Gnumeric vs. OpenOffice.org Calc

In my previous post OpenOffice.org Calc prevailed against KSpread, but now it's faces a new challenger. Will Gnumeric have what it takes to win the crown? Gnumeric is a Free, open source spreadsheet from the GNOME project.

I tested with Gnumeric version 1.7.0 in Kubuntu Edgy and 1.7.8 in Kubuntu Feisty. For Calc I used version 2.0.4.

Format Compatibility

I started with the same .ods spreadsheet as before. Gnumeric did handle it better than KSpread, but a lot of formatting disappeared. All currency and percentage settings were dropped back to general numbers with no precision control. For percentages I now see six decimal places vs. the two that should be shown.

Justification, bold text, and cell underlines did import correctly. As did formulas.

Saving the file presented a new problem. .ods support is specifically listed as "unfinished" in the save dialog.

Gnumeric does better with Excel files. All of the .xls files I opened were correct. I was also able to save as .xls in Gnumeric and reopen the files in Calc without any loss of format or information. Hopefully the .ods support will be brought up to this level soon.

The one item I noticed with .xls files that the two programs handled differently had to do with macros. Calc asked me if I wanted to enable or disable them when the file loaded. Gnumeric gave no such option.

General Use Impressions

By default, Gnumeric has four rows of toolbars to Calc's three. The end result is only 32 rows visible on screen vs. 35 for Calc. In case you are keeping track, KSpread showed 38 rows. The story reverses for columns with Gnumeric displaying 21 and Calc 17. Despite the number difference though, Calc actually has more viewable space. The difference is due to Calc having a larger default column width. Overall Calc has more useable space than Gnumeric. KSpread's screen with is similar to Gnumeric.

There are a few complaints I had about KSpread that Gnumeric gets right. Calc has the same behavior as Gnumeric for each of these.

  • Only one cell's distance is moved at a time when scrolling vertically
  • The filename is listed as the window title instead of the file's path
  • Double clicking the edge of a column resizes it to fit the width of the widest cell

The Freeze feature in Gnumeric operates the same way as does Calc's. The only difference is where it is located. Calc places it on the Window menu while Gnumeric consolidates it to the View menu.

One of my complaints about Calc is that it doesn't allow you to right-click on text in the function bar to cut, copy, or paste it. Like KSpread, Gnumeric gets it right.

Another missing feature in Calc is the ability to Insert and Paste a row in a single command from the right-click menu. Unfortunately, Gnumeric is also missing this capability.

Performance

Like KSpread, Gnumeric loads faster than Calc, however, it actually seems slower during day-to-day use. There were noticable delays with doing simple tasks like deleting, pasting, and saving. KSpread also took too long when saving, but it didn't have any problems the rest of the time.

Conclusion

When you get down to it, Gnumeric just doesn't seem to offer much that's better than OpenOffice.org Calc. It loads slightly faster, but suffers in performance elsewhere. It doesn't have many of the deficiencies that KSpread had, but it doesn't improve on Calc in those areas either.

If the OpenOffice.org suite doesn't interest you, or you don't use Java, then Gnumeric can be a good solution. Like KSpread though, format compatibility is a problem, but only for .ods right now. Hopefully this area can be improved. It would be nice to be able to pick a spreadsheet based entirely upon features and performance rather than compatibility.

I'm glad I gave Gnumeric a try, but I will be sticking with Calc for my everyday use.