How long could you go without Microsoft Office?

I’ve recently got a new laptop (more on that in another post) and have to install the usual selection of software to get productive with it.

As an experiment / not having enough time I’ve decided to go without installing Microsoft Office. I do , however have the excellent (and free) OpenOffice installed, and use Google Documents and Spreadsheets on a regular basis.

Why would I do this?

  • It’s not about the money (as I have a copy of the Office disks paid for).
  • It’s not about the money (2) as I’ll also happily pay for something that gives me value over the free version (e.g. my subscription to LinkedIn).
  • It’s not really about getting locked into one supplier who can manipulate me at will (see the Microsoft Word 2007 File Format Conversion post) however annoying that may be.

No, it’s more about the features; with OpenOffice, I can save Word documents as a PDF , which (in my option) looks far more professional when sending to a (prospective) client.

Another reason is that as an (IT) consultant, I tend to ‘deploy’ on client sites on a regular basis, often with a bare machine to start with. Open software means that I have a ‘toolbox’ I can use to get up and running quickly , no fuss needed to raise purchase orders to buy software.

OS as alternative Logo

If you’re interested in this approach, the Open Source Alternative site is worth checking out. It’s not dogmatic; in fact it’s pretty even handed, listing commercial and open software for pretty much everything that you might need to do with a PC or Mac (business ,communications, graphics, security etc). That’s on top of the alternatives to Word, Excel , Powerpoint and Outlook.

It’s all about choice. Some are better , some or worse ; It’s up to you to decide which one works best for you. You’re a mug if you don’t know what the choice is.

Update 26th August: I lasted just over two weeks without installing Microsoft Office. Nothing bad with Open Office, just Microsoft playing around with Office 2007 file format. I have an important client that sent me something in Word 2007. The sort of client that I can’t (yet) ask to save in a different format and resend. Open Office does not (yet) open Office 2007 files, so I had to drop back to the Microsoft version (and install some filters) to be able to read it.

Your favourite colour – what should be in our new web site design?

Thanks to Eoghan, there are going to be some changes around here. He’s just announced that we’re the winner of the 2000 Euro worth of web design work. For a sample of his work , check out the redesign that he has done of the Barcamp Dublin site.

I actually tried to convince Eoghan to pick somebody else with even more readers (in a mercenary get some more exposure kind of way). He’s sticking with the person choosen by his random number omiter.
Winner

So the question is, What’s your favourite colour? What part of this website do you think needs an upgrade – this blog, the main FirstPartners.net ‘Corporate site’, or the wiki / knowledgebase? What changes do you think should be made?Or should I save the prize for the forthcoming mad, take over the world attempt part 2 (Red Piranha)?

Further Kudos to Eoghan for carrying out some Charity work as well: tuppenceworth.ie, entered by Simon McGarr, the other is a project by IQ Content for the Red Door School, entered by Laurence Veale

This is going to get ugly

This is going to get ugly. Yes, I’m learning CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) , the thing that does the pretty colours on this page. Normally , this sort of thing is done by Graphic Designers (the cool people who wear black), not people like myself (who spend too much time in the Server room). Think 3 year old kid with a paintbox , and you won’t be far off some of the weird and wonderful effects that you might see in the next couple of days.

View Paul  Browne's profile on LinkedIn Call me!

All because I want to add a photo to the top right corner. And stop the ‘linked in’ and ‘skype’ links floating all over the place.

Not a Web 2.0 Company – Scandanavian Airlines

I don’t think these guys will be joining the Web2Ireland (even Web 2.0) group anytime soon. Basically , their website says ‘We couldn’t be bothered using any of the Ajax toolkits out there, so we’ll get you Mr Customer to do all the work for us’. I wonder what their look-to-book ratio is ( I used to do some work for Aer Lingus – LinkedIn Profile).

Scandanavian Airlines (SAS) Website.

Hint to SAS: Here is how to fix this (pdf), or hire us and we’ll fix it for you.

Or if you prefer , reassure yourself that you’re not the only airline with Ajax problems.
More blogposts on Ajax.

Take a look at what you're missing – Useful Extensions for Browsing the Web

If you’re using Internet Explorer to browse the web (and if you’re not sure , then you probably are) , then you’re missing out on some great features of Firefox (the main alternative). The good news is that IE7 (currently in beta from Microsoft) gives some of these features – better security , tabbed browsing (a bit like multiple sheets in Excel) and above all , the ability to get plugins to extend the browser.

The bad news is that it will take time for these plugins to appear for the new version of IE. In the meantime, here are a list of plugins for firefox that I can’t live without on a daily basis.

  • Del.icio.us – share and access bookmarks from any PC
  • Linked in – professional networking tool
  • StumbleUpon – view sites recommended by people with the same preferences as you.
  • TabBrowser Preferences – change how you browse using Tabs.
  • AdBlock – an extremely good tool for blocking unwanted ads.
  • Performancing – Blog and surf at the same time.
  • Selenium – record what you’re doing on the web – useful for testing web applications.
  • DownloadThemAll – get a copy of an entire website to surf later.