Ubuntu Teen

Moving back to Wordpress

Hi, for any of you who follow my blog, I have moved it to Wordpress, see how it goes :-)


Why does this still happen?


Should be this:

Ideas for an Office Suite of the Future

Please note, I do not tend to offend anyone in this post, I am simply expressing my opinion of a product that I feel is too far behind and needs to accept that it may need to start again. Having said that PLEASE DO leave your comments as I would be very interested in your opinion on the subject matter.

Having received a copy of the Microsoft Office 2010 beta in my PCPro magazine subscription, I decided to try out the new version of Microsoft’s Office Suite. I must say it is quite good and unfortunately it really made me lose faith in OpenOffice.

Before I begin I must say I have used Open Office ever since I started using Ubuntu and it has served me relatively well. However I must say I would never describe using OpenOffice as particularly clever or easy. There was never that little feature that made me think “Wow”. There was always an annoying thing that although didn’t make me stop using OpenOffice, it didn’t make me appreciate it that much. Having now used Office 2010, these annoying things are now very annoying as the contrast between even a beta of this new software and where OpenOffice currently is really does make me depressed.

I feel as though it doesn’t seem possible to win with OpenOffice and that to start from scratch with a clear plan is the only way to equal Microsoft’s offering. Below is a list of the things I feel are necessary to do just this.

  1. Speedy and Reliable – Although the latter doesn’t really apply in OpenOffice or Office 2010, the basic needs I want from any piece of software are that it is going to be stable, but also that it needs to be quick. Although between releases, OpenOffice has had little tweaks, it always felt sluggish to me. A new office suite would have to start up quick, but also once it has started and you are using it, remain responsive and not feel slow. I don’t know whether this issue stems from the fact OpenOffice is programmed in Java, however there must be a cross-platform library that can also be quick.  It also must be very stable and not crash as I am about to save that important document!.
  2. Better Interface – OpenOffice has a clunky and old interface, an new office suite must have an easy-to-use and intuitive interface. Free Software now has some of the best UI designers in the business and I am sure this would not be hard to achieve. For example open OpenOffice Writer now and try to create a rectangle that is filled with any custom colour of your choice. It is just too difficult. There just needs to be a base modern interface, nothing complex, just adhering to the GNOME HIG and such documents, so that creating a simple document is not a chore. Things like Office 2010’s ‘Backstage View’ are great ideas, that I just don’t seem coming into OpenOffice anytime soon.
  3. We Have to Beat the Ribbon – Having used Office 2010 for only a short time, I must say that the ribbon is better than the current OpenOffice interface by far, however I would not say it is ideal. I believe that there must be a better way of doing it, however it just have to be found. Having said this, the designers of OpenOffice UX are working on just this, and they may end up producing it, however this brings me nicely onto my next point.
  4. A Truly Open Project – Again this is not from practical experience however OpenOffice feels to be to be a closed open-source product. I find that although the fact a company (Sun) is the driver behind OpenOffice is beneficial, that it seems to me that to get any changes into OpenOffice is not a very easy process for an ‘outsider’ who just wants to improve something. Ubuntu is proof that a company-backed open-source product can work very well but it seems OpenOffice does not have this balance. Projects such as Go-OO reinforce this idea into my head and I feel that OpenOffice will die out pretty quickly as a useful tool if this isn’t addressed. To start from scratch and address this problem form the word grow would eliminate this problem and allow for rapid development and user-opinion based growth.
  5. Improve Customization – You need only look at a program like Mozilla Firefox to see that people like to be able to change their programs. Although OpenOffice has always had add-ons, they have never really been pushed or recognised in the same way, this includes themes and extensions. I wonder whether this problem stems from the actual building of an add-on. When I was trying to look at how OpenOffice icon themes are made, I almost fainted. Themes are comprised of a single archive file, in which there are around 12 folders, each containing hundreds of files with cryptic and non-human readable names, some files related to the icon theme, many not. Although this may only apply to theming OpenOffice, I wonder whether this problem exists for extensions as well. To attract the opportunist programmer/artists, we need an easy way to create add-ons, and they need to be marketed appropriately. The programming language needs to be a common, easy-to-use but extensible one that will encourage development not hinder it. Again look at what Firefox and Chromium are doing, Javascript is not exactly a new language but it is simple and very common, allowing for a large percentage of people to transform their ideas into reality. In short we need a modern add-on platform that is designed for and by the developers that will use it.
  6. Keep it beautiful from the start – Away from the underlying parts of an office suite, the user needs to have the default templates etc. to be pretty. The current colour palette of OpenOffice is reminiscent of Windows 95 and doesn’t even begin to stand up against 2010’s elegant colours and templates. The frustrating thing about this point is that things like these are easy to change and I believe the material would already be out there, however referring back to point 4, it doesn’t seem like it is going to happen.
  7. The Little Things – Similar to the philosophy of the 100 Papercuts Project, there are a set of little things that an office suite simply needs to get right in order to not annoy the user. Things such as native widget theming (I am looking at you OpenOffice), or complete transparency between changing and using different file-formats need to just work.

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