6mn to move to OpenOffice

You are thinking about moving from Microsoft Office (expensive commercial bloatware ;-)) to OpenOffice (free). A few questions you can ask to orgniaze your transition, before you jump ahead.

There is all you need

Let’s be honnest: Word and Excel contain a lot of features; 90% of them we never use and we will never use. We could do with a much simpler tool. At the minimum, why pay for all of these useless features? Moreover, why stick to 100% compatibility with these features that we don’t even know about?

As a matter of fact, OpenOffice provides about 99% compatibility with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel and PowerPoint). The missing 1% has probably no importance at all if your are not a fanatical techno-geek in love with some of the computing spcificities of your spreadsheet software.

Make a list of what you need

So, the first thing to do is to list the features that you use. You will make a correspondance table from this list to OpenOffice features and you will organize the transition/move around it.

Don’t hurry! Take a few days to work it out. Keep a small notebook or scrapbook along on your desk and write down everything you do and the functions you really use for that.

import/export filters are not doing it all

100% compatibility does not happen in this world. I told it before. So, don’t count on it.

Your documents (at least most of them) will have to be transfered somehow. Plan to use the import-export filters as far as possible. It will ease your work a lot. But also plan on checking and doing some additional manual work. For example, some of the automated fields of a Word document may take some redoing if they are translated into mere text instead of true fields. Contents will be ok, but you’ll have to do some updating to manually finish the translation job. Keep some little time available for these last minute checks when you move from old documents into the new file formats.

It moved!

Everything is still there, but don’t expect it to be exactly in the same place. Yes! you will have to adapt to menus in a slightly different position or order. A few names will change too.

Don’t overdo it. This ain’t anything really difficult. Don’t call for a pro training. Each time we test-drive a new software (commercial or not) we easily adapt to these differences. OpenOffice is no exception, but menus have not merely been mixed and moved around. They follow a slightly different organization, you just have to think slightly differently. Learn the new location (possibly, you can start by writing down the new locations until you start feeling more at ease).

No need for a training

This is a common reflex in a company: Anything changes, we need a training. Be it personally or in a company, OpenOffice will not request a specific training. Your spending hours a day in front of the screen does not request it more. It would be even less of a reason: You will quickly get a better knowledge of the system just by using it than by being teached. And the training would arrive too late :-).

Your effort will be very limited. It will only be self-training. Don’t worry about it. Really.

Read the F….g manual

Right! We are all the same: We forget about the manual or the help menu. All modern software include that. Let’s spend a few minutes in the help files. Even better, let’s spend a few minutes a day in the help menu. Most experts becomes experts because they worked it that way (the easy way).

You did not look into Microsoft Office help files since its installation. Take advantage of moving to OpenOffice to increase your knowledge and your personal and profesional potential. You will learn a few new tricks.

Wizards

Wizards and tutorials are a great source of knowledge that should not be forgotten. Use them.

Even better, go to the Internet and look for them. Plenty of people did publish some training material about OpenOffice (the community is quite large and active, it’s only a matter of seconds to find what you need on the web with the help of Google).

Look for hidden features

Now that we start knowing a little more, it’s time to start spending a few minutes in the menus to look for hidden features. You will learn about things that can be done better, faster, or simply differently. You could also find things that can be done while you didn’t know it.

That’s the way most (OpenOffice or not) experts are built. Be ready to question your own knowledge and certainty to discover entirely new fields.

Organized move

Now comes the time to actually move from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice. You get a better idea of what you will use, how to organize the move, who must participate to the move to the new software. It’s time to use paper and Think, Plan, Do.

Think

Go back to the list of feature you made in the beginning. Make a list of people involved (are you alone or do you need to prepare other people, including those that receive your documents?). Establish a period when you can actually move from one to the other.

One detail I like to point at: Think about what you will have to do at the same time (your normal business). What are teh activities linked to Office that absolutely need to keep operating even if things do not go smoothly or fast enough.

Check what issues and documents are linked enough to request being transfered in a single coordinated move (for example, you would prefer that all mail goes to OpenOffice at once rather than spreading the move over time for different customers; Same thing for invoices if they are using Excel).

Plan

Now, it is time to plan. You already read that some things may take time (upstream learning/discovering, file conversion, checking, self-training, etc.) So, it is important to plan the needed time for all this, while simultaneously thinking about what would happen if something was a little longer than initially expected or if external circumstances were to modify the actual conditions.

Don’t plan too short. It’s better to transfer smoothly and slowly than to be rushed and crushed in crisis time.

Do

Last but not least, you have to apply the plan. Stick to it. But keep an open mind because last minute changes may be needed to adapt to external events. Keep the plan ready at hand to be able to read it again (when doing, you don’t want to find again what is the next logical step).

Right there, you’ll see that you’ll forget Microsoft easily and you will rejoice about that choice of OpenOffice.