A couple of weeks ago, I installed NeoOffice.
Now, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t replacing Microsoft Office. I quit using Microsoft products over ten years ago and didn’t upgrade after Word version 5 for the Mac, several years before.
I’ve been using Microsoft products seemingly forever. I started with Word version 1.0 on the Mac and I used Microsoft Office on both Mac and PC for quite some time, since Windows 1.0 and Microsoft Office 1.0.
I even wrote a book using Word 5 for Mac that included table of contents and an index, so I feel like I know the product, even if I haven’t used any of the most recent versions.
For most of the last ten years, ClarisWorks and AppleWorks have offered everything I needed, and since I own my own business, I’m not tied to any corporate dictates about the software I have to use.
The only problems I faced were people who sent me documents in .doc format, which I could not read and didn’t feel much of a need to read. If they sent the files as Rich Text Format (.rtf) files, then I could import most of them into AppleWorks – at least well enough to read.
I was perfectly content until last month, but then my needs changed.
I have plans to write a variety of reports and short ebooks over the coming months. I spend a lot of time researching various things and I’m going to write about them and make the reports and ebooks available – some free and some paid.
In the past, I would have written in PageMaker and produced the PDF files by printing to the included Acrobat distiller.
With my new iMac, I can no longer use PageMaker, so I had to look at different solutions.
As you may already know, it is easy to print to PDF from just about all Mac OS X applications, but I discovered something that was very surprising.
It seems that the applications I had available could create active hyperlinks in the docments, but those hyperlinks would not be active when I printed the documents to a PDF file.
I tried AppleWorks, and, while the PDF showed the correct words styled with underlines and blue text, the links were not active; I could not click on the text and go to the URL in my designated browser.
I downloaded Nisus Express with the same results.
I tried Voodoo Pad with the same results.
While researching the problem, I found on a forum (don’t remember which one) that Word would create PDF files with active hyperlinks. That wasn’t an option for me.
So, if Word would do the job, I wondered if there was an alternative that would do what I wanted. I’d been following OpenOffice for awhile, and I was willing to install X11 and OpenOffice if it would do the job.
While researching this, I ran across a project I’d never heard of: NeoOffice.
NeoOffice takes the OpenOffice code and turns it into a Mac OS X application, complete with easy installation, and the Mac look and feel.
Best of all, it wasn’t related to Microsoft and it was free.
The trouble was, however, that it was a 145 MB download, and on my slow dial-up connection, that just wasn’t feasible.
I mentioned this on the NeoOffice forum and several people offered to burn a CD and send it to me. I accepted an offer from one very generous person and a few days later, when the CD arrived, I was able to install and start using NeoOffice in less than an hour.
The NeoOffice team used to ship CDs, but discontinued doing so due to lack of demand.
Linboo.com had been shipping the NeoOffice CD, but when I tried their site, it was offline. I didn’t know if it would come back or not.
Since then, it has, and LinBoo ships a variety of Unix and Linux CDs, including NeoOffice 2.1 and OpenOffice. If I’d waited a day or so, I could have ordered directly from them.
I am perfectly happy with NeoOffice 2.1. It does exactly what I want to do.
At first, I was really disappointed. I tested a short report with multiple hyperlinks, and, when I printed it to PDF, I got the same results I’d been getting with all the other applications I tried. The resulting PDF had what looked like links (underlined and blue), but they were not active.
So, apparently, the fault lies with the Print to PDF feature of Mac OS X. I would say that not creating active hyperlinks is a rather major shortcoming of the programming. I’m surprised that Apple hasn’t fixed this problem.
However, when I went looking through the NeoOffice menus, I noticed “Export to PDF.” That sounded promising.
Instead of printing to PDF, I chose to export to PDF and that made all the difference.
The resulting PDF file has real, active hyperlinks.
Why is this so important?
If I were writing a short report of 10 pages or less, I would have to edit the document and print to PDF. Then, I’d have to load my full version of Acrobat (version 4), add hyperlinks to the PDF in the appropriate places, and then re-save the PDF report.
For a one-off version of a short report, this is not much of a problem. However, the longer the report or ebook, the more the links and the more trouble to rewrite and update all the links. I don’t even want to get started if I have to go through such a complicated process.
I intend to update these reports and ebooks as it becomes necessary, and I don’t intend to go throught this process over and over. I should be able to modify the report and produce an updated PDF with all the links in place, directly from my word processor.
Now, with the NeoOffice export to PDF command, I can do this exactly how I want. Perhaps I’m getting lazier as I get older, or maybe I’m finally learning about this “work smarter, not harder” concept.
I tried a variety of different links of varying complexity and all of them worked as desired when I exported the document to PDF.
I’ve tried exporting word processing docs (Writer) and spreadsheets (Calc) and the resulting PDFs were exactly what I wanted.
Now, I am not a corporate power user and have no need for probably 99% of what NeoOffice provides, but now I have the perfect application for creating reports, ebooks, and even books with tables of contents and indexes.
A side benefit – that some of my friends may appreciate more than I will – is that I can open .doc files directly and they don’t have to send the files to me in .rtf format. I still serve on a nonprofit committee that makes small seed grants and matching grants for fundraisers to small grassroots nonprofits in western North Carolina, and the standard format for sharing information by nonprofits is Microsoft Word.
If you have a broadband connection, you can downlowad NeoOffice for free, or you can get a CD from LinBoo.com.
If you don’t use a Mac, you may want to look at OpenOffice.org or purchase a CD with OpenOffice from LinBoo.
I’ve had no problem with NeoOffice and I spent half-a-day putting the various modules through their paces. The only thing that feels weird is that NeoOffice opens all the modules in one integrated whole and that feels more like AppleWorks than Microsoft Office. As long as your computer has enough RAM, it shouldn’t be a problem. Right now, I have Radio Userland, TextWrangler, Safari, Preview, and NeoOffice all running in a Mac with 512 MB of RAM.
I’m happy with NeoOffice, and I recommend it to you if you want to dump Microsoft Office.
Will it do everything you need or want?
I don’t know. You’ll have to test this for yourself, but the cost is right. There is very little work or risk involved in trying it for yourself.
Act on your dream!