I used OpenOffice.org for some years, recently moving to LibreOffice. The newest version available in the Ubuntu Natty 11.04 launchpad repository is 3.3.3, although 3.4.1 is current as of this writing. Although LibreOffice has improved compatibility with MS Office 2010 files, it grew considerably slower a few versions ago. It takes between 10.5 and 11 seconds (yes, I timed it multiple times) before a user can actually work with a file upon opening it. Plus, bizarre errors crop up, like inability to scroll from a page after working with comments in “track changes”. As much as I like Open Source, I need something more responsive and less buggy than LibreOffice.
I tried Softmaker 2008 for Linux a year-and-a-half ago and wrote about it here. Even then, it loaded much faster than OpenOffice.org, the latter taking about 5 seconds to load and use a file at that time. So, when Softmaker announced their 20% discount week while advertising solid MS Office 2010 file compatibility, I decided to upgrade to 2010 for $31.96. Downloads are available in deb, including 64-bit, rpm, and tar.gz file formats. Installation was a breeze.
Since the layout hasn’t changed appreciably, you can see the individual program screen shots in my earlier look. Softmaker retains the MS Office 2003 layouts, more or less. The good news is no ribbons.
Well, Softmaker Office 2010 still loads and opens files almost instantly. Hooray! The compatibility of Textmaker, the word processor, is excellent with MS Word 2007 files (I don’t have any MS 2010 files to test) as well as Open Document files. I did some work with track changes and then saved the file without incident in Word 2007 docx format. Very impressive. The only glitch is PDF creation. Textmaker creates huge PDF files compared to LibreOffice (~550K vs. ~75K). That needs to be addressed.
However, Planmaker, the spreadsheet, opens Excel 2007 xlsx files but won’t save them in that format. It also froze up repeatedly on one Excel 2007 xlsx spreadsheet that I thought was virtually identical to another one that I had just opened. Planmaker 2010 didn’t have any problems with a number of xls files that I tried.
Softmaker Presentation 2010 had the weakest MS Office compatibility. It would only handle ppt files, with which it did a great job, but not pptx. That was the most disappointing for me, because I mainly upgraded for Powerpoint 2007 compatibility. According to their forum, Softmaker is working on this compatibility and it may be available in the next version. Not what I had in mind when I upgraded.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with Softmaker Office 2010. Textmaker continues to shine and Planmaker is pretty good. Because of the PDF creation issue and the lack of good Softmaker Presentation compatibility with pptx files, I still need LibreOffice. There’s no golden BB replacement for stability, speed, and MS Office compatibility yet.
But, it’s getting closer.