Friday, April 16, 2010

#0033 Software for Breakdowns

Reader Jeremy asks: "What software do you prefer for breakdown/spreadsheets?"

OpenOffice.While there are several great options, I like to use Open Office best.  I've been using this software now for 10 years on PC and MAC.  I like the price point of Open Office -$0, and the philosophy of open source.  With a quick easy install I have access to a full suite.  I mostly use the document writer and spreadsheet editor, but have dabbled with presentations, drawing and databases using Open Office.  I update with the latest release about once a year or more often. 

Microsoft Excel (Windows)I last worked with Excel 2007.  The interface redesign was just annoying for me.  In my opinion, I cannot understand why any company would invest in a technology when a perfectly excellent option is available for free.  There may be issues of standards and compliance.  I believe the main reason for the GUI change in MSoffice was to differentiate from the competition with 'trademark' user interfaces.  By moving MSoffice users to a different GUI paradigm, the retraining hurdle makes it harder for companies with established users to switch.  Even so, Excel is a great program, but buying it and keeping it up to date is pricey. 

Google DocsFor collaborative work, I like Google Docs spreadsheets.  It can import/export from many formats, including Open Office.    I've used Google Docs a great deal for project management / approval tracking as well, so let me speak more to that...

I use color extensively to help speed reviewing a spreadsheet, and love to use conditional formatting.  Conditional formatting is the ability to set the color and other attributes of the cell based on it's value or some other test. One thing great about a Google spreadsheet is that it allows FIVE conditional formatting sets.  Open Office and Excel ( last time I checked) were both limited to three, although they allow you to change font style, size, and other attributes while Google only allows you to change font and cell color. For example, on The Universe, we used Google Docs to track every shot, and color-coded shots based on status codes and other information. For status, as the color became warmer, the shot was becoming closer to final.   It helped a great deal, because on the last day, I just was focusing on shots with a non-final color.

While you can use Excel or Open Office collaboratively, a Google spreadsheet has the advantage of allowing N-simultaneous viewers and X-simultaneous editors.  It was a viable and free way to manage our projects.  At any given time I was managing material flow, direction and approvals this way for several shows, multiple episodes and hundreds of shots while sharing the information with several supervisors, directors, post supervisors and a crew of 20-40 artists. Without having to pay any fees to license a database application, database server or use a subscription shot tracking software.

Some users have access to and like Filemaker Pro very much.  I've not worked with the program, so cannot comment.   A number of my friends and colleagues who have used it swear by it and would not use anything else. 

The question for my readers is,
what do you like to use?

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