Top 3 Alternatives to Microsoft Office

microsoft-office-365-logoMicrosoft Office is the industry standard when it comes to office suites. Most people think that when it comes to office suites Microsoft Office is the only option they have. Either that or they think that any other alternative is not worth experimenting with. I’m here to tell you that that is not the case. I have 3 multi-platform alternatives that work on Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. If you are a student or a small business owner with a tight budget or have very little use for an office suite to pay $8 to $10 a month for or for whatever reason just don’t want to use Microsoft Office then the following 3 are definitely worth trying out.

Apache OpenOffice

AOO High Res Logo PSD FINALApache OpenOffice is one of the oldest open source alternative and one of the most well know. It has switched hands multiple times throughout its history developed by Star Office, which was later acquired by Sun Microsystems which was acquired by Oracle Corporation, the lack of commitment from Oracle and other issues led to a split in the development team and LibreOffice was born. Oracle then laid of its paid developers who were working on the OpenOffice project and donated the code and trademark to the Apache Software Foundation. For some time after that the office suite was weaker compared to its fork LibreOffice, however since mid-2014 Open Office is back in the competition. OpenOffice.org claims that OpenOffice is being used in Governments, Education, Businesses, Not for profits, IT Businesses.

Apache OpenOffice lets you save documents in the  OpenDocument format, read Microsoft documents and save your work in Microsoft document formats too. It offers 6 programs in its suite:

  • Writer –  the word processor alternative to Microsoft Word that you can use for anything from writing a quick letter to producing an entire book.
  • Calc  – the spreadsheet alternative to Microsoft Excel with all the tools you need to calculate, analyze, and present your data in numerical reports or sizzling graphics.
  • Impress  – the multimedia presentation alternative to Microsoft Powerpoint.
  • Draw  – this Visio alternative lets you produce everything from simple diagrams to dynamic 3D illustrations.
  • Base – is the alternative to Microsoft Access that lets you manipulate databases seamlessly, create and modify tables, forms, queries, and reports.li
  • Math lets you create mathematical equations with a graphic user interface or by directly typing your formulas into the equation editor.

LibreOffice

LibO_Logo_Highres_ColorLibreOffice is very similar to OpenOffice because it is a fork of OpenOffice and is developed by The Document Foundation. At the time of this writing LibreOffice was slightly ahead of OpenOffice mainly because it had a head start while OpenOffice was looking for a stable home to settle down for some serious development. I was a big fan of OpenOffice until LibreOffice came into existence. I still use LibreOffice and Google’s Office suits on a regular Basis.

To someone who is new to LibreOffice it can be a confusing process to download the right version of LibreOffice. LibreOffice Fresh is the most recent stable version with cutting edge development. If you want the latest features and are okay with using software that has not gone through the test of time then the Fresh version is for you. If you want something that is stable and has gone through a good amount of testing then LibreOffice Still is for you. I use the “Still” version and that is what I would recommend you to use.

LibreOffice boasts the same set of programs that OpenOffice does. It generally has newer and advanced features than OpenOffice and has a more active development team and support community. This may change in the future since OpenOffice has improved quite a lot and it is also supported by a strong organization, Apache which at one point powered 70% of web servers.

Google’s Office Suite

google-drive-logo_11Google’s Office Suite was named Google docs before but now it does not seem to have a name that encapsulates all its apps. Docs is now the name of Google’s word processing app and all the other components are now standalone apps on the web and on the IOS and Android platform.

The biggest difference between Google’s Office apps and the the previous two is that LibreOffice and OpenOffice are both desktop applications where as Google’s is everything on the web.  If you are someone who is on-the-go a lot or use multiple devices to do your work, or are heavily invested in the Google ecosystem then Google office apps is the way to you.  They are not as full featured and robust as the  desktop applications mentioned above, but they get the job done. Since we at Okinara Consulting Services all work remotely from different locations around the globe we depend on Google for our emails and to share and collaborate on documents. There are various apps that work together to form Google’s office suite.

  • Docs – is the Microsoft Word alternative app that lets you Open, edit, and create documents. 
  • Slides – is the Microsoft PowerPoint alternative that lets you open, edit, and create presentations
  • Drawing – is the Microsoft Visio alternative that lets you create diagrams and flow charts
  • Sheets – is the Excel alternative that lets you open, edit, and create spreadsheets

That’s my take on alternatives to Microsoft Office. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment below.

