5 reasons LibreOffice and GIMP will not replace Microsoft Office and Photoshop

-By Vaibhav Kaushal

If you love speaking from from any one of the sides - Open Source or Closed Source software and tell your friends to use or stop using Windows and vice versa, there is a huge chance that you are prejudiced about OSS in some manner. You might have already convinced yourself that people who use Windows should be boiled in water before being baked or that Linux users should be sent naked into a jungle full of meat-eating wild animals. If it is so, I would request you to please empty your cup and just read this.

Coming back to the point - why are the open source alternatives far from being perfect for an end user. Let me tell you in detail, beginning with my usage habits. First of all things - I am a web developer and I mostly use Linux for my work. But lately, to get the change-of-taste, I did go back to Windows and installed it on my desktop. And then came up the parts where I saw that those very software packages I so advocate to my friends are quite lack the usability. Below I present the 5 reasons for these two packages; and why they stand short in front of propriety solutions.

Gimp first

  1. Options, oh my!: Right when Windows was installed on my desktop, I got a need to edit some pictures. So I thought why not try out Photoshop. I had a ‘Adobe CS6 Master Collection’ trial lying around from a Digit (a tech magazine I read) DVD. Since I knew that I needed to use Photoshop for only a brief period of time, I just installed it. I opened it and I was mesmerized and confused with the number of options each single one of the tools and brushes had. And then I had to just resize an image on my laptop (in Ubuntu) while there was no power. I opened up the image and shotwell image viewer had everything but resize as an option. Had to open the so called ‘Photoshop replacement’ GIMP to do that simple task. Ah, well! I am not saying GIMP can't get XYZ work done. But if you have the option to get something better, what would you prefer?

  2. You asked for GUI and that means graphical windows, right?: Gimp - Multiple windows create confusionI mean yes GUI is all about multiple applications in different windows. But who on this planet wants 3 windows for single application, that too when they contain the stuff that is meant to be present in a single window? I hate opening GIMP in the first place because of its ‘let’s use 3 windows to make things confusing’ approach towards the UI so I installed something called as ‘Pinta’ and then it worked out. Come version 2.8, GIMP has got a single Window option. Why is that an option is the question? Should it not be the default to be less intimidating to someone new to OSS?

  3. Ah, GIMP has menus: I suspect and I really suspect that the guy who originally built the main window of GIMP had a faulty mouse whose right button wouldn’t work. After all what is the need to open up the entire menu bar on a right click to the image? To show a ‘Please select the needed option in the menu at the top’ message on right-click must be easier to program. By all means.

  4. So here is the label you wanted. Ummm...wait a second: Text tool of GIMP is one of the most pathetic things about GIMP. Ever tried using it? And then tried using Pinta or MS Paint’s text tool? Aesthetics of that tool need to go way higher. Ask someone who started using that

  5. For a real charmingly easy task: Let’s put things into perspective - How do you draw a rectangle in GIMP? Got stuck, eh? If you did not, you are way better than most who would have their hadns on GIMP for the first time. And please do not say "GIMP is not a creation tool, it is a manipulation tool". Drawing a rectangle can count as manipulation or does it not? It should be easy enough for someone to start off with. Using paths and strokes for a rectangle is not really intuitive.

Why LibreOffice cannot replace Microsoft Office

I do not really remember since when but as far as memory serves, it is since the first time I heard about OpenOffice (which is what later became the foundation of LibreOffice), people have called it a replacement for Microsoft Office. Now, I have not used excel more than 4-5 times so I do not know about that.

  1. You are a monkey: When LibreOffice 4 was released, they introduced a much better spellcheck and a basic grammar checker (please correct me about the version number if I am wrong). Unsure of who the person was, but there was someone who said in the release notes that “grammar check is for monkeys”. I am not very sure if people who do not have English as their first language qualify for the word, but it was pretty rude to say that. The point is - some people do need grammar checks more than others and LibreOffice currently has a weaker support for that than what one can expect.

  2. Emails, anyone?: Microsoft office comes with a tool called Outlook. Yeah, I know, I know. There are things like Evolution and Thunderbird which get your job done. They are good email clients. The problem is - they are email clients only. You can add extensions to thunderbird but still - it cannot get to far enough. The only thing that gets close to outlook in the OSS side is called Kontact - the prime feature of KDE PIM. But that one crashes too often on most of my computers. I call that unreliable.

