Review and Comparison of Word 2003, Word 2010, OpenOffice, Libre, and WordPerfect X5

First Impressions - Review and Comparison of Word 2003, Word 2010, OpenOffice, Libre, and WordPerfect X5

by Larry Neal Gowdy -Updated October 6, 2013)



Review and Comparison of Word Processors

Word 2003 screenshot of a Linux article.

(This article was originally published on TheLogics.org blog. I have updated the article and added the Libre Writer for First Impressions. January-11-2012: At the bottom of the page I have included a few additional comments related to Word and Office 2010.)

In 1990 I enjoyed toying with different ways of tweaking the performance of my XT running at 4.77 megahertz with 640k RAM. Using Word Perfect® 5.1 under DOS, the screen write speed was so fast that a two-hundred page book would scroll from the first to the end of the book in less than ten seconds. With CGA graphics and (if I remember correctly) a 640×200 maximum screen resolution, the text quality was primitive as compared to today’s standards, but Word Perfect was the top of the line word processor in its day, and the computer performed very well for its purposes.

I was lured into installing Windows® 3.1 so that I could use True Type fonts in Microsoft® Word®, as well as to create business graphics in CorelDraw® version 1. Upgrading to a 386 AT running at about 20 megahertz and with a whopping 2 megs of RAM, the new PC had the much better 640×480 VGA graphics card, but the screen write speed was agonizingly slow as compared to the XT. The screen write speed of the AT was as fast as the XT when in DOS, but when in Windows the screen write speed always seemed to be too slow. Not until around 2005 did I find a new computer capable of a screen writing speed similar to the XT, and from what I remember, the new PC had 2 gigs of RAM and ran at about 3 gigahertz.

I have been comparing various word processors for about twenty years, my always hoping to find one that is faster and better, and so I am familiar with most popular versions currently available. For those of us who use word processors daily for lengthy documents (articles, books, etc.), at present there are only three word processors worth considering for the PC platform: Microsoft Word®, OpenOffice.org® (OOo), and Libre® which is an off-shoot of OOo (and OOo is an off-shoot of Star Office®).

For comparison purposes I have included the new Word Perfect X5® word processor. I originally wrote this article only for Word and OpenOffice, but I then decided to be fair and include WP so as to illustrate some of the major differences between word processors. The test results will show the obvious reasons why I had originally chosen to exclude Word Perfect.


COMPUTER USED


I recently built a desktop computer with various spare parts, many of which were just sitting in a drawer not being used. The core components are an AMD Sempron LE-1300 at 2.3 gigahertz speed, a M3A motherboard with 2 gigs of RAM, a Radeon HD-4350 graphics card, and Windows® XP. A 15” 1024×768 Samsung® and a 19” 1440×900 Envision® monitor run simultaneously. The computer is archaic as compared to today’s newer models, but the computer serves its purpose well for my needs.


WORD PROCESSOR SCREEN WRITE COMPARISON


For testing, the first file that I used was a Word document of 1.972 megs that contains 274 pages that each have several sentences of Arial text plus several line drawings and a jpg graphic. Each page has margins to fit within an 8.5”x5.5” print layout. After loading the document into Word 2003, Word 2010, OpenOffice, and Libre I repeatedly scrolled from the top of the document to the bottom by using the page-down key. I expected the screen write speed to increase once the programs had the full document in memory, but I did not notice a measurable difference in speed even after several scrolls. Word Perfect repeatedly crashed, so I was not able to complete testing WP’s screen write speed with this type of file.

The file used for testing is very important for my personal business use, and how well a word processor handles the file determines whether the word processor is capable of being used in my business.

Screen write speeds were measured with the zoom set at 100%.


Document 1:


Word 2003 in print view: about 19 seconds.

Word 2010 in print view: about 26 seconds.

OpenOfficeorg in print view: about 89 seconds.

Libre Writer in print view: about 105 seconds.

Word Perfect X5 in page view: testing stopped after about 30 seconds due to Word Perfect having only reached page 25. I attempted to jump to the bottom of the page by using ctrl-page down, which caused WP to stop responding. After some minutes of waiting to exit the program, I started WP again and tried reloading the document. WP crashed again, and after my waiting several more minutes to exit the program I did not attempt to load the file again in WP. Word Perfect X5 pretty much shut down my computer for about ten minutes while waiting for the program to exit and for error reports to be sent.