This is Why I’m closing the doors on OpenAtrium for Good!

I think the title of this post is damn right to the point isn’t it? We were using OpenAtrium 1 at work a year ago, but due to so many issues of having too many errors, memory leaks, and being just overly bloated, I decided to stop using it.

Fast forward to 2014: I started looking for a collaboration and project management tool again and decided to check on the development on OpenAtrium 2. It is based on Drupal 7 core which I thought was amazing. I downloaded and installed OpenAtrium 2 and it had a colour packed home page which looked attractive, but one that I quickly got annoyed with.

The OpenAtrium website now has a responsive design and is mobile friendly, but at what cost?

Who is OpenAtrium really for?

OpenAtrium is targeted towards web developers and architects, end users probably won’t be that interested and even if they won’t understand it because the software is complex and multi-dimensional. As you can see in the screenshot of OpenAtrium.com below, this is supposed to tell the viewer what is inside OpenAtrium. There are images and short descriptions for each component, but that is it. There is no link to get into technical details. Data Security for e.g. says Granular access control side wide – an architect would need to know how this is accomplished! How are Events managed, what is the workflow like in order to determine whether this piece of software is suitable for their organization or not.

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 11.34.43 AM

 

Where is the Contact Page?

Wait! What? There is no Contact page. I’m forced to use twitter or Facebook? You’re kidding right?

Oh wait a minute, yes there is a link to the contact page on the FAQs page,oh…but it DOES NOT WORK! And mind you this is supposed to lead their customer’s  to a page where they can contact their sales team! AMAZING!

Phase2 can offer custom enterprise platform development services, specific to the solution set Open Atrium offers. For more information and to contact our sales team, go here.

 

Where is the Documentation?

There is NO direct link from OpenAtrium.com to documentation! That’s right! You get to see OpenAtrium Documentation AFTER you download the software and install it.  During Installation, I kept getting errors which were very crude MySQL errors which told me absolutely NOTHING. I finally figured it out by googling it.

Okay, seriously,… where is the Documentation?

A link on the Home Page(of the OpenAtrium installation) does take you to a page which kind of looks like a documentation page, but nah.. it really isn’t! It’s more like a prank! The Webinars are LONG and do not get to the point quickly! When you click the How To Guides, it’s empty! Phase2 probably need to read a “How To Guide” for writing “How To Guides”.

Oh but wait, they do have links to Spanish Documentation! You can’t even get the English version right! As the Linux philosophy goes:

Do One thing, do it right!

FAQs? – What are FAQs for?

The FAQs on the OpenAtrium site seem like sarcasm. The questions are ridiculously long and the answers are worse. For e.g.

Q. We’ve been trying to model what a Group, a Space, and a Team wold look like using existing metaphors and it’s been challenging to map from an OA 1.x perspective to an OA 2.x perspective. the access controls at the bottom of a node edit form are particularly confusing due to inconsistencies in terminology. The ones on the side bar look like they’ve been renamed appropriately. Could you provide some clarity?

Most of the questions seem like they might be coming from people working at Phase 2 (The company behind OpenAtrium).They should change the title of the page to “FAQs that our developers keep asking us”

Other Broken Things on OpenAtrium’s website:

  • Credit’s link at the bottom of the page takes you to an empty box that says “Credits”
  • Copyright details at the bottom of the page seems like it’s not updated.
  • No Contact page
  • No direct link to OpenAtrium Documentation

Finall conclusion: it almost seems like that Phase2 might actually have a good product, but they’ve made OpenAtrium.com and documentation very difficult to navigate and left chunks of it out which really just drives away the people that might actually be interested in using this product. UNLESS, that is their whole purpose, drive the developers away and target the endusers and managers that have little to no technical skills making it a really sneak sales technique and a kind of faking to be truly OpenSource. Or maybe they just have low standards!

I am angry, disappointed and feel deceived and betrayed by the people behind OpenAtrium.

Project Management Tools – PHProjekt Vs SugarCRM Vs Dolibarr

Has anyone ever a difficult time organizing their meetings, leads, prospect clients, current customer issues, projects and TODOs. I know I have. I am pretty organized, but still I want and need a centralized system from where I can track everything, something that quickly gives me an overall picture. Currently I use text documents, spread sheets, gmail, google calendar and my memory to accomplish this.

