest. The most I do with OOo is read other people's Word documents perhaps once every few months (and even then Textedit usually does the job). A simple text editor is all I've needed even for my longest articles.

    What is it in a decent wordprocessor like Word that users of wordprocessors find useful, and that OOo doesn't handle?

    I ask out of curiosity - and knowing there have to be a few geeks who also use WPs in the real world to translate for me :).

    • by armanox (826486)

      I was going to ask the same question - what can MS Office do that OO can not?

    • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday November 16, 2012 @04:45PM (#42005551) Journal

      What is it in a decent wordprocessor like Word that users of wordprocessors find useful, and that OOo doesn't handle?

      The #1 missing feature that Open/Libre office lacks compared to word is being word.

      Different is not acceptable. It must be identical including all misfeatures and bugs.

      • by thesandtiger (819476) on Friday November 16, 2012 @05:28PM (#42006173)

        Exactly so.

        I had to bail on OOo because it didn't interact perfectly with various documents created in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. 99% of the time it was fine, but that 1% of the time caused enough headache that I gave up on OOo and just used MS Office. OOo's non-identical nature wound up costing me about 4 hours of work time and teammates another 2-3 hours total of lost productivity in just one instance - that was a cost in lost time of much more than the license would cost.

        I can't even migrate my team to a variant of OOo because there are dozens of different teams, agencies, groups and other organizations we deal with regularly and again - 1% of the time weird shit happening unless we have MS Office isn't going to cut it.

        So, left with a choice of primarily using OOo (but keeping MS Office around just in case) or just using MS Office alone, it's a no brainer.

    • by DogDude (805747)
      Office has excellent interconnectivity. I don't think that any users really perceive MS Office as being a simple suite of unrelated programs.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 16, 2012 @05:43PM (#42006383)

      I use both M$ Office and Libreoffice. For personal reasons and bias, whenever possible I use LO instead of M$O, for the following reasons:
      1. To see whether LO is ready for daily use;
      2. To determine what differences exist between both;
      3. To test which features would recommend one suite over the other;
      4. To test if documents can be created and use in a mixed environment and
      5. To better understand the actions of a monopolist in trying to avoid competition.

      Now for my opinions and conclusions:

      1. LO is ready for day-to-day use wrt the things I do (text documents, spreadsheets, presentations _and_ drawings.
      Most of my documents are read and created using LO.

      2. Differences between LO and M$O do exist. In about 1% of documents I receive, I may need Excel for some weird feature; in most cases, the suites are equivalent. But compatibility is greater in text, ok in spreadsheets, usually good enough in presentations and LO is better than M$O wrt drawing (has anyone heard about the ancient M$ Draw?)

      3.Now, the best "feature" of LO is being easier to use than M$O (because of all the problems the "ribbon" creates). Also, LO is more object-orientated: click on something to change its properties, which is easier than some hidden menus in M$O to reach some desired setting. M$O imports better html, though, both in Word and in Excel, but I suspect Firefox could help here. LO is a lot more versatile with free standard formats, so usually I use it first to open any file, including M$' proprietary ones.

      4. After editing, as a last operation odf documents are saved as the equivalent M$ format. No one complained till now, but I have the extra care of opening them in M$ apps before sending. I assume in an LO-only workplace things will be simpler; this "M$O is the standard for external communication" reveals extreme lack of IT knowledge, since documents can be sent as pdf files to external parties. Nothing can be easier.

      5. Regarding M$ actions, not much in that regard -- or the LO guys are really good with countermeasures. Actually, most of our problems arise from incompatibilities among versions of M$ software, thus I believe Freiburg won't have a happy life after some 3 to 5 years in the future when M$ decides their new Office won't be compatible with the previous one.

      Specifically regarding your question, there's nothing special about Word. Other apps, F/oss or proprietary, do more or less the same with little variations -- one of the reasons being that word processing is widely understood after all these years and there's not much to add anymore. In fact, it annoys me to no end that some fellow coworkers still move the cursor one character a time (with the keyboard arrows), so I suspect even basic Android apps would be more than enough to replace Word.

      People who want to buy M$O, I suppose, are doing the blame game (it's not my fault, it's M$'!) or believe in old golden days when life was better and maybe spending money could bring those days back again... well, for me it's the opposite: I remember when there was a lot of word processors and Word was not one of them -- and people worked quite well, thank you very much.

      But then, I'm biased and pro-F/OSS...

    • by utoddl (263055) <Todd_Lewis@unc.edu> on Friday November 16, 2012 @05:43PM (#42006387) Homepage

      Word has an understandable formatting model. That is, all the formatting for a paragraph is stored in the paragraph mark. You can select a paragraph mark, copy it, paste it somewhere else in the document, and you have a paragraph formatted identically to the original. In OO, your text may take on different formatting depending on whether you backspace away a paragraph mark vs deleting it. No kidding. Also, there's no way to reliably copy a paragraph from one place in a document to another and retain the formatting without adding sacrificial paragraphs before and sometimes after the text you are trying to copy. Seriously. OO's formatting model is just broken.

