Updated: September 11, 2009
OpenOffice is a wonderful, useful, free office suite for Windows, Linux and Mac users worldwide. It is rich in features, quite secure, extensible, and can even run from external storage devices, offering you portability and flexibility. It is definitely a viable alternative to Microsoft Office, if you don't mind doing things a little differently from what you're used to.
But you should mind. All your friends and business partners run Microsoft Office and you cannot afford to have any blunders when reading their documents. Likewise, you don't want to have your presentations all garbled up when you import them from Impress to PowerPoint. What about Office 2007? What about macros in your Excel sheets?
Legitimate questions all. And they all have an answer - Go-oo.
Go-oo tries to solve all these issues by offering office users working in mixed environments with a suite that should cater to all their need. This means additional import/export filtering capabilities, better support for additional languages and file format, higher extensibility, better Microsoft migration, and more. On top of all these, you also get smaller footprint and better performance.
Let's take a look.
Make no mistake. Go-oo IS OpenOffice. The big difference is the number of additional features added and extra functionality provided on top of basics already offered.
On the first look, Go-oo is no different than OpenOffice. You will have to dig into the menus to find the special extras.
Depending on which Linux distribution you use, Go-oo will behave a little differently. Since Go-oo is developed by Novell, it comes as no surprises that the default OpenOffice used in openSUSE is Go-oo. Other distributions, like Ubuntu, use parts of the Go-oo package suite in their own repositories.
For example, here's Go-oo Writer in openSUSE 11.1 running KDE4.1 environment:
So, what should you expect from Go-oo?
For a detailed list of changes compared to default OpenOffice, you may want to check the official Discover Go-OO! page, which elaborates into many subtle and useful improvements added. To whet your appetite, I'm just going to show you a few.
This extension is included by default into the suite, although uses of the standard OpenOffice can also install and use it. The purpose of the extension is to make your presentations more compact, reduce the crud, get rid of empty slides and extra notes, reduce the size of graphics included, and optimize the presentation for standard projectors.
It's fairly simple to use. Just follow a wizard menu.
Better VBA support
Excel users will definitely like this. They will be able to continue using Visual Basic, while safe in the knowledge that their macros will work well even when opened in Go-oo, and vice versa.
Password protect XLS files
Excel users will also appreciate the fact Go-oo allows spreadsheet documents to be password-protected and exported in .xls format.
Microsoft Office 2007 support
Speaking of formats, Go-oo already includes the odf-converter built-in, which means a more streamlined and accurate conversion of Office Open XML format. BTW, you have to admit that Office Open XML is such a sneaky name. See the screenshot above. You can see .xlsx file format available in the file type menu.
Linux users have also been graced with a few gifts. Go-oo integrates with gstreamer to offer a wider range of media files supported, plus there's 3D slide transition in Impress.
You are also supposed to get better integration for WordPerfect graphics, although I have not managed to figure out how to do this. Then, there's textgrid rendering, improved EMF rendering, SVG graphics support, Lotus Word Pro support, and many other interesting features. Like I mentioned before, Go-oo is supposed to be a little faster on startup.
There is little reason except ideological ones to prevent you from using Go-oo. It's the same old OpenOffice, adorned with additional features that should make your life easier. What more, if you're trying to convince a few friends into using OpenOffice, Go-oo makes for an excellent testbed.
I am using all sorts of flavors of OpenOffice, including still the older 2.3 and 2.4 versions, as well the more recent 3.x edition, both on Windows and Linux. I have always been pleased with the result.
Go-oo blends well into the spectrum. It does not harm the experience. The software is stable and runs well and performs the promised tasks with accuracy. In day-to-day use, it's as good as the official build. It's a win-win situation.
I believe it caters mainly toward Windows users and recent converts, who may find the gap between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice a little too wide to bridge. Still, Linux users can enjoy Go-oo, too. Improved multimedia support, 3D slide transitions and Mono integration are definitely a bonus.
Overall, Go-oo is gold trimming on top of a silky smooth, polished suite [sic]. It's another step toward making OpenOffice greater and friendlier. Which means you should download and try Go-oo. You won't be disappointed.