I have thought about getting  a CRM system or a Project Management Software to help me with my getting more organized and efficient. Just yesterday I seriously started doing a lot of research and testing things out. I was looking for a LAMP based web application that handles project management and CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Although I’m a proud owner of by business, I’m still pretty much regarded as a freelancer as opposed to an entrepreneur. I need something simple that gets the work done.

I narrowed it down to these 3:

  1. SugarCRM
  2. Dolibarr
  3. PHProjekt

Now I’m really confused as to which one I should use.

These are some of the things that I need.

  • Ability to have customer accounts related to projects
  • Add and schedule different tasks inside a project
  • Time tracking for each task and summary of time spent on each project
  • ability to calculate ROI (not a must but good to have)
  • Keep customer related info such as project history, internal notes as to what kind of sales strategy is working with this customer, project proposals, services they are currently using from me etc…
  • Keep track of work that I outsource
  • Controllable access to let contractors check and update their tasks, and have clients update and check project issues and progress

Any help in deciding what I should be using is very much welcomed. Please leave a comment or contact me from my contact page. Thanks

#CIRA 2010

I attended the annual CIRA(Canadian Internet Registration Authority) annual general meeting. There were two brilliant keynote speakers Terry O’Reilly – radio host of CBC’s O’Reilly and The Age of Persuasion, Mitch Joel – Social Media expert and author of Six Pixels of Separation. There was a panel of “Architects of the Internet”, which had some of the most brilliant and pioneers in the field and they discussed the origins and the future of the Internet.

Paul Vixie – Internet Systems Consortium(ISC). He is the primary author of BINDv8, has been contributing to Internet protocols and UNIX systems since the 1980s. He has developed tools like, sends, rtty, cron etc…

John Demco – Webnames.ca. John is basically the God Father of “.ca”. He helped create the .CA domain in 1987 and was its initial registrar, and chairing the CA Domain Committee until 2000. He has also been responsible for chairing and managing a number of academic and research networks.

Chris O’Neil – Google Canada. Chris leads Google’s operations in Canada as Country Director for Google Canada. He is focused on building Google’s brand and driving innovation to help fuel growth for Canadian Business.

Byron Holland – President and CEO of CIRA.

Iphone, Thunderbird + lightning, and ICal

I have an Iphone and simply love it. I also use thunderbird as my default mail client and the lightning plugin as my calendar and I’m on a mac. I searched the Internet for clues to sync the iphone and lightning. Every site and every forum that I came across gave me all these weird solutions like syncing lightning with Google calendar and then sync that with ICal finally syncing that with your Iphone using Itunes.

I decided to go with a different approach. Remember what the wise ones said, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” I just thought of going with a simple solution:

  1. Export Calendar from Thunderbird.
  2. Import it in ICal
  3. Sync with Iphone Using Itunes.

And IT WORKED! Why do people go off looking for complicated, round about ways of doing things?

And for windows,¬† the same should work too. Except you’d be using Outlook instead of ICal. I haven’t tried it. If anyone who has can post a comment here.

Migrating from Eclipse to Netbeans

continued from “I love Open Source and Freeware”

I have never actually made a move this big this quickly. I guess it all comes with the idea of change. Netbeans is clearly a developers IDE where as eclipse is a bit of an overall IDE. For large scale projects I still think Eclipse is better.

The question is what are the benefits I’m getting with Netbeans? and What am I compromising on?

Well as for the benefits – This will be biased because my requirements at the moment orbit around PHP and web development and I must say I am amazed by the wealth of tools available. I really didnt even have to search alot for this. Netbeans has a PHP IDE that you can download. It has amazing code completion for html and javascript AND css with a little preview window at the bottom – its really a full fledged web development IDE.

Eclipse really lacked this. Even eclipses PDT project didnt provide what netbeans has. The UI seems much pleasant to work with, but eclipse seems to have a much more efficient default layout in its PHP perspective.

I also liked the netbeans update manager – its much more gracious, but limited in comparison to eclipse’s.

