Section 4.3. I Need My Microsoft Office

4.3. I Need My Microsoft Office

Microsoft Word is only the most commonly used (and, in my opinion, the most annoying) of the Microsoft Office applications. While there are different Microsoft Office suites, they generally include a series of integrated applications, including Excel for spreadsheets, PowerPoint for presentations, Access for databases, and Outlook for email/personal information management.

For more information on helping users convert from Microsoft Outlook to Evolution on Linux, see "I'm Drowning in Good Email" in Chapter 3. This annoyance is focused on the other components of Microsoft Office, and the Linux applications that can replace them.

To evaluate each of these applications, follow the selection criteria listed in "So Many Options for Applications," earlier in this chapter, I evaluate the components of the suite as alternatives to Microsoft Office.

4.3.1. Evaluating the Alternative

Using the selection criteria described in "So Many Options for Applications," here are some general comments on the suite:

  • It's available for all major Linux distributions.

  • It's free.

  • The license allows you to use in just about any way you want. If you improve it and want to release those improvements, you just have to make the source code publicly available.

  • Official support is available from a variety of consultants, as well as Sun Microsystems. For more information, see

  • development continues at a brisk pace; 2.0.1 was just released as this chapter was being written.

  • The suite is large; the package itself is around 100 MB. If you have an older system, performance might be an issue.

Naturally, if (or another Linux-based alternative) is not satisfactory, you can install Microsoft Office on Linux, with any or all of the associated applications, using one of the techniques described in the previous annoyance.

4.3.2. Excel Spreadsheets Are Not Readable

Spreadsheets often incorporate complex calculations, normally implemented with the help of macros. Spreadsheets are often published with document templates. Both macros and templates are customized on Microsoft Excel. From the previous annoyance, this may sound familiar; these are the same factors that make Microsoft Word documents difficult for alternative word processors.

However, Calc is highly compatible with Microsoft Excel. While Calc works well with templates, it does not yet work with macros developed for Microsoft Excel. Once installed, start it in your system by clicking KDE K menu (or GNOME Applications) Office Calc. In SUSE, Calc is in the Office Spreadsheet submenu.

This annoyance is not meant to denigrate alternative Linux spreadsheet programs, most notably Gnumeric Spreadsheet and KOffice KSpread. These alternatives are also excellent and may also suit your needs. Unfortunately, neither of these programs are available for Microsoft Windows, so you can't ease user transitions in that fashion. (However, a Microsoft port of Gnumeric Spreadsheet is being tested as of this writing.) Calc works with spreadsheets from Microsoft Excel, as well as a number of other spreadsheet programs, including StarOffice Calc, Lotus 123, comma-separated text files, and more.

However, as with any application, you should test it with your users' spreadsheets. Make sure it is compatible with the templates and macros that are run in their files. Don't introduce Calc until you're confident that it won't create undue hardship for your users.

4.3.3. I Need My Microsoft Access

While Linux works with several excellent database managers, including MySQL and PostgreSQL, it has been lacking a database client, specifically one with features familiar to those who use Microsoft Access. 2.0 is the first version of this suite with a database tool, known simply as Base. If you've installed 2.0, Base is available in the same GUI menus as other applications (except in SUSE, where it's available in the Database submenu).

As of this writing, when you try to start Base, you may get an error message associated with installing the Java Runtime Environment (JRE). To address this issue, take the following steps:

  1. Download and install JRE. A Java package may be available for your distribution; for example, SUSE Linux Professional 9.3 includes the java-1_4_2-sun-plugin RPM. Alternatively, download and install the appropriate package from For detailed instructions, see "Installing the Latest Version of Firefox" in Chapter 3.

  2. In, select Tools Options to open the Options - window. In the lefthand pane, under, select Java.

    If you've installed JRE and it's recognized by, you'll see that the "Use a Java runtime environment" option is active, as shown in Figure 4-2. Select the latest available version and click OK.

    Figure 4-2. Adding JRE

    If no version is visible in the window, click Add and navigate to the JRE directory that was installed. The actual location varies by distribution and by package. Once complete, you can select the latest JRE version.

You may have already installed JRE for Firefox, as described in "Firefox Plug-ins" in Chapter 3.

4.3.4. I Want My PowerPoint

One staple of the office is the screen presentation. While many just use bullet points with Writer (or Microsoft Word), there are a number of high-powered professionals who are dependent on Microsoft PowerPoint.

Fortunately, Impress is a great alternative to Microsoft PowerPoint. It can import PowerPoint presentations, and can help your users create the presentations they need to impress their managers with a variety of innovative tools. In our target distributions, including SUSE Linux, Impress can be started from the Office menu.

4.3.5. I Miss My Front Page

With the focus of the Linux geek on the command-line interface, there has been less demand for a GUI web page developer. Many Linux geeks are comfortable writing pages directly in HTML. But that's too much for many regular users to handle. Conditioned by Microsoft Front Page, they expect a GUI web page developer for their web sites.

Fortunately, has its Writer/Web tool, which can help users develop their web pages in a GUI, with a second screen available for users who want to see the HTML code, similar to what's available in Front Page. However, Writer/Web does not include the same level of functionality as Microsoft's Front Page with respect to links. Yes, you can include hyperlinks with the HTML code; however, with Front Page, it's easy to create links in the properties of an item, such as highlighted text or an image.

Alternatives to Writer/Web include:

Mozilla/Netscape Composer

Mozilla Composer was originally created from the Netscape web page development tool and is the most commonly available web development tool on most Linux distributions. It has many of the same features as Microsoft Front Page. You can also install Netscape Composer on Linux. Standard Mozilla Composer packages are available for the distributions discussed in this book.


Nvu, pronounced "New View," was developed from an older version of Mozilla Composer. It is easy to use and includes most features in Front Page as well as Macromedia's Dreamweaver. Because the first stable version was released in mid-2005, it is not yet in the repositories for our preferred distributions. However, you can build it easily from the source code. For more information and downloads, see

Quanta Plus

Quanta Plus, built on the KDE development environment, provides one more feature-rich option for web developers. For more information and downloads, see

Another advantage to Mozilla Composer and Nvu is that both applications are available for Microsoft Windows, which can help you ease your users' transition to Linux. Depending on your Linux distribution, you may be able to start these tools from the Office or Internet menus.

Linux Annoyances for Geeks
Linux Annoyances for Geeks: Getting the Most Flexible System in the World Just the Way You Want It
ISBN: 0596008015
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 144
Authors: Michael Jang

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