Sunday, January 13, 2008

Open Office Writer 2.3 is Faster Than MS Word 2007

The Open Office suite is seen as a capable alternative to MS Office. However, Open Office has been constantly criticized for being slow, with commentators likening it to a pig. To check out the truth behind this perception, I compared the performance of Microsoft Office 2007 with Open Office 2.3 on Windows XP SP2. First up, the word processing programs will be compared.

Methodology: The startup times of both the programs were first measured immediately after logging in. Then, documents of varying sizes were opened by both the programs. The lengths of the documents opened were 3, 15, 30, 150, 600 and 1200 pages respectively besides a blank page at the beginning. There were two sets of documents having the formats: .docx (for MS word 2007) and .odt (for Open Office). The quickstarter for Open Office was disabled for these tests. Each and every test was repeated thrice and the average value taken. For testing the startup time, the user logged out and again logged in. For the other tests

The test machine had AMD Athlon 3000+, with 1 GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce 6200 LE video card and had Windows XP SP2 installed. During these tests, AVG Free antivirus was running.

The timing was kept by means of a stopwatch. This is because MS word documents, even after loading the document, spends processor cycles in paginating and checking for errors, and if tools like Sysinternals Process Explorer were to be used, it would result in a bloated times for MS Office documents. Therefore, this study measures the time taken for a document to be loaded in an editable state. It could be argued therefore that these preconditions favor MS Office.

Results:

Startup:

MS Word: 3.4 seconds ; Ooo Writer: 2.9 seconds

Post-Startup opening of document: Over here, again, Open Office was faster than MS Office, the gap between the two really opening up for larger documents (See Graph)


Therefore, Open Office Writer is faster than MS word 2007. At least the criticism of Open Office being a “pig” (as put by George Ou) does not hold in the case of the latest word processor form OpenOffice.org.

However, the spreadsheet programs are a different story. I am presently calculating the times taken by both the programs to open spreadsheets and will publish the results in a day or two.

Edit: The article comparing the spreadsheet programs can be found here

Finally, the choice of an office suite depends upon the user needs and the functionality provided. A few seconds here and there are not sufficient reasons for changing office suites. I personally find that Open Office serves all my needs (of making presentations for my lectures, and writing articles for various journals and of course, this blog), and its cross platform nature makes it essential for me , a primary Linux user. However, Microsoft Office is a compelling product for those working in a MS only shop at office and who need their MS Office macros. However, what this article shows is that Free alternatives often do give better performance than their commercial counterparts in many aspects.

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