But I really feel the pinch in netbeans issue/task management. NOTHING comes close to Eclipse’s Mylyn. Luckily Netbeans does have a connector for bugzilla, but its not that great and you’re just better off opening up your browser to manage all your code issues. But I have to make a choice and I had to choose netbeans because of the tools provided for actual development. Plus at the moment all my projects are small and managed mostly by me, but as my projects grow and more people join I might again have to switch to Eclipse, unless netbeans gets something that can run head to head with Mylyn.

It will take some time for me to get used to Netbeans. I found JMaki and it seems to be a bold step to bring in all the javascript libraries under one roof – seems a bit confusing at first glance, but I will look into that and maybe even give it a chance to show its head up in one of my projects. One thing sucks is that it doesnt support mootools(yet, or maybe there’s a way to get it to work).

@Deepesh Kapadia

Also, just want to say thanks to Deepesh for suggesting Netbeans – it’s improved quite a lot since the last time I used it.

Manifesto for Agile Software Development

I found this while I was searching for code management software. I will get on implementing this as soon as possible. Software development is a complex task, with numerous methodology and even more components. Its very dynamic and it can span so many different realms, from science to art, to engineering and management. It virtually exercises every muscle of knowledge and learning.

Manifesto for Agile Software Development[1]

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Quote from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agile_Manifesto

 

I love Open Source and Freeware

Have you ever heard “Technology brings us closer”? I know I have, and I know its true. Specifically, I think programmers are at forefront when it comes to sharing and connecting. In what other profession is there hundreds and hundreds of hours of work put in to make something really useful for people that you don’t even know and do it for FREE; and not only do it for free, but make your work available to the public so they can see how you exactly did what you did.

This friends is the world of open source. The reason I love open source is, first of all – everything is free! It also keeps us variety and the power to chose not to be confined to large software enterprises that at times seems to be sucking out our wallets from our back pockets.

Open source software is the only field where FREE is actually fascinating, fantastic, fabulous and fun and not just free. Some of the open source and freeware software is actually 5 to 10 or even more times better than software that you actually pay for. Here are some of the software that I use and absolutely LOVE:

  • Linux – Specifically Ubuntu desktop. I just love this OS. Some people might find it a bit surprising, but given a little more time to mature I may even be able to trade in my mac book pro for an ubuntu notebook! Let me add a little note here, Ubuntu is actually the Linux OS, the user interface is from the GNOME project. Whats really amazing about any linux distros is that you can easily change the interface to something feels right for you. There are other distros that I should mention here ‚Äì Fedora, OpenSuse, Debian etc.. But I like ubuntu, especially the desktop because it just works. I used fedora in 2006 and it was a pain in the rear.
  • Eclipse ‚Äì according to me this is THE best IDE to use. There is a flavour for everything that you want to do. I use the PHP Development Tools (PDT) and it makes my work less work and more fun. I also use the free aptana plugin from time to time for web development.
  • Mozilla Apps ‚Äì Mozilla offers such amazing apps its hard not to talk about them. Firefox is by far the best web browser out there, thunderbird is a fantastic email client ‚Äì few years back I tried to like this email client but I couldn‚Äôt and instead opted for MS Outlook. Now 2 months back (July 09) I stumbled onto thunderbird again and wow does it impress me. I got so impressed I switched from Outlook. I you are fond of the outlook calendar, look no further, thunderbird has an amazing plugin called ‚Äòlightning‚Äô and its got all your calendar needs. I‚Äôm not a big fan of plugins, but this friends is an Ah-mazing plugin ‚Äì it actually feels like a native feature of thunderbird.
  • Apache ‚Äì Apache is by far the number one http web server out there, and I highly doubt that this will ever change!
  • Mootools ‚Äì is a javascript framework that I use and that I think is really convenient. I don‚Äôt know if this is the best one out there because honestly I have not used any other. There are actually many out there. Yahoo even has one out there and has large library with tonnes for features.
  • AVG Free ‚Äì although not open source, it is actually free and I think gets the job done. An excellent (and free) substitute for Norton ‚Äì oh how I hate norton.
  • Zonealarm ‚Äì again this is not open source, but is actually free. It had a few problems with some of their intermedia releases, but now they are back on track.
  • Gimp ‚Äì I love this. Its not as user friendly has photo shop(but then I don‚Äôt find photoshop that user friend to begin with. But being fair, I‚Äôm really a beginner at using advanced image editing software anyway), but its free and it does the job exceptionally well.
  • OpenOffice ‚Äì this is THE best substitute for MS Office. This is an excellent package. After all it does everything that MS Office does and more; you can convert your word files into pdfs ‚Äì thats one feature that first caught my attention. I use MS office on windows since I already had it, but I use OpenOffice on my macbook, since I didn‚Äôt want to pay the extra. You don‚Äôt need to be worried about your friends, co-workers or your boss not being able to open your openoffice files because you can save those files in MS Office formats.
  • Filezilla (ftp client)‚Äì an ftp client and server. Can‚Äôt say anything more about this. I think this one just rocks. If you are using anything other than this for your ftp needs, you should slap yourself haha.

