IBM’s Lotus Symphony is a free-of-charge alternative to the ubiquitous Microsoft Office suite, based on Sun’s open source OpenOffice software. It purports to remain compatible with Microsoft’s “.doc” format (and newer incarnations), while removing licensing costs (but, not of course, support costs, since people still need training, technical support still costs money, etc.). Now they’ve decided to walk the walk:
360.000 IBM workers have been told to stop using Microsoft Office and switch to the Open Office-based software Symphony.
In legal circles, standards change slowly — some courts still require WordPerfect documents, years after Microsoft Word eclipsed the former dominant word processor in other fields. Theoretically, of course, Symphony (or OpenOffice) still supports older formats — but I’m sure I’m not the only one to have suffered minor or major incompatibilities — even between different versions of Microsoft Word itself!
So could you make the switch? Would the cost savings be worth the potential hassles?
I mostly have switched away from Word. Unfortunately, I’ve had to keep one licensed copy of Word around to deal with strange issues that may crop up. Usually, these involve collaborative editing projects (“track changes”), or tightly formatted documents, like resumes (which just don’t perfectly translate).
But I have not switched to OpenOffice, nor to Lotus Symphony. I increasingly believe OpenOffice and its kin are courting irrelevancy now that Google Docs and other cloud based office suites are gaining ground, and my tools reflect this.
Is the future in the cloud, not the open-source desktop? My work habits say, “Yes.” (But not without a nagging worry about confidentiality in the cloud.)
So where is the future of legal computing going?
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- Interoperability eludes Office and OpenOfffice (theregister.co.uk)
- Lotus Symphony now reads Office 2007 documents (computerworld.com)