Opportunities with Open Source: NeoOffice, Star Office, and Transport Tycoon

By Graham K. Rogers


Although much of my computer use centres around the Internet and being online, I still have my feet firmly planted on the ground. Many programs I use are run-of-the mill applications concerned with writing, images and student marks.

Creating texts for students is not difficult and does not need sophisticated word processing software. I get by with the dual-function Text Edit in the main. As well as being a text editor (as the name suggests), it opens and creates files in .DOC and .DOCX formats, plus the default Rich Text (RTF and RTFD) and others. It also handles Thai text using fonts that Apple supplies, and without the need to install any duplicates.

For the more complex functions of the spreadsheet, which I use for recording student marks, although I have Apple's Numbers from iWork, I prefer to work in a basic grid on a white background: if the sheets are for a wide distribution and needed to look impressive, I switch to Numbers.

In the main I use the Open Source, NeoOffice. I have version 2.2.2 which has an Aqua interface so looks quite close to other Apple applications. It is a touch slow at times, but the spreadsheets have all the functions of other spreadsheet software and it can open and save in many formats.

NeoOffice also has Text, Presentation, Database and Drawing functions so is a good alternative for those who want an office suite. It is based on the original Sun Star Office as was Open Office and Open OS X Office.

Star Office Star Office itself has just been revised and a beta of version 9 is available as a 90-day trial, to those who go through the registration process at the Sun website. Installed, it is 434MB, somewhat larger than the 362MB of NeoOffice.

The interface of Star Office is a little tidier than NeoOffice, but both still have that old, familiar Office interface. Icons are slightly smaller in Star Office and there are more. Another obvious difference is the Google search bar in all parts of Star Office. The Sun product was also a little quicker in responding to commands, especially when opening new files.

As both are in the beta stage, all is not perfect, although with a quick look and a few trial pages, most seems to work OK. The only problem which affects both of these applications is when trying to send a file as mail directly. Both caused Apple's Mail, my default e-mail application, to hang and the only way out was a Force Quit. I had no opportunity to check with any other mail program.

Office suites

This minor point aside (files can be attached in Mail itself) Star Office is another viable example of software that allows Mac users to be productive with a wide range of alternative tools.

I have mentioned here in the past that one Open Source application, clunky as it is, to have a permanent place on my disk, is GIMP: an image manipulation program that started its life on Linux as a Photoshop clone. I have recently downloaded another Open Source alternative that allows me to run a program that I thought was gone forever.

Transport Tycoon

On my last PC, a pre-Pentium 386, was a DOS game called Transport Tycoon. The death of the hard disk and the mould on the floppy disk put paid to that. Over the last ten years I had heard stories of a Mac version, but never found anything concrete. I also heard tell of an Open Source solution.

I tried a couple of times to make this work, but was unsuccessful. At the beginning of August I finally tracked down all the files I needed: a download of OpenTTD, version 6.2 and the original Transport Tycoon. From this I extracted a file marked SAMPLE.CAT and five other files in the series TRG with the .GRF suffix. This file type handles the 2D and 3D image data.

The relevant files went into a single folder in an Applications folder in my user account, rather than the system Applications folder, for stability reasons. It started first time and there was a momentary sense of nostalgia. As good as this game was, the world has moved on, particularly in the area of graphics.

Nonetheless, when I should have been marking papers and looking at videos my students had created, I was immersed in a 1950s world of steam trains.

Transport Tycoon

A list of relevant links and sources is available on the Transport Tycoon Forums.

Finally an update to a useful and free app that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Level. This has been updated and now includes the necessary calibration function. Also added were a ruler and inclinometer (to show degrees away from the vertical). There were positive sounds from a class of Senior Year Civil Engineers who saw this: approval indeed.

Level Level


Made on Mac

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