Word 2003 in print view with no spaces between pages: about 18 seconds.

Word 2010 in print view with no spaces between pages: about 20 seconds.

No option was readily found to remove page spaces in OpenOfficeorg, Libre, and Word Perfect.

Word 2003 in web layout view: about 14 seconds.

Word 2010 in web layout view: about 15 seconds.

OpenOfficeorg in web layout view: I stopped timing at 60 seconds due to the screen having only reached page 28. An estimated duration needed to scroll all the way from the top to the bottom would require about ten minutes. For this one function, Word is about forty times faster than OpenOffice.

Libre Writer in web view: after waiting a couple minutes for Libre to load the file, Libre was excruciatingly slow and then crashed. After the third crash I decided to not try Libre again.

Word Perfect X5 was not tested.

I saved the document as ODT, my wondering if OpenOffice and Libre might read its preferred format faster, but the screen write speed was even slower at about 97 seconds for OOo and 106 seconds for Libre while in the print view. Too, the document’s layout was garbled by OOo when saving as ODT, so it appears that as in previous versions OpenOffice still has problems properly converting from one type of document to another. Libre appeared to have converted the document correctly except for inserting additional frames around call-out text. The frames were not visible during printing, however.


Document 2: 188 pages, margins set at minimum, maximum text density, several full page graphics, and 6.785 meg in size.


Word 2003 in Print view: about 12 seconds.

Word 2010 in Print view: about 27 seconds.

OpenOfficeorg in Print view: about 15 seconds.

Libre Writer in Print view: about 13 seconds.

Word Perfect X5 in Page view: about 12 seconds.

Word 2003 generally only showed the graphic box before proceeding to the next page. Word 2010 stopped at each page to display the graphic before proceeding to the next page. OpenOffice and Libre appeared to be a compromise between 2003 and 2010 by showing the graphic box for some pages while showing the graphics for other pages. Word Perfect was very slow converting the Word document (over a minute), but WP appeared to show all graphics while scrolling. This was the only file that WP could read without crashing.


Document 3: 972 pages, margins set at minimum, maximum text density, no graphics, Project Gutenberg book, courier font, and 4.318 meg in size.


Word 2003 in print view: about 64 seconds.

Word 2010 in print view: about 128 seconds.

OpenOfficeorg in print view: about 71 seconds.

Libre Writer in print view: about 48 seconds.

Word Perfect X5 in Page view: after waiting about twenty seconds for WP to convert the Word doc, I attempted to jump to the bottom of the file by hitting ctrl-page down. Again WP crashed. After reloading WP I tried to test the file again, but by page 870 WP stopped responding and crashed. If Word Perfect were capable of running more than a minute or two, the screen write speed would have likely been around 80 to 90 seconds.

Libre appears to have a sizably faster screen write speed for documents that are text-only. In previous tests with small files of only a few pages Libre’s speed was almost twice as fast as Word 2003’s in web view, but Libre could not handle medium to large files. It appears that the difference of speed between Word 2003 and Libre will largely depend on the size and the type of the file itself.

Although each word processor does well with its favored document types, OpenOffice and Libre have a few weaknesses that can make a sizable difference when choosing which word processor to use for business. Word 2003 had the best over all performance and stability, and Word may remain the best choice for business use.

Word Perfect’s agonizingly slow performance and repeated crashes mirror a similar lack of stability that plagued previous versions. I really liked Word Perfect Works in the mid-90s, but I had to abandon it due to stability problems with medium and large sized files. Similarly, Word Perfect X5 might be useful for very small files of just a few pages of text and basic graphics, but Word Perfect cannot handle book-length documents.


APPEARANCES



Screenshot of WordPerfect X5 menu

Word Perfect X5 menu screenshot.



Screenshot of OpenOfficeorg Writer menu

OpenOffice Writer menu screenshot.



Screenshot of Libre Writer menu

Libre Writer screenshot (modified with tool bars removed).



Screenshot of Word 2003 menu.

Word 2003 menu screenshot (one row of tool bars with Adobe® Acrobat® plugins).



Screenshot of Word 2003 modified menu.

