Microsoft Office 2008 vs NeoOffice vs iWorks’08

2009/04/28

I was happy user of the iWork Suite 08 since I moved to OS-X. It somehow better matches the way I am thinking and does much better job than Office to get me from idea to acceptable looking rendering of that idea in the form of document, spreadsheet or presentation.

In past two month I was involved much more interaction with the requirements, business analysis and project management part of the process. Which inevitably means much higher exposure to documents creation, collaboration and exchange. iWork gives you reasonably good compatibility with Office document formats, which means that you can easily import almost every Office document modify it and export it back so that Windows user will see almost all of your changes. Almost everything will be just fine. Unfortunately, almost is not the same as everything: it often breaks fine details of formatting, reviewer comments and does not really work for more complicated Excel spreadsheets. Especially those spreadsheets which project manager-ish people so love to create.

I tried to use OpenOffice/NeoOffice which suffers from the same malady. It spoils different set of features than iWorks, quite often works well, but it cannot be trusted. On top of that, it just does not feel right and is kinda ugly.

So I had to take a deep breath and installed Office 2008. After few weeks, here is my impression and very brief comparison of all three mentioned suites.

With Office 2008, I was not having very high expectations regarding user experience on Mac and I have to report that Microsoft did not disappoint. I indeed was not too great experience, starting with installation.

Office 2008 contains 4 products. I absolutely wanted Word and Excel, was not quite sure about Powerpoint (because Keynote is sooo much better),  and certainly had zero interest in Entourage and Microsoft Messenger.
Guess what: Microsoft installer, as many times before, knew better what I want and did not give me a chance.  All questions asked were related to what Microsoft needs to know (serial number), with little regard for users interest.  It also installed whole bunch of fonts, which I did not really want – but I guess to provide 100 % compatibility with Windows, it may be a good idea to include same set of fonts as Windows office has.

After installation, Office 2008 works reasonably well. Minor annoyance is start taking forever – I guess it is because (unlike under XP/Vista) OS-X does not preload shared components (and does not eat up memory just to make Office appear start snappier).  As soon as any Office application is running, I have occasionally seen weird behaviour when switching between windows (note lowercase ‘w’) and does not play nice with Spaces. Sometimes scrolling forgets to redraw screen in word and you have to minimize/restore to get back to readable text. And it is generally quite slow even on very fast and powerful machine.

With respect to the main motivation for getting Office – seamless document compatibility – that problem appears to be solved. So far I have not seen anything that would be distorted or deleted just because I touched the file on the Mac.  Only exception is Excel – Office 2008 does not support VBA macros, so your mileage with more advanced spreadsheets may vary.

Should I mark my experience with Office 2008 using school grades, it would be:
– installation: C
– user experience: B-
– compatibility with Windows Office: B+
– price/performance ratio: D
– overall: B-

For iWorks’08 it would be:
– installation: B (if I recall correctly, it was OK, but required installer).
– user experience: B+
– compatibility with Windows Office: C
– price/performance ratio: A-
– overall: B

For NeoOffice:
– installation: C-
– user experience: C-
– compatibility with Windows Office: C+
– price/performance ratio: A
– overall: C+

Recommendation:

If you are working on Mac as part of a team that collaborates using Office documents, you most likely need Office 2008. Unfortunately the only office package that comes very close to be compatible with Office 2003 and Office 2007 is Office 2008.

If you value user experience, aesthetics and are OK with mostly one-way conversions between Windows Office, you will find iWork provides excellent value and will make you feel at home. If you never have to exchange documents with Windows world, enjoy it – we all who have to do it daily are green with envy.

If you for economic or ideological reasons refuse to pay for software (or only for software made by certain companies ;-)) – or if you require compatibility with Linux based office, you have no other choice than NeoOffice or OpenOffice. The first one looks considerably better on OS-X – although still not quite right.