  3. Bugs and the noise in my head: It is already irritating to know that your software crashes. Then it is painful to file a bug report. And then it is gets annoying when you have to open a browser window and then file one there. And when you add on top of that the unwillingness of the website to show you the right form...well how bad can everything get? (KDE, I love you). While you cannot file a bug report for MS Office either, being open source, LibreOffice's bug reporting feature should be enhanced for sure.LibreOffice-Bugzilla

  4. Menus: I am dead sure Microsoft must have patented their Ribbon bars they use in Microsoft Office (and now in Windows). But frankly they are a lot lot better to use than to remember those menu shortcuts I do not use too often. Or to have to browse them through in menus and options dialog boxes to get what I need. I hope ‘Tabs’ are not patented. *Fingers crossed* Now I am not saying that you ought to love MS for creating Ribbon bars but when it comes to intuitiveness for a beginner - Ribbon bars appear more friendly - most used options exposed to face. Something similar needs to be done with LibreOffice as well!

  5. Pink floyd - Green is the color: There is a certain shade of green which I really really love which I remember as HTML color - #339933. There are actually shades in every single color that I like and I repeatedly use them to highlight things in a document. When I use Microsoft Office, I use those colors for header text at different levels (H1, H2, H3 etc.). Where the hell are my colors in LibreOffice - and why is that missing even if it has been in development since ages? I have been asking that to myself and have no answer to that, yet. If you happen to get a way easy enough to get that color for the Title of the document, please let me know. Or do I have to learn LaTex? To change text color in LibreOffice, one has to go to the optionss, then colors and then set the color using RGB values, come back to document and apply the color. How friendly is that?

Killing me will get you into jail

By now, I must have pissed off some open source supporter. Before I start getting bashing from the OSS supporters, allow me to speak that I too am one of you. I love to promote and support open source software. I even contribute to a open source framework on which this site (and most other projects by me) are created. I add features, and test others’ features, report bugs and am one of the lead contributors over there.

The 1 reason behind 5 reasons

Yes, Open Source software does allow you to just look into the source and modify and add features but that is not easy for any random person out there. It can take weeks, or even months to understand the project in the first place and then you must have the necessary domain knowledge to make those changes. Even if I got time to understand how GIMP has been created - I do not know anything worth a penny about graphics and I cannot create a new brush or a selection tool in GIMP.

If this is how it keeps going, Open Source software will never be as popular or friendly as proprietary ones. What needs to be done is an active involvement instead of preaching. Saying that LibreOffice rocks and MS Office sucks does not defy the fact that you cannot select your favorite color for your document title in LibreOffice easily enough. Instead of just promoting, we should start working because the only thing which can bring in involvement is quality which I do not find in many desktop applications running on Linux, sadly. The faster we find the fault, the faster we can solve it.

I have cited only 5 reasons. There are many others reasons and many other software packages on Linux which prevent people from migrating to this awesome operating system. “Having no viruses” is not the only reason a person would be ready enough to switch/learn. People need to get the job done.

Pricing

A lot of arguments here have one counter-reaction which I believe comes naturally - OSS tools are free while others cost a bomb. Agreed. But not everyone pays to get those tools. There are a lot of people who think paying for software is funny and that piracy should be included in the list of fundamental rights for a computer user. There are people who keep two copy of windows so that they can keep reinstalling one of the copies to keep using the trial versions over and over again. Afterall 2.5 hours per month is cheaper than $700 anyway!

I do not endorse piracy but it is not just about the philosophy but reality and in reality there are places where cyber laws are not mature enough and piracy is rampant. OSS cannot penetrate there unless we, the developers raise the standards a little higher. Of course it is difficult with shortage of cash but it is hard-to-digest and yet, a truth.

EDIT/Note: A lot of people took this post as a bashing to open source tools thinking that I am trying to defame these tools. That was not the purpose because almot everything that I use is an OSS. This post was meant to highlight the reasons why new users shy away from the OSS tools not to say that they are impotent or stupid.

Posted on Sep 26, 2013 08:51 PM
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