      Until this basic problem is addressed, people will -- rightly -- prefer using word. I've been fighting oo's formatting for years, and frankly, I'm sick of it.

  • If you want to beat MS Office, start with natively reading and writing their formats. I don't mean importing from and exporting to the formats. I mean adopting at least the older formats and all their issues in your core.

    Why, you ask? Because everybody else is going to send you .doc, .xls and .ppt. And that's what they expect to receive back from you. And as you load and save these documents in your respective Office suites, it's not acceptable for them to degrade like a jpeg.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The article mentions two issues I concur with. The excel clone "Calc" is not in the same league. And importing/converting between MS and open document isn't that good either.

    • Also, factor in that they're using the 2007 version. If Calc still isn't up to par with MS Office's stagnant Excel five years later, just think about what they were dealing with, especially considering how quickly OO has been improving in the past years. Who was the idiot that though living forever in 2007 was a good idea?

  • And out of all the applications I use, it's the one I dread the most, to say it's slow and unwieldy is an understatement.

    I've no idea on MS Office's performance in recent years, but I can feel Germany's frustration!

  • by binarstu (720435) on Friday November 16, 2012 @04:38PM (#42005455)

    I use LibreOffice/OpenOffice almost exclusively, and my experience is that it is more than adequate as an MS Office replacement. In fact, I find Office rather annoying to use now.

    That said, I think TFA has a valid point about the split between LibreOffice and OpenOffice. If nothing else, the fork makes it more difficult to try to push either as an Office replacement to new users. Searching for help is more annoying, and they are different enough that you might not be able to apply a solution for one to the other. And yet, they are almost the same in most ways, and it seems there is some effort to keep the two in sync. Given all of that, continuing with the two separate products seems more detrimental than beneficial. Now that the original problem with Oracle that led to the fork is behind us, couldn't we refocus our efforts on a single office software suite?

    • by thoth (7907)

      I use LibreOffice/OpenOffice almost exclusively, and my experience is that it is more than adequate as an MS Office replacement. In fact, I find Office rather annoying to use now.

      I use LibreOffice at home, and it is fine for me. But I can also see how my needs are fairly limited, and a government office may have more demanding requirements. (Not sure if your usage of LO/OO is personal, business, both, etc.)

      Now as far as what the city of Frieberg find deficient, the article specifically mentioned performance issues with Calc, and general interop. Intertop will be tough since Microsoft isn't exactly forthcoming with their specs. However, the Calc performance can be addressed.

  • basically admitted it could do one of two things:
    1. increase training and awareness of the openoffice suite and ensure operating procedures and support is available during its use.
    2. switch to libreoffice with the well established and functional upgrade path.

    the third option, "fold like a chair after microsoft cuts you a closed-door deal" is not a real option unless you're lazy.
  • Shills? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Story is tagged "shills" and "msshills"? If you put the monetary cost aside, how can you still say with a straight face that OpenOffice is superior to MS Office?

    • Re:Shills? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by roc97007 (608802) on Friday November 16, 2012 @04:51PM (#42005617) Journal

      Like this. OpenOffice is superior to MS Office. See, my face didn't change at all.

    • This is huge. The OpenOffice document format is fully documented, so it will always be possible to access those documents.

  • by udippel (562132) on Friday November 16, 2012 @04:59PM (#42005743)

    Reading the report, they state that Writer can only be used for 80% of the tasks; Impress and Calc even less.
    That sounds very fishy in the ears of someone who has made complete layouts for real books and real publishers (no Internet-crap), of hundreds of pages, including automatic TOC, blabla, plus articles in traditional Chinese and Japanese.
    Now tell me, please, what sorts of daily work a municipality needs to do, what sorts of letters need to be written, that can't be written in Writer!? I bet a 5-digit-sum in € that this is simply untrue. I cannot exclude, though, that some templates created in Word cannot be filled in Writer. But then the numbers would be misleading, and some wishy-washy of hands could not be excluded. I correct myself, I take a bet of 6 digits of €, that all writing work of a municipality can be done in Writer, if done in any proper manner; if and only if done from a proper set of basics of OpenOffice. Nobody expects the OpenOffice Writer to run 100% compatible with Word Macros, to give an example.

    Invite me, pay me a reasonable fee, and I'll show those half-wits 'wo die Glocken hängen'.

  • The problem is that people fail to understand the difference between records and documents. The transition to effective digital communications is still in process and has some way to go before it matures.

    I help attorneys transition to paperless offices and I would make three comments.

    1) PDFs are the only fair way to share written and graphic records, yet people continually share word processing documents as records. A record is different than a document. A record might be commented on, but the base informa

  • by allsorts46 (1725046) on Friday November 16, 2012 @05:50PM (#42006475) Homepage
    Every time there's a story that mentions OpenOffice, I check to see whether this bug [apache.org] has been fixed yet. It hasn't. The comments are probably TL;DR, but the idea is that if you attempt to join two paragraphs into one paragraph that would be longer than 65535 characters, it discards all text beyond that point. No warning, no way to undo, and worst of all, absolutely no interest from the developers in fixing it. The standard response? "You shouldn't make paragraphs that long". It's a word processor - it should handle text. Microsoft Office has no such issue.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Friday November 16, 2012 @05:52PM (#42006493) Homepage Journal

    This kills a lot of 'alternatives', that people refuse to stop accepting the proprietary standards and paint themselves in a corner of failure.

