FOSS to the rescue

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FOSS, or Free Open Source Software, is something I started using out of necessity. One package in particular is LibreOffice, which used to be OpenOffice. I started using OpenOffice in 1999 when it was owned by Oracle, because all of my money was going towards a new home and a new baby. On the job as a Y2k programmer, my computer was running an outdated version of Microsoft Office and could not open the new versions of Word documents, and the company only had so many licenses for the latest version of Microsoft Office, and management deemed that the programmers were not important enough to warrant the expense of another license, so I downloaded OpenOffice and fixed that problem as OpenOffice had no problem working with the latest versions of Microsoft Office files. I also installed OpenOffice on my home computer, having recently moved from OS/2 Warp 3 to Windows ’98 (legitimate upgrade copy), and needed a good spreadsheet and word processor for my own needs. This began my two decade use of open source office software, which has continued in spite me purchasing legitimate licenses for Microsoft Office 2003 and then 2007, as I believe that OpenOffice, which is now LibreOffice, is a superior product.

This week, almost exactly 20 years after my first use of Oracle OpenOffice, the foreman in my small company received a Visio document from a client with details on how they wanted something done. We all have Microsoft Office installed on our computers, but Visio is not part of the standard package. One person in our office has Visio, and he was away on training. The foreman asked if I could do something with this file. In spite of having the latest Microsoft Office on my computer, I installed the latest version of LibreOffice because it is what I am used to, and I believe it to be a superior product. I loaded up the Visio document into LibreOffice Draw, and then exported it as a PDF with great ease. As a PDF, this document could now be shared with all staff, and the boss was impressed. I also like to use LibreOffice draw to open up PDF’s provided by vendors, as it disassembles PDF’s into draw components where I can take what I want to generate our own in-house documentation by simply cutting and pasting.

I’m actually surprised that LibreOffice isn’t more popular than what it is in businesses today, but then I remember that the people in charge of making these decisions often are unaware of the benefits of FOSS to their business and go with what’s trusted and well-known, which is unfortunate. However, it’s little victories like being able to easily handle and convert a Visio document or to easily break down PDF’s that will eventually bring to light the great benefits of FOSS like LibreOffice.

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