by Erica Driver.

On Friday morning I ventured out in the newly-fallen snow for my morning latte. The tree branches were heavy with wet snow. It was gorgeous. But promptly after settling in at my desk I miscalculated the length of my arm and spilled about 12 oz. of coffee and milk all over my laptop. Little red lights blinked a few times and my screen went dark. That was it. Done. Gone. Dead.

I got on the horn with Forrester’s top-notch IT group and I had a new laptop at my doorstep in about 24 hours. Forrester IT rocks. But I’m not here to bemoan my clumsiness or sing kudos to our help desk. I’m here to tell you what happened when I took over my husband’s laptop for the remainder of the day. He doesn’t have Microsoft Office installed on his machine; he uses 2.1.

I had no choice — I gave it a shot. I was able to get some of my tasks done, but not all. And the learning curve was not insignificant. For example:

  • I couldn’t open Office 2007-formatted documents (.XLSX, .PPTX, and .DOCX) in OpenOffice.
  • The keyboard commands are not all the same (for example, the CTRL+SHIFT+ down arrow key combination didn’t let me select entire rows of text — I had to select across, word by word).
  • In OpenOffice I hover over comments others had embedded in Word 2003 docs, but I couldn’t figure out how to delete them.

My main takeaway: Don’t expect people to switch back and forth between OpenOffice and Microsoft Office — especially Office 2007 users. And people who are used to Microsoft Office 2003 or higher will have a hard time adjusting to OpenOffice. OpenOffice is best suited to users who don’t currently have access to Microsoft Office, or who have very old versions.