Word 2003 screenshot (modified with one row of tool bars).



Screenshot of Word 2007 modified menu.

Word 2007 ribbon screenshot (modified).



Screenshot of Word 2010 black menu.

Word 2010 ribbon screenshot (in black in XP).



For over twenty years the majority of software has placed the menu bar towards the top of the screen, and named each expanding menu with similar names (File, Edit, View, etc.). Word 2007 was one of the first – if not the first – to buck the standard. Word 2007 uses a ‘ribbon’ instead of the normal row of menu commands. The ribbon is a graphically styled bar with the normal menu commands hidden behind tabs that appear not too dissimilar to what might be found on some websites as graphic links.

I do not know for certain why Microsoft changed the menu in Word 2007, but I do know that a lot of people – including me – do not like the ribbon. In Word 2003 I have my top menu arranged to work best for me. With one click I can perform most of the functions that I do regularly, but in Word 2007 the user might have to make two to four clicks to accomplish the same task.

For long-time Word users who have acquired an instinctive command of the program, the ribbon’s clutter in Word 2007 can be frustrating and annoyingly ugly. I used Word 2007 at a business location for over a year, but I never did acquire a taste for the ribbon.

Microsoft apparently listened to the many complaints and made Word 2010’s ribbon considerably less annoying. Instead of the 2007 menu tabs starting with a round start button in the top left corner, 2010 has returned close to the standard of File, Home, Insert. Etc.. The 2010 menu bar is much cleaner in many respects, but it is still a bit peculiar for those of us who are resistant to change (old dogs and new tricks).

When the ribbon is minimized in 2010 the menu bar is actually quite clean looking, and I have to admit that I find it attractive. One of the advantages of the ribbon is that there is a choice of three colors: blue, silver, and black (the black is actually a darkish gray). Instead of enduring the putty colored menu of Word 2003 – which remains my one and only gripe about Word – you do have the option to change the color in 2007 and 2010. This feature alone is almost enough to convince me to switch to 2010. I suspect that Microsoft’s change to the ribbon was to make the program easier for new users. The ribbon commands have pop-up description screens on each menu item that I imagine are of great benefit for individuals first learning Word. Since likely 90% or more of Word owners use the program fairly infrequently, the choice by Microsoft to use the ribbon is probably a smart move to attract and keep more users.

OpenOffice and Libre retain a similar menu bar as Word 2003, and a person familiar with Word will not have much trouble learning OOo/Libre. Several times I sincerely wanted to switch to OpenOffice, but after a few hours of use I had to go back to Word because – well I have to just come out and say it – OpenOffice’s icons are more than a little ugly to me. It is normal and expected that a super good programmer will have artistic talents in programming, but not be expected to have artistic talents in design. Look at some of the websites for high IQ societies and you will notice that the higher the IQ the more that the site design itself may have a more inexperienced or spartan appearance. Some of us get giddy looking at ANSI displays (I more enjoy watching Linux® boot than my actually using Linux), but we know that our preference for clean minimalist programming is not what the general user wants to see.

People who are really good at one thing may not be good at something else, and that appears to be what exists in many of the open source programs; the programming might be good or great, but the visual design simply lacks mass appeal.

OpenOffice/Libre’s icons are of several different sizes, some are 2D, some are 3D, and the choices of color are peculiar and psychologically disturbing. Word’s icons and coloring still remain less than ideal for my tastes, but Word is tolerable while OpenOffice is not. If OpenOffice/Libre were the most superior word processor available I still would not use it because I cannot endure looking at the icons. Microsoft Office Home/Student, at around $120.00, is still a better bargain than OpenOffice/Libre for free, simply because it is worth $120.00 to not have to look at ugly icons.

After removing tool bars and modifying Word and Libre with gray background colors, both word processors looked very similar. Libre can be competitive with Word when Libre’s color scheme is modified and Libre is using the files that it handles best. (Update 1-11-2012: tests with Libre within Linux have shown it to not be capable of numerous common commands that we take for granted in Word: copy/paste text with graphics, select all, etc.. A similar lack of commands may also be found in the Windows version.)

Word Perfect X5 retains a similar menu layout as Word 2003 and OpenOffice/Libre. Word Perfect has a couple options to change the menu header to look more like Word 2003, plus a novelty option for a WP 5.1 display (minimalist blue screen).

