I've previously described just how deeply awful Excel X is when using Visual Basic. But things recently got even worse when I found a bizarre bug in Excel X's For Each operator that prevented me from iterating on an array. Desperate for some kind of alternative I checked out Open Office for the Mac again and found a new version, 1.1.2, which is significantly better than the previous version and fits my needs much better than Excel X.
I actually tried two versions of Open Office, NeoOffice/J and OOo 1.1.2,
NeoOffice/j is a re-implementation of OOo 1.0.0 (OpenOffice.org == OOo) on top of Java instead of X. Unfortunately NeoOffice/J proved to be unstable once I started editing and testing Basic macros in spreadsheet so I had to abandon it.
OOo on the other hand has proven to be very stable. Unfortunate it suffers from a number of really annoying bugs:
- During installation the font translation program, with no progress dialog, ate 20% of my cpu for 40 minutes translating Mac fonts into OOo fonts. This is a well known problem but still hasn't been fixed. In the end I had to kill the installer.
- During startup the OOo startup application will always ask me what directory OOo is installed in, it can't seem to figure it out for itself or remember my last answer.
- OOo Basic can't handle math operations that combine variants and currency variables. Thankfully double and variant variables work just fine so that was easy to work around.
- When importing an Excel spreadsheet and saving it in native OO format something bizarre happens where all the original Excel function names will absolutely not work. The only way to get the Excel macros functional is to change all of their names. No, I'm not kidding.
- The Mac X11 and OOo settings suck. See here for a list of things to change to make things better. I did everything but the enhanced PDF and alternate font driver support.
- To quote from the ReadMe just so no one can accuse me of making this up "Clipboard data exchange is limited to 128 character plain text copy/paste."
Even after tweaking OOo in the manner described here the fonts in OOo are still awful and the copy/paste buffer limitation is a show stopper. Given the choice between Word X and OOo writer I would pick Word every time. But unlike my previous experience I would now say that OOo writer is at least usable. So there is hope!
While it's true that neither Excel X nor OOo spreadsheet can hold a candle to Excel for Windows the sad truth is that in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king and for OS X, if you need Basic macros, OOo spreadsheet has one good eye to Excel X's complete blindness.