Head to Head: Microsoft Office 2010 vs Open Office 3.3

For many an office suite is just as essential as the computer it runs on. But should you continue investing in Microsoft Office or choose the free OpenOffice instead? Karl Wright gets down to business and finds out in our review.

Spreadsheets

As before, the interface of Calc 3.3 is just the same as that of 3.2 or 3.1. So don't expect any huge leaps forward in usability. To test Calc, we started off by opening and using some Excel spreadsheets we'd prepared earlier, all of which contained complex nested formulae, calculations and linkages. We then saved the worksheets in Calc's native format. Impressively, all of them survived with all of their functions intact.

Next, we tested Calc with some common formulae and functions: IF functions, nested IF functions, creating running balances, calculating the difference between two dates and so on. We had to remember to use the semi-colon to separate variables rather than as with Excel - a comma. Given that Microsoft Office is the de facto industry standard, we can never understand why developers don't just standardise on Microsoft's operators.

Excel sheets that are set up to track or handle complex data sets should be movable to Calc without any loss of functionality.

Beyond this initially annoying niggle, everything worked fine. We were able to build complicated spreadsheets with formulae and links that crossed between worksheets. Excel sheets that are set up to track or handle complex data sets should be movable to Calc without any loss of functionality or anything more than the relatively minor teething troubles that we experienced.

New features in Calc 3.3 include slightly improved handling for CSV files, a cleverer chart-building function and some other really minor changes. When you import a CSV file, you can now tell Calc whether it should handle it all as plain text or auto-detect numbers and treat them as number values. If it's being teeing you right off that Calc always turns your carefully formatted dates into text, then this is your lucky day. For most users, however, this isn't going to be a big deal.

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