I have had VERY positive experiences this past week with both NeoOffice (the Macintosh OS X port of OpenOffice) and SeaShore (a variant of the open source GIMP photo editor for Mac OS X which does not require X11.) For both of my presentations Saturday for the 2008 Survive and Thrive Single Moms conference in Edmond, Oklahoma, (Internet Safety and Digital Storytelling with VoiceThread) I used NeoOffice to create my presentation slides. I was VERY impressed. I used NeoOffice for the first time in earnest (not just playing with it, but creating an actual 80+ slide presentation) about a month ago when I shared a presentation on social networking and Internet Safety for the Oklahoma Library Association. NeoOffice is robust and powerful. I know there are many school officials who continue to question the value and power of open source productivity software suites like OpenOffice. I think doubters should make time to create a full presentation in an open source alternative to Microsoft Office to see for themselves if their doubts are justified. The more I use open source software tools, like NeoOffice, SeaShore, and Audacity, the more I become convinced these programs should be ubiquitous computing staples on every school computer.

This afternoon I helped my son take some photographs and create a header banner for his new website, “String and Me: String Figures and How To Make Them.” We used SeaShore, which is a Mac OS X version of the open source GIMP photo editor. Unlike GIMP on OS X, however, SeaShore does not require X11, and we found it to be both powerful and quite capable to facilitate the creation of a multi-layered photo composite. No, it is NOT exactly like PhotoShop, but given that it is FREE it’s just amazing what SeaShore can do.

image of photo editing

It is delightful to personally experience the creative power of these open source software programs. Both of these are included on the list of Mac OS X software applications I currently (and have recently) used.

Since the USB portion of my Keyspan Easy Presenter remote control for advancing slides during my presentations is still in Howe, Oklahoma, I wanted to use my Apple Remote control (which came free with my MacBook) to advance my presentation slides remotely on Saturday. Since I was using NeoOffice instead of Keynote (which works natively with the Apple Remote) I was pleased to discover NeoRemote. NeoRemote is a free application which lets you use your Apple Remote with NeoOffice (as well as other programs which use the same keyboard shortcuts) to drive a presentation. The only problem I had with NeoRemote is that the program menu would not let me quit the application, I had to use the “force quit” key sequence to stop the program when I wanted to go back to using the Apple Remote to drive a Front Row photo slideshow.

Long live open source software and the developers who have created and shared their talents in and through these projects! :-)

Now I need to find time and an excuse to play with online software I’ve been wanting to dabble with, including Picnik and Jumpcut…..

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  • http://www.bainbridge.wednet.edu/blogs/technoman Randy Orwin

    Welcome to the club Wesley! I am not a Mac user, but have used OpenOffice on Linux and Windows exclusively for the last three or four years. I have done numerous presentations with no problems what so ever. Your statement “…these programs should be ubiquitous computing staples on every school computer.” is oh so true. I am the tech director in a school district and we have a large number of Open Source applications that are standard on all of our images, including OpenOffice, Gimp and Audacity. We have just finished our first full year of rolling out OpenOffice on all new machines and for the most part it has been fairly successful. We hope to finish the roll out in the next year or so. Our biggest challenges haven’t been with the software but with “change” in general.

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    That is awesome, Randy! I would love to support ways to amplify your experience so more technology directors can hear directly about your experiences. Have you written an article about your experiences to date for an educational technology magazine or journal? If not please consider doing so. I’m delighted to hear you all have had good success… yes, the human element often is the toughest part, isn’t it?! None of us like our cheese to be moved…. even if the new cheese is better tasting and free, as is the case with many open source programs! :-)

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