After comparing the different word processors, I am convinced that Word 2010’s design is the best available.


Screenshot of Word 2010 in black

Word 2010 in black.



Similar to websites, everyone has different tastes, and no matter how talented or untalented a person might be, there will always be people that like or dislike the person’s choice of colors and design. The same applies to the design of word processors.


EDITING


For those of us who are accustomed to using keyboard commands (ctrl-z, ctrl-a, ctrl-c, etc.), we might not discover that Word 2010 has a few new editing features that are actually quite nice. I likely would not have noticed some of the new options myself if I had not seen the features written in a description of Word 2010. Similar to Adobe Acrobat, Word 2010 has an optional navigation pane located to the left of the document display. Also similar to Acrobat is the ability to search for words in the navigation pane and to receive a listing for each instance of the word in the document. The feature is highly appreciated when searching for words and phrases in book-length documents.


Word 2010 navigation panel screenshot in black

Word 2010 navigation panel (in black) screenshot.



Again similar to Acrobat, the navigation pane also has the option to show thumbnails of individual pages. The feature can be helpful when searching for a graphic that is located on an unknown page.

Copying and pasting text from one document to another is usually relatively simple in Word 2003 and OpenOffice/Libre. Individuals using keyboard shortcuts may simply highlight a selection with the mouse or use ctrl-a to select all, ctrl-c to copy the selection, and then ctrl-v to paste the copied selection into a new document. Right clicking on the mouse to select the same commands works as well but is slower and requires additional steps to produce the same functions.

After pasting the copied selection, it is common to have to then highlight the pasted selection and then reformat it to match the new document’s surrounding text. The reformatting procedure can at times become a bit time consuming.

In Word 2010 there is the mouse right-click option to paste a copied selection as (1) keep source formatting, (2) merge formatting, and (3) keep text only. When hovering the mouse pointer over each option, Word temporarily displays what the text will look like in the document.

Screenshot of Word 2010 paste options

Word 2010 paste options screenshot.

In all known word processors, after copying a selection there are three steps to insert, reselect, and reformat the copied selection within the new document. In Word 2010 there are only two steps; right click on the mouse to show the editing menu, and then left click on the chosen formatting icon. This feature will be a great time saver for individuals who work with documents that have several different fonts, line spacings, and other formats.

Word Perfect has the options to ‘paste, ‘paste without font attributes’, and ‘paste unformatted text.’ I experimented by copying numerous different text and graphics blocks from various web pages, but the pasting was the same regardless of what type of paste option was chosen. Word will copy and paste the same fonts, colors, links, and graphics, but Word Perfect only copied the basic text. Word Perfect appears to have made the product available for sale before the programming and debugging were finished.

While editing this article I did discover that Word 2010 does not allow copying a graphic from a Word 97-2003 compatible document into another program like Jasc’s Paint Shop Pro®. In Word 2003 I commonly click a graphic, press ctrl-c for copy, then in PSP I press ctrl-v to paste the graphic as a new graphic. Word 2010 does permit saving a document’s graphic as a file which can then be opened by a graphics program, but at the expense of a few additional steps.

After saving the document under the new format of docx, the copy/paste function in Word 2010 worked normally. The oddity of the document having to be formatted as a docx is not much important, but it is very helpful to know beforehand that there is a difference in how graphics may be handled with the different file formats.

A very useful enhancement is the ability to save files as PDF. I currently have two choices, to either create a PDF through Adobe Acrobat from Word 2003, or to use the OpenOffice/Libre PDF feature. Acrobat has numerous features – like its distiller – that are necessary for preparing manuscripts, and so Word 2010’s ability to create PDFs will not replace Acrobat, but it will permanently replace OpenOffice/Libre.

The editing features of Word 2010 are sizably superior to all other known word processors, including Word 2003.


CONCLUSIONS


Objectively measured raw speed is won by Word 2003, although Word 2010, OpenOffice, and Libre are competitive when used under specific screen views and with specific file types. The following scale is based on the sum of screen write times (the lower numbers are the fastest).


