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May 09, 2008

OKAY, SO I'VE GOT THE NEW HP Mini-Note 9" laptop, which I'll be reviewing for Popular Mechanics. It's pretty cool -- only slightly bigger than the Asus, but with a better keyboard and full-scale features and much handsomer -- but beyond that I'll wait for the PM piece to provide a review. So far I've been using it for less than a day.

But I wanted to put a word processor on it, and I didn't want to go digging for my USB CD drive (the HP is bigger than the Asus, but too little to have its own optical drive), so I just downloaded OpenOffice instead, since I'd been meaning to give it a try anyway. I used OpenOffice's word processor to write my review of Ron Paul's book, and I have to say I really liked it. It's easy and intuitive, and it's much, much closer to my beloved WordPerfect than to Word. Also, it's free. I'd have to try it on something really long, like a law review article with lots of footnotes, to be sure how I feel, but I really enjoyed my testdrive. Using Word always feels like work. Using OpenOffice just felt like writing. And did I mention it's free?

UPDATE: More on OpenOffice from Bill Quick, who likes it. And reader Steven Sullivan emails:

I put out a few biomedical literature reviews per year, generally with 80-90 references each, and OpenOffice handles those nicely. It was a little tricky getting it to use Arabic numerals with endnotes at first, but once I figured that out it ran very smoothly. And of course, it distills PDFs of your documents perfectly with one button. There are some things it's difficult to get OpenOffice to do (e.g. full-bleed page backgrounds, linking complex or altered pagination to TOCs) but there are workarounds.

I still deal with completely unstable Word documents all the time, generally with heavy use of Styles and with comments and edits in track changes -- they get corrupted, they crash the application, etc. I've never had an OpenOffice document behave that way.

Hopefully the feds will allow OpenDocument as a standard so small businesses like mine won't have to shell out money to Mr. Gates just to do business with our own government.

If you ever do any desktop publishing you might want to look at Scribus.

So what will Microsoft be selling in 5 years?

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here.