There may be more that I’m using that I’m missing out there. I’ll update the list later. If you have any questions, you can contact me or leave a comment.

Vista: The first Impression

I thought before I start talking about Windows Vista, let me first find out what the word “Vista” really means. I couldn’t really come to the conclusion of its true meaning, because there are a lot of ‘experts’ telling their own stories. Some of the meanings that I came across were – hen, sight, “Hasta La Vista” meaning good bye, and one of the worst ones – excretion!

However, the most insulting one that I found was on one of forums that I came across:

Windows

V = Virus
I = Infections
S = Spyware
T = Trojans
A = Adware.
Ouch!

I can tell you one thing – I am sure it isn’t that bad. From all that I have heard, Microsoft has put a lot of effort into making Vista a very secure operating system (I know some of you might already be chuckling from your experience with previous Windows systems).

But I really want to talk about what my first impression of Vista was when I started using it. Wandering why I even bothered to get Vista? My Dell laptop broke and I really needed a new one. BTW, I am never ever going to get a Dell again. First, my charger breaks, then I had to replace my battery, then one of my memory slots die, so I bought a 512 ram chip to keep working with one slot, and now even that was busted. And all this happened in less than 3 years. Yah I know I should have gotten extended warrantee, but who knew it was going to be a piece of $5%!*.

Oh right… yah,…Vista. Firstly, there are 6 different versions of Vista! Why? Ya really WHY? There’s no version that gives you best features packed in one. If you take Home Premium (I don’t even want to mention Home Basic), you’re missing out some of the things you might need for your small business, if you take Business edition, you’re missing out on the entertainment part of your system. The only version that gives you all is Ultimate edition. But what if I don’t want everything? Then you and I have to choose either an ‘entertainment system’ or a business system. Why couldn’t they come up with at least one Windows Vista “value pack” that doesn’t just throw everything at you like Vista Ultimate does, but gives you best of both the entertainment world and the business world.

Moving on. I was hoping as soon as I turn on my laptop I would be able to start working with it – not really! It took more than half an hour for it to do its “initial setup”.

The Transparent look is nothing really to marvel at. I was literally yawning. And you know how you can choose different windows that are open by pressing “Alt + Tab” in windows XP? Well,…you can do that in Vista too, but it looks way better. However to spice things up you can press “windows key + Tab” and do the same thing in 3-D! (WAOW right? Not! Like I care,…yawning). Both the transparency effect and the 3-Dness is useless.

Another useless feature is the little preview window over the taskbar for programs that have been minimized. For example, say you are working with 5 different word files, is that little preview window going to show you enough so that you can click nothing else but the right one? Absolutely not! I’d rather save time and just click on the window to see if that’s the one I want.

The only feature that made me say “now THAT’s what I am talking about.” is the search feature. Ever tried doing a search on your Windows XP and seeing that stupid dog doing boring tricks while you wait for at least one file to show up in your search window? Well great news – in Vista they got rid of that dog, man’s (man/woman using windows) best friend. Vista actually shows you your search results as you start typing, and then keeps narrowing it down – that I like.

The Gadgets are okay…Hmmm Gadgets (Widgets) sounds familiar doesn’t it. I.E. (Internet Explorer) 7 is much better than previous versions. Its much secure and has other needed features like tabbed browsing. But that’s just for people who have never looked outside their ‘windows’. I finally don’t mind using I.E. for surfing the Internet.

There are other things that give users some better experience compared to previous version of windows, but overall Vista is a disappointment. Or perhaps I was just expecting more. I decided to hand down my new Vista Laptop to my sibling and stick to my windows XP. I just hope Vista is not the ME of 2007 (remember Windows ME?), which is a scary thought.