SPEED


127 - Word 2003

216 - Word 2010

859 - OpenOffice

871 - Libre

4000+ - Word Perfect


APPEARANCE


(The following conclusions are mostly subjective and should be weighed by what features each individual wants and needs.)

In my opinion Word 2010 has the superior appearances. Quite honestly, I am resistant to the website-like menu system of 2010, but I do believe that it is a step forward and that it will likely be what we will be seeing more of in the future. The following numbers are based on the sum of features that I believe are personally important. Higher numbers indicate that the program has a high number of good qualities, while lower numbers indicate fewer good qualities.

15 - Word 2003

17 - Word 2010

2 - OpenOffice

2 - Libre

3 - Word Perfect


EDITING


Word 2010 has several nifty editing enhancements that can be very appreciated when working with large files. Now that I have seen 2010 in action I can see that 2003 is no longer the best word processor that I thought it was. The higher numbers are best.

17 - Word 2003

20 - Word 2010

14 - OpenOffice

14 - Libre

1 - Word Perfect


SUMMARY


I finished editing this article with Word 2010, not as a means of further testing the trial version, but rather because I wanted to continue using 2010. This is the first time in about six years that I liked a new product enough to continue using the trial version.

After showing my wife the appearance and editing enhancements, plus my explaining that the Office Home/Student version has both Word and Excel, plus allows for three licensed installations on personal computers (we have two desktops and one laptop with Office 2003 Professional), she agreed that we should upgrade to 2010. When the wife agrees, well, it’s settled. ;-)


(Update January 11, 2012: It is important to note that Office 2010 looks considerably different in Vista and Windows 7. The appearances of Office 2010 in XP are good, but the appearances can be sizably better in Windows 7.


Screenshot of purple and gray Word 2010 in Windows 7

Screenshots of Word 2010 in Windows 7 with gray and purple themes.


It appears that Windows 8 will likely have similar visual themes as Windows 7, but Windows 8 will also have additional support for older 16 bit programs. Office 97 Word works well in the Windows 8 developer preview operating system, and it is expected that Word 2000 will also work well (I have not yet installed Office 2000 in Windows 8 for testing, but I do plan to.) At present Office 2003 is not wonderful in Windows 7 due to the default blue coloring of the menu bars, but 2003 does function properly. I am a little excited about Windows 8's potential for running old programs as well as the newest software like Internet Explorer 9 and 10. With a new CD of Office 97 costing under $10.00 - or Office 2000 at around $20.00 - and both being of a higher quality than OpenOffice and Libre, there is no convincing reason to use open source software in Windows. Windows 8 has enough good features to convince many of us to finally upgrade from XP.)

(Update March 21, 2013: I felt that it would be proper to let the reader know that I myself have chosen to install Windows 8 on all of my computers (except one XP computer that is used for testing hardware and software), and I also chose to install Office 2010 Home-Business on two business computers while installing Office 2010 Home-Student on personal computers. I am very pleased with Word 2010, especially within Windows 8 due to the solid colored Windows themes. I also have Office 2013 Home-Business on my main business computer. The new Word 2013 has a few new features that I feel are good (like the spell checker opening as a pane on the right side), but I have not yet used Word 2013 extensively enough to get a good idea of its pluses and minuses. One of the reasons why I do not use Word 2013 much is because of the limited selection of skin colors which are generally limited to white, light gray, and lighter gray. To me the grays are bleah, while the white is great but only for short periods of use before it tires the eyes. Surely in the near future there will be an add-on to color the skins in Office 2013 (a similar add-on is available for Visual Studio® 2012), and when the add-on is available I may then begin using Word 2013 fulltime. Of the few times that I opened documents with numerous graphics in Word 2013, it appeared that there was a sizable quantity of hesitation while displaying graphics, whereas in Word 2003 there would have been no hesitations. I enjoy using Word 2013 for a small document and then jumping back to Word 2010 for my other documents: I just like having a change of software appearances on occasion. My recommendation is to download a trial version of Office 2013 to see if it fits your needs. It appears that a trial version of Office 2010 may no longer be offered through Microsoft.

All in all it continues to appear that Word 2003 is as a high performance sports car that zips along and gets the job done quickly and accurately, while Word 2010 and 2013 are more like a luxury car that gets the job done in style but not as quickly. Everyone has different tastes and needs, and the final choice is yours.)




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