Posted on Sun - October 1, 2006

Little old lady test

My never-fail test of if software is usable is if my mother can use it. She has been a Mac user since the late 1980s, but she has never been a "power user." Basically, she uses her iBook to surf the web, keep track of people, email, write, and do an occasional spreadsheet. Most of the bundled applications work fine for her. But Apple is phasing out their software suite Appleworks, and it is time to find a replacement.

Appleworks uses a proprietary format which makes things a tad difficult. Mom also gets a fair number of Micro$oft Word or Office documents emailed to her. Since I maintain her iBook and religiously avoid installing any Micro$oft applications if I can possibly avoid it, this has been a bit of a problem here and there.

Of course the obvious solution is Open Office, the open version of the StarOffice suite. The problem is that it takes some Unix knowledge to install and maintain. I could do it, but she would have problems.

The second solution is NeoOffice, but the last version I experimented with did not have full support for existing fonts and used a file dialog box that wasn't Mac standard.

Fortunately the new version seems to have fixed both those issues and several others. I am testing it, and then I will go over to the folk's place and install it on her computer.

So far it looks pretty good. The ability to open Micro$oft Office files is a plus, and it is very Mac like in it's operations. The controls could be a bit overwhelming, but they are better designed and laid out than the M$ version. It does still have a longer startup time than I would like, but that is a minor concern.

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