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NeoOffice/J Review

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Note: NeoOffice/J has improved by leaps and bounds since this was written. NeoOffice/J 1.1 based on OOo 1.1.4 has recently been released.. This release looks and feels much more like a Mac app. I'll try to updated this review soon.

Office suites on Mac OSX are a real sore point. It seems that many Macfolk use OSX as a way to avoid Microsoft as much as humanly possible.They do get to ditch Windows, but are more often than not once againstuck with Microsoft Office as their best office suite choice. Now, tobe fair to Microsoft, Office X.v (the Mac version shipping at the timeof writing) is actually quite good. However, it's still from Microsoft,it still keeps people locked into MS file formats, and despite manyreports to the contrary, it's import filters are not 100% the same asthe Windows version of the software.

Enter OpenOffice.org. (OOo) It is the GPL'd version of Sun'sStarOffice product. It directly competes with Microsoft Office. For thefirst time in years, MS Office's stranglehold on the productivitymarket is being challenged. This time, the competition might actuallyhave a chance. OpenOffice is free, open source, and available forWindows, Linux, Solaris, OS/2, and to a lesser degree, the Mac. Forover a year now, a version has been available for the Mac. Based on1.0, the Mac version requires X11 to be installed, and doesn't work orlook like a real Mac app. It doesn't integrate with the finder, it'svery slow, it doesn't use OSX's fonts. In short, it's a rather rushedport. And it is! Amaxingly, there are barely any developers activelyworking on the Mac port. So, while many Mac users would rather avoid using Microsoft Office, most Mac developers don't seem to care. This lack of interest has lead to the creation of NeoOffice.

The people at NeoOffice.orgare working on two parallel OOo ports. The first, NeoOffice, attemptsto port OOo to Aqua. It seems to have stagnated, but the very promisingNeoOffice/J is rapidly approaching 1.0!

NeoOffice/J replaces the dependency on X with a dependency on Java,which is treated as a native toolkit in OSX. NeoOffice/J may not looklike an Aqua app yet, but it does integrate nicely with the Apple'sexcellent anti-aliased fonts and can use OSX's copy and paste. It takesa good 30 seconds to launch on my G3 iBook 700/640MB RAM but once it'sup and running it is quite fast. I recently removed the OOo X11 portfrom my machine, as NeoOffice/J works more consistently for me.

NeoOffice/J is based on OOo 1.0 but it's still much better thannothing, not to mention much better than the X11 port. It's very easilyinstalled with a DMG file and the standard Apple installer, onceinstalled it behaves like any other OSX app, setting up the MIME typesproperly, etc. This means that you can use it to open OpenOffice or MSOffice files from the Finder, the Mail.app and other OSX applications.

NeoOffice/J also hooks into Apple's native printing system,bypassing altogether OpenOffice's confusing printer setup. By usingApple's printing system, you can easily make PDF files of yourdocuments.

I've installed 0.82 in the Mac lab here at work, as we didn't purchaseMSO with the machines and students were trying to open PPT lectures.Anyway, I'd take NeoOffice/J over AppleWorks any day of the week. Ieven prefer it to MS Office on OSX. (Sorry, it may look Aqua-ish, butit's an odd duck too.)

From the NeoOffice/J site:

  • No X11 software required
    NeoOffice/J uses the Java technology that is built into Mac OSX. By using Java, there is no need to download and install the X11software that OpenOffice.org requires.
  • Integrated with Finder and Mail
    The Mac OS X Finder will automatically launch NeoOffice/J andopen OpenOffice.org and MicrosoftTM Office documents that youdouble-click on. Also the Mac OS X Mail application will openOpenOffice.org and Microsoft Office attachments in NeoOffice/J.
  • Uses Mac OS X fonts
    Unlike OpenOffice.org, NeoOffice/J uses the same fonts thatall of your other Mac OS X applications use. This means thatNeoOffice/J will handle reading and writing of Western Europeancharacters (e.g. characters with accents, umlauts, circumflexes,cedillas, etc.) and some fonts will even handle Japanese, Chinese, andKorean ideographs. Also, NeoOffice/J is able to use any fonts that youinstall in your Library/Fonts subfolder or the /Library/Fonts folder.
  • Handles international keyboards
    Unlike OpenOffice.org, NeoOffice/J will use an keyboard layoutthat you use. I routinely switch to a Spanish keyboard without aproblem. Also, if you switch your keyboard layout while NeoOffice/J isrunning, NeoOffice/J will automatically switch as well.
  • Native printing support
    NeoOffice/J supports printing using Mac OS X's native printingfunctionality. Like other Mac OS X applications, you can useNeoOffice/J to print, preview, or save a document to a PDF file.
  • Native copy and paste support
    NeoOffice/J supports copying and pasting using Mac OS X'snative clipboard so you can copy and paste text and images betweenNeoOffice/J and other Mac OS X applications.