Monday, September 03, 2007

Life Without Windows - MSOffice




The Struggle Continues

I have been using my fc6 and ubuntu fiesty for a year now. Till now never had I felt the need to install windows as every xp software had a free and opensource alternative in linux.

The "Real" need came when I had to update my resume and send it to the HR manager of a company for their graduate management associate program.

The last time, I had created my resume on the ever reliable MS Word 2003, but now when I opened it in OO Writer, it looked confused.It couldnt read the page breaks, the table formattings etc.Things looked cluttered and messy. C'mon I am applying for a job here. You cant' do this to me, OO. Shucks!
Frantically, I started searching for other online alternatives. I tried Google Docs, Zoho Writer etc. but to no use. The nice smart formatting, page breaks, paragraphing were all missing.

I finally decided to install windows. The immediate problem I had to address was that I had used up all my Hard disk space on the two distros I was using. Moreover, the xp cd I have is the proprietary Recovery disk that came along with my laptop. The smart guys at HP had forgotten to include a partition detection tool and the stupid installer assumes that you plan to do a completely fresh xp setup on your laptop.

Even the instructions on the cover are scary "Please note, backup all your data before performing System Restore. System Restore deletes all partitions and install a fresh factory setup on your laptop"

What about folks who already have some other OS resting on an another partition? To make matters worse, the xp key provided works only when installed off the recovery disk.

With so many issues, I had to rethink. I had to install MS Office some way. The first thing that came to my mind was Wine, the free "not" an emulator thingy.
The setup began fine, the console showed some warnings but It still seemed to work, till the time came when the installation was adding registery enteries. Immediately the setup sent a panic signal and the installation abrupted with a message. Wine didn't crash but I guessed some registery settings and dll were missing.

I tried cedega next. I had been using it to play Counter Strike and other similar games. It had also shown some great promise when it ran some small win32 programs beautifully. Was it up for the Office challenge ?
Cedega crashed immediately when I asked it to start the office installation. Disappointing, but hey it was always meant for games ;)

Finally, I resorted to Crossover Office, which boasted support for office 2003 and other common win32 software. I downloaded the trial copy off http://www.codeweavers.com/products/download_trial_linux/
Installation was easy, setup was effortless and in no time, my Word 2003 was up and running.

The strange part was that it ran faster than when It was on my xp. Nevertheless, for the next 30 days, I can still enjoy ms office and later I might think of buying a retail license or request them for a free student license.


So what did we learn today?

The Moral of the story is that MS Office is still the undisputed king of professional office productivity tools. OpenOffice may be good but it still needs to come a long way to support doc files and provide better formatting options to users,, and yes, its interface isnt exactly that wonderful.
We also learnt, you dont always need windows to run windows exclusive programs. So before you get frustrated and start looking for a reason to reinstall windows, think again.
I'll try to cover some windows alternatives that will save your life on linux in later weeks. Till then enjoy and have fun ;)
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