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2011/02/12

Office Software for an Open-Source-Loving Programmer

I'm a programmer and IT helpdesk guy for a lab at a major university. I rarely touch office suites. I do, on occasion, prepare presentations for user groups I'm involved in, but as I've found I'm more comfortable diving into whatever applications I'm working with, that's a fairly rare thing. The office tool I most often use is a spreadsheet, which allows me to see CSV data (and we deal with a lot of CSV data) in the formatted way it's meant to be thought of.

For my personal purposes, I've Gone Google.


When your life is spread out among seven computers and a smartphone, connecting your stuff back to the cloud makes more than a little sense. I get the "you don't own your data" arguments, but for now, it fits my needs fairly well.

But it doesn't really fit my office's needs. Genomics data can be big. Big. Loading it up to Google isn't really where I want to go. Which leads to the real crux of this discussion.

I could go Microsoft Office. There was a technical reason that you might prefer Office, in that genomics data can be big, and Excel allowed for 65536 rows by 256 columns, which was more than double what I could get out of OpenOffice.org. However, it seems that this has been changed since I last tried it.

The problem there is that I prefer to go with a Linux desktop, both for the power of it and for the freedom of it, and Office is a Microsoft product that you can't run (without virtualization or something) on Linux machines. Ubuntu comes with OpenOffice.org, so that's my default go-to for those times I do need to play with an office suite product.

But....

I was listening to the FLOSS Weekly show about FOSDEM, and the mention of LibreOffice got me curious. Each time I've opened OpenOffice, I've thought that it was slow and cumbersome beyond what it does. If there's a noticeable improvement in it's speed, it's well worth considering.

You know, for the seven times a year I really really need it.