    If you also switch to an open file format, the 'issues' that these alternatives have mostly melt away.

  • by zapyon (575974) on Friday November 16, 2012 @06:10PM (#42006741)
    Other cities like Munich (LibreOffice) and Leipzig (OpenOffice) are doing just fine [linux-magazin.de] with the same family of office software. Without further information it is moot to guess if a) the Freiburg admins were not willing or capable of installing and configuring OpenOffice in a way that was satisfying to users or b) the users were unwilling to use the software (something different? something new? no way!) or c) some city managers decided to rather put some money in Microsoft's purse for any number of reasons (similar things happened to other public offices in Germany before).
  • by Johnny Loves Linux (1147635) on Friday November 16, 2012 @06:57PM (#42007299)
    It's a policy issue. Here's the solution to the Gordian knot: The city sets the policy that all government documents received externally or written internally must be written using the ISO/IEC 26300:2006 standard format (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDocument) or pdf format. That way the Microsoft people can use their Microsoft office, and everybody else who doesn't want to be forced to use Microsoft products can use OpenOffice/Libre Office/Google docs/whatever. After all, that's the point of open standards -- everybody can use their own software to implement the standard. See? One big happy family and no bitterness. Now after having solved their painful and expensive problem, when do I get my consultant fee of 50000 euros for solving their problem so quickly?
  • by uvajed_ekil (914487) on Friday November 16, 2012 @09:05PM (#42008749)
    Don't overreact to this news, folks. While it is slightly disappointing to see a government dump OpenOffice, there are a few more things to consider. For one, they are not using LibreOffice, the best open office suite, in my opinion. And we are also only talking about Freiburg, a city with a population of less than 250,000. If this had said Akron, OH, Chula Vista, CA or Hialeah, FL were ready to go back to MS, I doubt anyone would blink.
  • by AmazingRuss (555076) on Friday November 16, 2012 @11:08PM (#42009521)

    If your software is wonky and un-polished, people that have to use it every day don't care if it's free. They will happily pay for something that works right so they can do their jobs.

  • by testerus (526125) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @01:53AM (#42010211)
    Three German municipalities (Munich, Jena, Freiburg) and some Swiss authorities just put together €140,000 to fund improved OOXML support in openoffice/libreoffice.
    Improved OOXML support for LibreOffice and OpenOffice [h-online.com]
    Wouldn't it make sense to wait for the results before dropping openoffice?
  • by dadioflex (854298) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @03:13AM (#42010463)
    Telling me they were going to audit me under their Software Asset Management scheme.

    I use the bare minimum amount of MS software where I work because it has built in redundancy. If you buy Microsoft Office 2010 chances are it won't open files created with the next version. Libre and Open Office don't seem to share that failing in Microsoft's product. That's why I use them - and I pretty much use them interchangeably because my peeps aren't particularly sophisticated users (nor am I).

    So, having MS send me a letter basically accusing me of stealing because I don't use Outlook, Exchange, Office or whatever else they peddle, is pretty annoying. Why would I want to let myself get tangled up in that system?

    Ironically, we're coming to end of life with our current accounting software (Sage Line 100) and are due an across the board refresh of the entire system. I was THIS close to buying into Outlook and Exchange and a limited deployment of MS Office because it integrates better (at all) with Sage Line 200 but that letter was a kick in the nuts. I am adamantly opposed to giving them money if that's how they treat customers - and I AM a customer. I've spent some proportion of my tech budget on their OS software, including the bare minimum server OS software to host our Sage installation. I must stress if I could go Linux I would but our accounting software, and in fact no accounting software that I can get local support for runs on anything but Microsoft OS's as clients and more importantly on the server side. There ARE web-based alternatives but they're clunky as hell, expensive and obviously vulnerable to downtime if t'internet goes down,

    I'm not a tech guy, I'm an interested in tech guy. IT isn't my job, it's just one of the things I do here. Again, I don't have sophisticated users. Incredibly in a company with thirty people under the roof I am, at nearly fifty, the only geek. What can I say. We get our hands dirty, but Microsoft Office? Not THAT dirty.
    • by FaxeTheCat (1394763) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @04:21AM (#42010673)

      Telling me they were going to audit me under their Software Asset Management scheme.

      Unless you own the company, they are not auditing YOU. They are auditing THE COMPANY.
      This means that you should not respond to the request. Give it to the management. Because being audited can cause financial liabilities, this should go through the legal counsel of the company.

      Auditing is not for the tech guy. I know this from experience. Bring in the legal people first. With a little luck, you will not see much of the whole process.

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