NeoOffice – roundtrip?

NeoOffice/J icon - the ship

OpenOffice is a free Office suite containing a word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation package and other tools. OpenOffice derives from Star Office, once a product produced by a German software house, now a commercial product distributed by Sun. OpenOffice is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, the last in two flavours.

NeoOffice/J is an Open Source build of OpenOffice for Mac OS X. NeoOffice/J runs under the native ‘Aqua’ desktop and the /J signifies the use of Java ‘widgets’ for some aspects of the application. This huge piece of work was started by two programmers who wanted an Aqua native build of OpenOffice. NeoOffice/J Build Candidate 1.1 is based on OpenOffice 1.1.4. The ‘official’ OpenOffice for Mac OS X is OpenOffice 1.1.2 and this runs under X11, the alternative window manager bundled with Mac OS X.

NeoOffice/J 1.1 is a 122 Mb download, and then there is another 4 Mb patch (the DMG files expand to fill 400 Mb of hard drive space). Installation is simply a question of running the package file and typing in your password. NeoOffice/J loads in about 30 seconds on first load in a session on my G4 iBook under Panther with 512 Mb of RAM. Subsequent loads take about 9 seconds. This compares with 12 seconds for Word 2004.

On Windows, OpenOffice can be made to convert Word files including MS Equation Editor objects and drawings. To allow ‘round trip’ editing, where you start writing something in Word, save it, pop it into OpenOffice on the laptop then save as Word, and then reload into Word to resume editing is easy enough. You must set an option found in the Options item of the tools menu. Just

  • Select Options from the Tools menu item
  • When the dialog box appears, click on the + next to Load/Save in the tree control on the left of the dialog box
  • Select Microsoft Office from the next level of the tree control
  • Tick all the check boxes that appear in the main right hand pane of the dialog box and click OK
  • See the screen grab below for the important bits of the dialog box

Load and Save settings for compatibility with MS Office in NeoOffice/J

Alas, this does not appear to be working in NeoOffice/J and attempts to export OpenOffice files to Word 2004 result in equation objects not displaying and in drawing objects being lost. This may be due to font issues on the Mac OS platform – there are issues about the symbol greek characters being different. I’m now trying to pin down if the Windows OpenOffice ‘round trip editing’ capability is a feature of Windows OLE functionality or if the lack of ‘round trip’ capability is a bug in NeoOffice.

If your work is pure text with a few tables and headings, then NeoOffice/J will provide ‘round trip’ editing for Word files. Equally, NeOffice/J provides PDF export, so work produced in NeoOffice can be accessed for reading or printing on other platforms.

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