Jan 7, 2010

Danish Schoolchildren Complaints About OpenOffice

In Denmark in an open letter to the mayor, city council and the IT manager in Lyngby-Taarbaek Municipality, the Virum School student council is now targeting sharp criticism against the decision to replace Microsoft Office with OpenOffice. There are major problems with programs and students lack training in how to use them, says the criticism.

Already last year there were debate around the municipality's decision to opt for OpenOffice rather than Microsoft's office suite.

Microsoft's technology director Jasper Hedegaard Bojsen then sent an open letter to the municipal mayor, which he denied that that OpenOffice should be an equal and cheaper alternative to Office. It led to accusations that Microsoft tried to implement a scare campaign.

Local newspaper site debate went back and forth between individuals. But now the pupils at school, are speaking up. In the open letter which can be read on the newspaper's website, they write include:

"Firstly, we think it is a huge problem that we have not learned to use the program, especially since 9th classes, the exam in a program they did not know and not know how to use. One solution might be to give us students a course in how to use the programs. It makes others know when they must learn a new program to know."

But criticism from Virum School student council will not stop here.

"We also have big problems with the layout. For example if we write a Danish-style home in the Word and spend much time on layout in style when we come to the school and must print it out or edit the layout is completely different and more cluttered than we had used time at home. This is a problem because we are also characters in order..." reads the letter.

Schoolchildren also regrets the lack of substitutes for several programs in the Office, including Publisher, is not in the OpenOffice package.

"We can not understand why only students and teachers to use OpenOffice, while all those who work elsewhere in the municipality still allowed to work with Microsoft Office package," they write.

The municipality has however been expressed that the entire administration to be shifted to OpenOffice and not just schools. The letter ends with this telling-off to the politicians:

"We think it is unfair that some of the most important tool in our school work and who previously has worked really well until we got OpenOffice, has now been changed to something that works worse."


  1. Yowch!

    I'm all for OpenOffice, but it seems clear here that it was deployed without people realising it wasn't a "clone" of MSOffice. That's not good - some simple lessons showing how to do in OOo what you're used to doing in MSOffice would've saved everyone a ton of trouble.

  2. If they do exams in OpenOffice (I live in Brazil, there is no such thing here o__O) they definitely should've been taught.

  3. Sounds like your school didn't hear of Open Source yet or ? :-)
    if they would they should know installing OpenOffice at home solves their compatibility issue.

    at our school (germany) we're using OpenOffice too, many pupils, including me don't like that kind we have to use it. (As ODPs are not editable during presentation ...) But localy they managed to integrate OpenOffice courses into our schedule, now we've got writer in grade 5, and later on in grade 6 and 7 calc and impress.

    Mads, I hope you and your Loco will continue their work not only fighting for OOo but also for Ubuntu.

  4. All in all its IT's fault. Bad planning and execution on platform changes:3

  5. benste -> This isn't my school, I just live in Denmark ;-)

  6. I went to school in that municipality, and I was really happy when I heard about the switch. Sadly I'm not surprised hearing this.

    But I really agree in the teaching part (d0od). They shouldn't send them to exams with it, without helping them.

    (On the other hand, I wasn't tought Microsoft Office when I was there either)

  7. There is a learning curve for any kind of new software.

    It sounds as if it has been done for some kind of power struggle and political gain. School children should NOT be used as pawns or guinea pigs.

    Before switching there should have been consultations and demonstrations with teachers, parents AND students. No matter how good the software is, or no matter what the benefits, if people -- even children -- feel they have been forced it will not be accepted.

  8. I am in IT for some local schools and have 3rd graders up to 8th grade using OpenOffice and Google Docs alternately with no problem or complaints at all.

    There are students who have windows based computers at home and for some reason, they report little difficulty adjusting from MO to OOo.

    Amazing how one group of students isn't able to make a simple transition yet three other schools here are able to easily.

    This sounds politically and likely Microsoft orchestrated. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to create a document in any of these apps.

    Big Bear

  9. No matter what the change was people would have some sort of issue. People saying that what they have at home being different is non-issue to me when you download OOO for free anyway.
    If anyone has used a Office package they should be able to adjust to the slight differences fromy Office 2003 to OOO. Then add in how different Office 2007 is then its a breeze to get used to OOO.
    As to how different Office apps render their documents, don't try to take a Office 2007 doc to Office 2003, let alone even different OS version of the same Office release.
    No matter what applications will be used people use they will have issues but these can be reduced by decent training and education.

  10. What needs to be emphasized:

    It is ONE school in ONE municipality that has complained. And which attracts so much attention. And why the student board felt the need to go the press instead od consulting the IT department is really an open question.

    But the complaints also goes to show, that when implementing radical software changes in big coroporate environments, it is very wise to consult someone with experience in implementing the software to avoid issues like this.

    It is of course unfortunate for the pupils that their exam work is suffering from this, but it could have been avoided by better analyzing the usage of office before making the switch.

  11. I never heard of ANYONE being given le$$ons in Microsoft programs. Why do they complain when provided with an alternative? - people just hate change, that's all. Get over it.

    This simply shows the wisdom in the Municipality's decision. It will work out for the best in the long-term if they hang in there. Let's get behind them with some support

  12. Every one of here got the main point, we all grew up using Microsoft not computer. That how stupid we became, lets us re-learn the true computer skill

  13. Ooo is good i use it every day no problem with it. Since late 2008.

  14. These are bogus complaints. The district standard is OpenOffice the latest version of which is available on CD or via FREE download for Microsoft AND Linux AND Apple platforms (and others) unlike the former (expensive) standard. If someone needs training for Microsoft Office they probably need training for OpenOffice, but both of these programs are pretty obvious to learn and use. Are these kids affected by such significant learning disabilities that they can't figure out a GUI based word processor or spreadsheet or drawing program? How did there parents manage to get through school using typewriters and pens.

  15. If you use a computer for any length of time, you will have to learn new software at some point. Anyone remember the introduction of the "ribbon" interface?

    On the other hand, the mandate of a school is to teach. It appears this school system has failed on that account. This is probably due to the teachers resisting new learning, a common, if oxymoronic, problem. In all likelihood, it is the teachers' prejudices that are being echoed by the students.

    The sense of entitlement exhibited by instructors in publicly-funded schools is often disgraceful. It is unfortunate that the principles of competition are so often absent in the public sphere.

  16. I think the complaints are perfectly legitimate and easily addressable.

    Compulsory teaching courses for OpenOffice should be part of the curriculum in all schools, as well as other applications that are being used in place of MS Publisher in schools (if it is the case that MS Publisher was being used in schools).

  17. They gotta be smarter than American students. That said if you know how to use Office and you can't figure out how to use OpenOffice you are a retard.

  18. First off,
    - how many students complained about OOo? They don't say

    - Did the students or their representatives discuss the issues with the administration or the IT group of this municipality before sending the letter to the mayor? If they did, why didn't they say anything about it in their letter? Sounds fishy to me.

    - Did the blogger do any investigative reporting or just published a sensational blog? There is a note about MS complaining but no mention of any comments by the administration or IT about the subject. It looks like sensationalism at large to me

    - Training is very important. Is the administration/IT of this municipality that dumb to roll out a new application before offering adequate training? I don't think so. May be they did offer, but was not enough for some or may be the complaining students just chose not to attend.

    It seems to me that some one is behind this with ulterior motives, especially the reasons give are the same old ones we constantly hear from MS.

  19. Ok so their concerns are
    1: It is not the same, should we use it if it isn't exactly the same look as the one we used before. There is also something about taking an exam with it.
    2: Formatting is not preserved between Word and OpenOffice.
    3: Higher courses use MS Office, yet why must we learn OO.o
    4: Why are we the guinea pigs
    5: There isn't a dedicated Publisher program, we want one
    6: MS Office worked well, and now we don't have it anymore
    1: If you told me I had to take an exam using Office 2K7 I would be worried too. I haven't used it very much at all. Exams aren't the best time to introduce new software, however these things happen.
    2: I've noticed this too, occasionally OO.o will open a Word doc and the text will be all messed up. I would suggest using OpenOffice at home, as this seems to be more of a Word not writing to spec.
    3: You don't know that, and more experience with different applications improves your ability to adapt to new situations, this is a learning experience it will help you.
    4: Get over it, this happens in the real world all the time
    5: Scribus is what you want, OO.o focuses on core technologies, while MS Office is a bit more willy-nilly about what is a core office suite
    6: Definitely written by MS, there are very few people who have actually used OpenOffice and would say MS Office works better. All of those very few are saying that because OO.o didn't support small and random feature X at the time.

    So essentially, I can't find anything that couldn't be solved by better requirements gathering and training.

  20. Comon, maybe you should also ask children if they like exams on math, physics or chemistry - I'm sure there result of such inquiry would be even more sensational.

    These are children - they never like to learn anything and would always complain. Those teachers who follow their whims are not professionals or just dissemble something.

  21. I find it odd that they're complaining that they're doing their assignments at home on MS Word and the layout isn't coming across properly on Openoffice. Why aren't they downloading Openoffice for home?

    I've built computers for people who have children in school and they've been forced to buy copies of Microsoft Office because that's what the school uses. Unfortunately the schools use Office 2003 which is not properly compatible with Office 2007 and has a completely different interface.

  22. I'm from Denmark, and to mee this article has nothing to do with OpenOffice, except the final conslusion, which completely skips the context and says OpenOffice is worse than Ms Office, but they don't provide any examples. This makse me wonder who the source of inspiration to this final jugdement is.... ;-)

  23. Also, why are the kids being taught Publisher?

    Publisher is universally hated amongst typesetters and printers, because it's utterly useless for any work that needs to get printed on anything other than a $50 bubblejet.

    What you *will* find is people using QuarkXPress for output print work, and Scribus bears some similarity to QuarkXPress. You'll also find InDesign, but I don't know what's similar to that these days.

    I don't think the kids are buying the full MS Office Professional suite to do their Publisher assignments on, do you?

  24. Medellin, enero 9 de 2009

    Este es un claro caso de implementacion de OOo sin un sencillo y nada costoso plan de sensibilizacion a la comunidad involucrada. En mi país hemos implementado procesos de migracion exitosos a OOo que involucran el área educativa en cientos de escritorios y dichos procesos siempre han tenido un par de semanas de sensibilizacion y talleres de migracion reales.

    Otro punto bien importante es que los técnicos encargados de la respectiva instalacion y customizacion (configuración), la hacen a la ligera (solo deprimen la tecla "enter" en cada pantallazo del proceso de instalacion), lo que termina con un " ... producto pesado, mal instalado e ineficiente no solo en su carga inicial, sino en su operación, ademas es la causa de las famosas " ... diferencias de formato entre documentos Word y Writer ..", que desaparecen totalmente si se hace el proceso descrito en dicho documento. Para resolver este punto les sugiero tomar este documento http://www.myebook.com/index.php?option=ebook&id=22279, que enfoca adecuadamente el respectivo punto.

    Respecto a la disponibilidad de un programa Open Source de un excelente desempeño y que sobrepasa con creces a Publisher y es Scribus, que puede ser bajado de http://www.scribus.net/, que ademas puede ser ampliamente relacionado con OOo, vía archivos creados en el estándar ODF.

    Finalmente para el ambiente escolar básico existe un hermoso desarrollo francés de OOo, llamado OO4Kids, que no solo es el mismo producto, sino que tiene un enfoque especialmente dirigido al ambiente estudiantil básico (k12), puede ser bajada de: http://download.ooo4kids.org/en.

    También en esta "... queja .." se detecta claramente que el ambiente local desconoce claramente lo que significa SER LIBRE, y tener la posibilidad de DEFINIR mis propios alcances en el manejo, propiedad, administracion y seguridad de mi información digital. Este factor muestra claramente que la comunidad debe ser urgentemente sensibilizada en el tema de Open Source, para lo cual les recomiendo este documento:
    y este excelente documento:

    Si desean compartir nuestras exitosas experiencias en este tipo de procesos pueden contactarnos en openoffice_2@yahoo.com, estamos basados en Colombia y nuestro tel es (574) 4383946.


    Luis e. Vasquez
    OpenOffice.org Volunteer & Support

  25. (QUOTE)
    "We also have big problems with the layout. For example if we write a Danish-style home in the Word and spend much time on layout in style when we come to the school and must print it out or edit the layout is completely different and more cluttered than we had used time at home. This is a problem because we are also characters in order..." reads the letter.

    This problem is very easy to solve and is a problem that must be dealt with. The solution give every child a free of charge CD with OpenOffice on it for them to take home and install on their home PC or any other PC as they wish, and make it compulsory for them to do homework on OpenOffice rather than Microsoft Office. It certainly does not make sense to confuse students by allowing them to use Microsoft Office at home, when the school is using OpenOffice, and when the students can install and use OpenOffice free of charge at home.

    OpenOffice is free and unlike Microsoft Office can be freely and legally be installed on as many PCs as necessary. This also solves the problem you always have with Microsoft Office of illegal installation or use of MS software outside the terms of the license, and ensures that poor students are not disadvantaged by the fact that their parents cannot afford to buy Microsoft Office.

    I am strongly anti-piracy, and I do not advocate that schools should be involved in issuing software for home installation that can be used illegally in this manner to school children. MS licenses have conditions for home use that restrict to a certain number of installations, to use by students, and that require upgrade or removal from home hard drives once the student ceases to be a student. It is not possible for the school to supervise that the student is properly complying with this if they are allowed to install school supplied software at home. Therefore only free, licensing safe software like OpenOffice and not Proprietary software like MS Office should be distributed to students for home installation.

  26. If they use MSO there is no problem to learn how to use OOo - it's the same thing.

    Some special functions are different in MSO and OOo but I don't think Danish schoolchildren use it (or they wouldn't have a problem with OOo).

    In addition I don't see why they didn't install OOo on home computers or don't use ODT (and .odt SUN converter for MSO).

    P.S. Only one thing is upset me in OOo - search form in Calc.

  27. The case is, that the CIO decided to implement OpenOffice in primary schools from last summer. This decision was from the beginning backed up by the local politicians.

    At that time, Microsoft technical manager Jasper Bojsen sendt an open letter to the mayer, claiming that the decision would put students from Lyngby-Taarbæk in a very poor situation, because OpenOffice.org is not as 'feature rich' as his own product. That letter went right back on him and the local politicians made a clear statement, that they where backing up the decision.

    The students from _one_ school have made complaints about compatibility and lack of training and information. Some rumors says that the complaint was actually written by a Microsoft employee, but that can't be proven. The fact is, that the letter was by an adult and not by a child.

    It turns out that the case has nothing to do with either OpenOffice.org or the children. It's about information and instructions. The information given from the city hall was never passed on to the children on that particular school. The students didn't know, that they should use OpenOffice.org for their homework. They where never told that they could get help from the city hall etc. This is, what I would call a school example of what happens if you implement OpenOffice.org

    I have spoken to the CIO this week and I know him well. He is a well known supporter of FOSS and OpenOffice.org in Denmark. I have told him that the community would be happy to help.

  28. School reports that their studets have a lack of training. Hmmm. Whos fault is that?

  29. Maybe parents can have a part in the 'education' of the students...

    Well, my husband works on a Windows-PC with the MS Office-Suit installed, and I have a Linux-machine with OO. My son (13 y.o) uses both since he is , and he doesn't think there are many differences (I must say, as a young child of around 4-5 years, he prefered my computer, because: 'in Linux you can find all the games in one place!-

    At school he uses MS-office, but he usually makes his homeworks on the Linux-machine, with OpenOffice, and that never causes him problems.

  30. Other than the 'Layouts Change' complaint when moving between Office versions, (the answer to which is to give all of the students install CDs for Open Office), pretty much everything else seems like vague fear-mongering you would hear from Microsoft.
    And, if the schools went to Office 2007, students would have more serious problems opening files at home than 'the layout changes a bit'.

    Students new to computers would also need help learning MS Office, and students used to older versions of MS Office would need more training to go to Office 2007 than they would go to OpenOffice.

  31. I need Apple iWork, but not these unusable software.
    Please, Oberbürgermeister :-)

  32. I don't use spreadsheets: spreadsheets are an abomination mixing layout and logic into an untangable mess once a certain level of complexity has been exceeded. I don't use Word: I'm a writer, not a layout artist. The program should take care of that. Apart from that, Word becomes unstable after a certain size has been exceeded and since it's such a beautiful proprietary format, there is nothing you can do to save even a significant portion of it. Consequently, I hardly ever use any Office application. I use LyX or Graphviz. If you want to learn young people how to be productive, don't learn them either MS or OOo. It will only make them unhappy.