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VMWare Converter error P2VError UNABLE_TO_DETERMINE_GUEST_OS

2008/10/19

This was error I have received while trying to convert physical machine running Windows 2003 SP1 into VMWare image.

After some googling around and experimenting (this link was most helpful to point me in correct direction) I found solution that worked for me.

All I had to do was to disable Floppy Drive in the System applet of Control panel. After this, the conversion continued and right now is squeezing 100 GB disk into 50 2 GB files on external USB disk.


Free eBook on ALT.NET

2008/09/27

It is always a nice surprise to find something that is free and actually useful on the Net :-). Like this one: a fellow Ottawan Karl Sequin wrote and generously made available as free download “Foundations of programming” eBook.

He touches many topics of various levels from high level design concepts (dependency injection) to low level “Back to Basics” – how memory allocation and pointers work. Especially the later is often neglected and overlooked (and consequently misunderstood) by younger developers who started their education with a garbage collected language such as Java or C# and never were exposed to beauty and horrors of C 😉

The book is using .NET and C# as platform, but the applicability of the chapters goes way beyond the Windows or Microsoft world. After all, Alt.Net has very close relations with Java world.

If you have time, give it a look. Were it not free, I would say it is worth every penny. Now I can only say it is definitely worth the time you spend on it.

Thanks Karl, I hope I’ll meet you in person sometimes. The advantage of living in Ottawa is that you have lots of smart people around you :-).


Proper shellspace above all :-)

2008/09/07

Here is a snapshot I took during today’s trip to Chapters @ Rideau. While walking out, the placement of some books caught my eye:

Note the “headlines” in the background of the Vista books: “Ailments and diseases”. Certainly unintended and a bit childish, but I found it hilariously funny 🙂


Catching up with Hanselminutes

2008/05/08

Thanks to great weather, the walking season is in full progress 🙂 and that means I was able to add some more listening material to my podcast collection. I still keep track with all part of TWIT network – This week in tech, Security Now!, MacBreak Weekly and Windows Weekly – but that is nowhere close enough for both walking and driving …

I have returned back to listening to Scott Hanselman blog (Hanselminutes) – mostly out of curiosity how did working for Microsoft change is very balanced and realistic view of technologies.

Fortunately – it did not.

Scott is still same great, very open minded developer that can see value and strength as well as issues and problems in technology regardless of its origin. It speaks a lot positives about Microsoft as well – by allowing this to happen.

Very good episodes are (back from 2007) from my personal point of view were:

I was pretty intrigued with the title of the episode “The Worst Show Ever with Chris Sells and Rory Blyth” – which is Episode 112 and I have to agree, the title was pretty descriptive 🙂 – but it was at least reasonably funny.

I am looking forward catching up with rest of the year, which according the Weather Network should not take too long.

Thanks, Scott. Keep up the great content coming.


Blue screen of the death on a Mac

2008/03/29

Here it comes, first occurence: one of my VM’s BSOD-ed on me yesterday.

picture-35.png

To be completely fair, I did have experienced an occurrence of something similar twice in last moths: after wake up from sleep, the screen was collection of the color pixels, completely unreadable. After reboot, everything was normal.

I found out that the issue may be related to the “safesleep” mode. For now, I disabled the mode by

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0

To re-enable SafeSleep, the command is:
sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 3

So far, everything works – but I am still investigating. Thanks to this thread (in German) for the hint.


Free Microsoft Press E-Books !

2008/01/02

Microsoft Press is handing out 3 books:

– Introducing Microsoft LINQ by Paolo Pialorsi and Marco Russo

– Introducing ASP.NET Ajax by Dino Esposito

– Introducing Microsoft Silverlight 1.0 by Laurence Moroney

Silverlinght 1.0 is probably a bit outdated (with 1.1/2.0 close), but the others should be good, judging by the authors. Dino Esposito wrote couple of very good books on ASP.NET and .NET.

See this blog for more details and download links.