Dear [Boss], I’ve answered your questions further on down, but let me preface these questions with an explanation on why a move away from closed formats makes sense….. If we continue using Microsoft formats, we will be forced to convert to Office 2007. We have seen this in years past, as we have been victims of the vicious Microsoft upgrade cycle with Office 97->Office XP->Office 2003 (not to mention Operating Systems). Now and in the future, we’ll most likely see incompatibilities between new versions of MS Office, and new versions of Windows (like Vista), and lack of support for older versions. The problem on the operating system side, with Vista, is two fold: 1) all the computers we’ve bought that are older than a year won’t be able to run it since it requires more RAM, a better video card, and a DVD ROM. And 2) the computers that can run it? Oh it’ll be $200 to upgrade them or 1/4 of what we paid for the machine already. People may think, “Great, we’ve used Microsoft Office for 10 years, without problems, so we’ll continue to use it.” There is an error in this thinking not only due to pricing, but because formats DO change like with the progression of spreadsheets: VisiCalc->Lotus->Quatro->Excel. I think First Choice fits in there somewhere too. Also, large companies that the public thinks will be around for a long time to support them sometimes die like: Pan Am, WorldCom, TWA, Enron, and Arthur Andersen. With IBM, Sun and Novell behind OpenOffice, and the success of Linux and Open Source, we can clearly see that Microsoft’s current business model will slowly be eaten away. One of the great things about the Open Source aspect is that you aren’t tied down to one company. Recently IBM released Lotus Symphony which is their own branch of OpenOffice. Novell has their own version, and Sun also has their version. There are a few others out there too. One large area of concern with companies, and governments around the world is that closed formats may be inaccessible in the future. This is important to us as well when searching for old data. For example; Say we need to go open a First Choice document for legal purposes in a year or two, but we cannot open it because it doesn’t run on Windows Vista. Likewise, have you ever received a Word Perfect or other type of closed document that you’ve been unable to open? There are many people concerned about these issues and other incompatibilities. just do a search on Google (who built their empire on Open Source Linux servers) for “why open formats.” The main thing to focus on is the various file formats from both sides of the fence. Microsoft applications use closed unpublished (or published and extremely convoluted) specifications that can be changed at anytime, and render older software unusable. Open formats like Open Document Format (ODF), which OpenOffice uses, are good in that they are standardized, portable, interoperable, and their specifications are publicly available and easy to work with. We are in a good time frame right now to get OpenOffice tested and implemented. It would best to test in an office like [Local Office], work out any issues, and roll out to the rest of the company. Remember that OpenOffice is a full suite of cross-platform applications that include spreadsheets, word processing, multimedia publishing, graphics drawing, database, and an equation editor. Here are my answers to your questions: 1) What does the OpenOffice not do that excel does? OpenOffice Calc, the spreadsheet program, does not lock you into a specific vendor, and also doesn’t lock you into file formats that are closed and unsupported in the future. OpenOffice may not fully support ALL vb macros you throw at it, but Novell’s version eases the migration as it has some interoperability. Also, when opening Word docs, some formatting may not be translated correctly. However, I see OpenOffice working for 99% of what we need. 2) How do we know it is safe? Do you mean secure? OpenOffice is far more secure than Microsoft Office. The numbers speak for themselves. As of Sept 2007, according to security firm, Secunia, OpenOffice has no critical unpatched flaws, while Microsoft Office currently has five. 3) Could there be a case where a file is opened (even if in error) and destroyed because there were functions in the excel file that are not supported by OpenOffice? Potentially, it may be possible BUT the overall strengths of OpenOffice and the Open Document Format (ODF) far outweigh it’s potential weaknesses. Even Microsoft corrupts it’s own files. Obviously we’ll need to do some testing, like we normally would with new software, to see how certain files may be affected. 4) What other potential conflicts could there be using it? By the way, where do you get it, I want to try it on [significant other’s] machine. Any reason I should not? I know it would be a huge step, and I’m willing to work on this great undertaking, as it’s a huge asset to the company. After a trial/testing period, we could convert the whole company over to it. Did I mention it exports straight to PDF without any add-ons? One potential conflict we can plan for is if a file is received in ODF format before OpenOffice is installed. The recipient would have no way to open the file. The way around this would be to just install OpenOffice on every computer, and that would solve the issue. Both MS Office and OpenOffice can run side by side on the same machine….and Yes you can try it on [significant other’s] machine….I can burn you a CD, or you can download it from Novell, Sun, or IBM. Both Novell and IBM require a login. I have the Novell version already downloaded. When would you like to discuss this further? Another demo? And would you want [our consultant] involved at all or [programmer]? »»»**Each MS Office Licence costs $359 as of Sept 2007.** is FREE!For your enjoyment: