Monday, January 14, 2008

MS Excel 2007 vs OOo Calc 2.3: Which is faster?

Calc, the spreadsheet program of the OpenOffice.org Office suite, has often been ridiculed for being slow in opening spreadsheets. On the other hand, Microsoft Excel has been praised for being fast and less bloated. How far is this perception grounded in reality?

To find the answer to the above mentioned question, I measured the initial startup time (the time taken to load a blank workbook after booting), the subsequent startup time for loading a blank spreadsheet, and then the load times for workbooks of varying sizes, ranging from those having just one sheet filled with characters, to those having 21 sheets. The results were rechecked twice ( after rebooting). Two corresponding sets of workbooks were made for this purpose, .xslx for MS Excel and .ods for OOo Calc. Details about the workbooks and the load times for the applications are given later in the post.

The test machine was the same in which the previous comparison of MS Word and OOo Writer was done, i.e a machine having AMD Athlon 3000+ CPU, 1 GB 400 MHz DDR RAM, Nvidia GeForce 6200 LE Graphics card with Microsoft Windows XP SP2 installed. During the tests, AVG 7.5 Free antivirus was also running.

Initial Startup was faster for Excel (5.2 seconds vs 12.2 secs). Excel also loaded a blank workbook on subsequent startup faster (1.2 vs 2.5 seconds).

However, subsequent to opening (and closing) a blank file, Calc opened workbooks having written data faster than Excel. Only when the datasets grew very large did Excel outperform Calc(e.g workbooks having more than 2000 rows of data , or workbooks having 9 sheets, each containing more than 1000 rows of data). Thus, contrary to popular perception, Calc is faster than Excel over a wide data range on repeated use.







Note: In the chart above, "sheets" refers to the number of datasheets present in the test workbook, the numbers represent the number of rows and columns of data in each sheet.

Therefore, it is disingenuous to suggest that Calc is significantly slower than Excel. There have been articles where Calc was found to be poorer in loading files of gigantic sizes; however, for more normal uses Calc more than holds its own against Excel. The main area of concern is the relatively slow initial startup. The developers are aware of this issue and work is currently being done to increase the performance of Open Office.

It is also to be noted that the charts represent the load times for the applications subsequent to opening and closing a blank file. If the data files were opened immediately after startup, due to the wide difference in the initial startup time, the first file would load much slower in Calc. However, the performance would return while subsequently opening the files. However, to individually check each file on boot would require at least 78 reboots for me (I check every result twice). Sorry, I am not able to do that.

I will repeat again the same thing that I had mentioned in my last post: A few seconds here and there do not provide enough reason for selecting platforms. Office suites are presently a very important part of our working lives, and it is necessary to make an informed decision based on the features (and the cost) one requires. Much as I admire MS Office for being feature rich, I have not yet found a single essential feature that will make me dump Open Office and make me part with my money. For others, it may very well be different.

The Test Workbooks: The smallest test workbook had just one sheet having data written over 256 rows and 13 columns(256 x 13). The details about this and other workbooks with load times after initial startup are (all times are in seconds):

Workbook no.

No. Of sheets having written data

No of rows x columns having written data

Time taken to load

MS Excel2007

Time taken to load

OOo Calc 2.3

1.

1

256 x 13

4.2

3.1

2

2

256 x 13

4.2

3.1

3

3

256 x 13

4.2

3.1

4

3

512x13

4.2

3.1

5

3

1024x13

4.2

3.7

6

3

2048x13

4.3

4.3

7

3

4096x13

4.7

5.7

8

6

256 x 13

4.2

3.1

9

9

256 x 13

4.2

3.5

10

12

256 x 13

4.2

3.7

11

15

256 x 13

4.3

3.9

12

18

256 x 13

4.5

4.1

14

21

256 x 13

4.7

4.3

15

6

512 x 13

4.7

3.5

16

9

512 x 13

5.0

4.2

17

12

512 x 13

5.3

4.7

18

15

512 x 13

5.5

5.0

19

18

512 x 13

5.7

5.3

20

21

512x13

6.1

6.1

21

6

1024x13

5.0

4.6

22

9

1024x13

5.5

5.3

23

12

1024x13

6.0

6.2

24

15

1024x13

6.5

6.9

25

18

1024x13

7.1

7.7

26

21

1024x13

7.5

8.7

Color guides:


Workbooks loaded faster by Calc


Workbooks loaded faster by Excel


Workbooks loaded equally fast by both


Related post: Open Office Writer 2.3 is faster than MS Word 2007

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