For the third time in five years, Bruce Byfield compares the current state of the two titans of office software, in “Office software shootout: OpenOffice.org Writer vs. Microsoft Word, round three.”
Byfield feels the UI changes in the latest version of Microsoft’s offering were made without purpose, and will confuse users more than they will help. It is certainly true that many people are unhappy with even small changes in the way software behaves, so it is interesting that MS made this decision. Further, I think the idea of using the vertical space on a user’s screen and leaving so much unused horizontal space was a mistake. Screens are getting wider much faster than they are getting taller, and there was already empty space on the sides of the document in MS Word. Like the design programs offered by Adobe, Word should have chosen a column, rather than a horizontal ribbon, in which to collect its tools.
In Styles, Page Layout, Lists, Headers, Footers, Footnotes and Endnotes, and a number of other categories, Byfield finds that Writer is the stronger contender, leading him to crown it the overall winner.
I think Byfield also should have considered two features that I find essential: cross-platform availability of the application (Writer easily wins this category), and the openness of the program’s default file format, where, with ODF, Writer has a significant advantage. MS Word is becoming irrelevant for companies that run Linux, Mac and Windows boxes on their desktops, and especially for those who want to preserve their data in a standard and universally-accessable format.