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What is free, easy to learn and manage, and compatible with other file formats and every major platform? (Hint: It also represents one less tie to Microsoft.) The answer is OpenOffice.org, according to the creators, managers and evangelists of this open source office productivity suite. One of the most compelling reasons to use OpenOffice is that it can serve as a testing ground for an eventual switch from Windows to Linux on the desktop.
Our IT department is very enthusiastic about how far OpenOffice has developed its functionality and compatibility, and are now starting a migration project from MS to OO. The tests so far are very promising since 98% of our users do not use all features of MS products. For MS Access we use the run-time modules.
Indeed undeniable cost saving already of €60,000, and not including maintenance fees.
I was initially dissatified with OpenOffice because one feature was supposed to be file format compatibility with MS Office. For heavily formatted documents this was not the case in my brief trial.
That said, I saw a screenshot of the newest version which exports files to .pdf files. I realize it is a matter of piping (in Linux) through ghostscript and to a pdf builder to make pdf files, but native support for this function might make a difference.
Sorry. I tried my hardest to like Open Office. The page preview alone was enough to make me want to switch back to MS Office. There is no replacement for MS Access and OpenOffice just doesn't compete.
I wasn't impressed.
There is little reason to add an Access-like database product to OpenOffice, as there are lots of free real full-featured databases available. E.g. Postgresql, SAPdb, Firebird.
And if you need an extremely fast but can do without some advanced features you could go for MySQL.
If you are prepared to use a closed source product and pay some money you could use
Oracle, DB2, Sybase,...
All of these products have better performance, can handle more users, more simultaneous requests, adhere better to standards, and offer better security than MS-Access.
In fact it would be a good idea to switch to one of those database products even if you continue to use MS-Office.
Databases (as those mentioned) can be plugged in to OpenOffice through ODBC or JDBC (and for some purposes also LDAP).
Once plugged in, OpenOffice contains a query designer similar to the one in MS-Access. This makes it very simple to include database information in your documents.
True, OpenOffice doesn't have GUI tools for building pure database applications like MS-Access. But there are plenty of tools that do this better than MS-Access e.g. Recall from theKompany. (However you could still build such applications in StarBasic that comes with OpenOffice)
Besides most MS-Office users don't know a normal form when they see one, so design of database applications would probably better be left to professionals in that field. And they are most likely to favor other tools than MS-Access.
And if you really like Access that much you could combine it with OpenOffice as it has ODBC drivers. The best way to do that would probably be to replace the standard Jet engine of Access with the mini version of the SQLServer database engine that comes with Access. That way you can have your database on one machine on the network
and access it through a SQLServer ODBC driver.
By the way, what was wrong with the page preview?
The XML feature is the main reason that I'm interested in OpenOffice. Some of the issues I have are (a) the "native" format is really zip that contains XML, and (b) programmer conversion time (minor in my opinion, but still an issue).
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