Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

OpenOffice.org on the Mac

A stable version of OpenOffice.org 2.0.1 for the Mac is now available. Previously the latest build was a release candidate of 2.0. There is also an Alpha build which works on Intel-based Macs, apparently making this the first Office product other than iWork that works on Intel Macs. Microsoft have yet to release an Office:mac that will work on the new Intel machines, which means that OpenOffice.org is the only Intel Mac-compatible tool that lets you create and edit spredsheets, as far as I know. No, seriously.
While the OpenOffice.org developers who have made this possible have something to be proud of, the fact is that OpenOffice.org on the Mac is not a particularly good experience. It’s very much a port to OS X as it uses X11, and will not use OS X’s fonts or printers. I’ve found that I can’t print and I can only use a very limited selection of fonts – essentially I’m stuck with a subset of the Lucida fonts and some of the Bitstream ones. It’s also very slow to start.
NeoOffice, which aims to be a more native version of OpenOffice.org for the Mac, doesn’t get much better. It’s use of Java means it’s still very slow, but you can print and have access to all of your fonts, and the menu bar is where you’d expect it to be on a Mac. But it still has grey Windows-esque toolbars, context menus and dialogs, and the menus are very slow (I’m using NeoOffice 1.2 Beta here though). And because it’s based on OpenOffice.org 1.1.5 it can only import OpenDocument files – it can’t save them. NeoOffice will also only run on PowerPC-based Macs, not Intel ones, and this is likely to be the case for some time.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, though. A Cocoa (i.e. native Mac) version of OpenOffice.org is in the works but since it was announced in July 2005 I’ve not heard of any progress being made. NeoOffice may be working towards greater Mac compatiblilty too.
But I’ve also recently discovered AbiWord, which is a cross-platform open source word processor which supports OpenDocument and OpenOffice.org’s own file format, as well as MS Word files. I’ve had it on my Mac for a few weeks without really playing with it much, but it seems faster and more Mac-like. It’s only a word processor and so it won’t handle spreadsheets and presentations, but word processing is what I do most with NeoOffice now so I’m willing to give it a try.

5 Comments

  1. I think office:mac works on the intel macs via Rosetta…

  2. I will have to give AbiWord a try. NeoOffice just doesn’t cut it, too slow. I can put up with a un-Mac like GUI, but I can’t put up with insanely slow performance.

  3. OpenOffice won’t make a dent in the Evil Empire until it’s embeded with some major software application, like Adobe products. Of course all the major software players have business agreements with Microsoft as well so they won’t upset the apple cart.

  4. Ouch, I had an x11 abiword installed via darwinports. Didn’t realise there was a native build. Doh.

  5. Not exactly true… I have been able to print using openoffice on the mac with X11 for some time. font need to be converted before use with OO though.