Off Topic Rant About Office Suites

This post is not security related, but I couldn’t resist anyway.  At the very least it is in the technology realm so if you’re on the geekier side of security, enjoy.  In any case, this is really an open request, and a complaint.

Please, someone out there in the open source community, develop a decent office application suite!  A few months ago I began a pen test engagement using my Windows Vista laptop.  Forget the Vista-bashing for now because regardless of the Windows version I was using I would have ran into problems.  Long story short, but for the most part I was able to do everything needed just fine.  However, as we got into the real nitty-gritty of the testing I simply could not continue functioning without some native Linux tools.  The versions that had been ported to Windows were simply not viable replacements.  So, after a few years of really only dealing with Windows on a daily basis (I do have plenty of *nix and CLI experience in my background having used some Linux-based systems and OpenBSD for key networking and security functions in jobs in the distant past) I jumped feet first into Linux on the laptop.

All said and done, the transition was almost unnoticeable.  I took one day to move files, wipe the system, install Ubuntu, install everything I needed, and move files back.  Since then I am still using Linux as the primary OS, and have never really considered moving back.  There are a few nuisances, but for the most part, things work better than they did before.

When I set this laptop up, I installed Vista in a VM on VMWare Workstation so that I would still have anything from Windows I needed.  (As an aside, I could turn this into a whole post about complaints with VMWare WS, but I’ll just say that from a usability perspective VirtualBox is vastly superior.  VMWare may be faster, but VirtualBox is “fast enough.”  And the VirtualBox seamless mode puts VMWare’s Unity mode to shame.  I’ve since switched and don’t miss VMWare at all either.)  As it turns out, the only thing I needed in Windows is MS Office!

I have tried OpenOffice, which is the best competitor to MS Office from what I can tell.  I’m sorry to anyone who’s a fan (if there are any), but it’s not something I can make use of on a daily basis.  I’ll give you just 3 reasons why I can’t live without MS Office.

  1. Getting rid of whitespace: in MS Office, when I double-click the gap between two pages in a Word document, the margins disappear and the text flows together.  There is no similar capability in OpenOffice.  This may seem trivial and stupid, but working with 200-page documents every day makes getting rid of whitespace a must-have for me.
  2. Powerful spreadsheet capabilities: if you are a novice user of spreadsheet applications, you may not notice a difference, but the more you ask out of a spreadsheet application, the more you’ll miss Excel.  Frankly, the filtering and sorting capabilities in OpenOffice’s Spreadsheet are equivalent to what Excel had about 10 years ago.  That’s not nearly good enough if you do anything remotely advanced with a spreadsheet.
  3. Email: I don’t know if anyone can ever manage this, but all of the Exchange integration built into Outlook- that’s what I want on Linux.  I don’t want a general mail application that has an awesome interface and supports all standard mail protocols.  I want Outlook.  I want calendaring, tasks, notes, etc all integrated with Exchange just like Outlook does it.  Giving me email capability is not good enough.  I don’t want clunky workarounds.
That said, I would literally pay money for an office suite that worked well under Linux.  Why not?  It would let me say goodbye to having to use a Windows OS in a VM day in and day out only because it has the office suite I want/need.  If anyone has an answer to my problems, please let me know.  I’d love to dump this Windows VM.