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New OpenOffice.org-Based Office Suite 355

Posted by timothy
from the unfortunate-name dept.
Voidhobo writes: "SOT, a Linux-distributor from the home-country of Linux, is offering SOT Office, a free productivity suite partly based on OpenOffice, for Linux and Windows. According to SOT, it is the only office application you will ever need, as it is fully compatible with MS Office and StarOffice." OpenOffice is great, so I hope their claims have merit.
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New OpenOffice.org-Based Office Suite

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 29, 2002 @02:46AM (#3427732)
    its very exciting.

    you can get them here [linux-debian.de].
  • One thing I've noticed within the past year or so is the huge increase in the number of competitors for office suites in the open source/Linux community. While competition may spur innovation in most cases, I don't believe it to be true when taken to this degree for open source software.

    The main reason behind this belief is simply the fact that the reason most people don't adopt secondary office suites is because of the different standards. People use MS Office because they know sending a co-worker a PowerPoint presentation or an Excel spreadsheet will not cause any compatibility issues, because it is a fair assumption that this person also has MS Office. What the Linux community really needs is a single office suite standard, eliminating the compatibility issues. Then we can work on competition.

    • When you say single office suite standard, do you mean a single office package, like SOT Office, StarOffice, etc? Or do you mean so that the file types are all standardized so that there could be a lot of different office suites, but they all followed a standard, so all the files were compatible with each office suite? I think either way, it's a good idea, but it's hard to say which would help more. If one office suite could capture the majority of the non-MS-Office market that was able to read/write a lot of formats, I think that would be ideal.
    • Before basic editing: The main reason behind this belief is simply the fact that the reason most people don't adopt secondary office suites is because of the different standards.

      After: Most people don't adopt secondary office suites because of the different standards.

    • I agree to an extent. However, there is one important aspect that many people do not realize is that compatibility is only part of the issue. The key selling point of an OSS office suite is the relatively low cost of ownership. But to calculate this total cost of ownership, you need to factor in a number of other variables. The most important, as you mentioned, is compatibility. If a person is going to spend 20 hours writing a report, does he have to spend another 5 hours to get it to a readable format for his boss? (Getting your boss to switch to your software is out of the question in many environments) Now the reason why MS Office is so popular is that...it is worth the extra $200 that you have to spend to save a couple hours here and a couple hours there per project.

      I think the most important thing that OSS Office suites need to focus on is compatibility with the majority of the office suite out there (in this case MS Office). This doesn't mean that you need to run the file through another program to convert it or have to do something different so that it is compatible with MS Office...it should just be. This will wrestle some users away from the grips of MS

      Secondly, [I think this is something that everyone overlooks], consumers don't like change. Even a change in a look and feel is a drastic difference. One thing that I still haven't found in the Linux Office Suites is the whole MS Word/Office look and feel. The pulldown menus and the icons just don't look and feel right. Once you get people to use your software and not realize that they are not using MS Word, you've succeeded in achieving what you need to do.

      Once you get critical mass, you can then define your own look and feel. Until then...you need to imitate...
      • by Anonymous Coward
        It's impossible. I have yet to see ONE office suite that didn't produce "erroneous" Word-documents for the simplest of examples. The freeware 602 PRO PC SUITE is probably the best among them, but it too fails to capture all the quirks. However, when it comes to reproducing all the bugs MS has introduced in their formats, that is next to impossible to accomplish without either specs or sourcecode.

        To say that MS is backwards compatible is hypocritical to say the least. I know you didn't say it, but the grand-parent post implied it.

        If the DOJ-case is to have any merit at all, MS should be forced to open up all their specs on their formats. Down to the nitty gritty details + all the flaws that are necessary to reproduce so-called "bug-free" Word documents (there really ain't no such thang baby!). That would allow REAL competition.

        Word would be great if it weren't for all those quirks and bugs though. I've seen so-called Word-experts struggle for hours to do simple things correctly in Word.
        • I've seen so-called Word-experts struggle for hours to do simple things correctly in Word.

          As the saying goes, "I need a word processor which knows how to number its pages..."

          (says someone using LaTeX. WhooHoo! no need for a word processor ever again!)
    • What the Linux community really needs is a single office suite standard, eliminating the compatibility issues.
      I agree. I think that the standards that they need to agree on are file formats, and the desire to reuse as much code as possible.

      Other than that, I'd encourage them to make as many skins and interfaces as possible. I believe that it's good to have variation so that people can customize according to their needs. For example, I have a 386 with 8MB of RAM and an approx. 540MB harddrive. I'd love to install a Linux desktop on it, but it's not going to be easy! :^) If there were a trimmed down version to meet my needs, then that would be great. A featureful, non-trimmed down version would really help those with lots of hardware.

      Other variations may include plugins, so that documents can be browsed on the web, and we can finally get rid of pdf files.

      Any thoughts and comments?
      • by Anonymous Coward
        "... we can finally get rid of pdf files".
        Honestly, I don't understand: you say that standards are a good thing, yet you don't like pdf files. I have to ask you, did even once a PDF file go wrong on your computer while display right on a coleague? To me, pdf (and ps, of course) are the best document formats out there. Simple, easily convertible to text (if needed), with no problems, and based on STANDARDS.

        PS: Does MS Office work on your computer [the 386]? Just curious.
        • Turns out that whenever I'm miles away from a phone line on someone else's PC they only have Acrobat 3 and the document requires 5. :)

          Personally I find pdf documents an absolute nightmare to read, and searching, placeholding etc even more of an effort. And for such a great document standard, it sure takes a lot of processing power to do anything (scrolling, loading) quickly, not to mention the fact that its flexibility encourages people do do insane things like embed images in every page. Mmmm, forty page documents that come out at 80 megabytes. Tasty.

          I agree with the sentiment that it's ludicrous to do away with a format designed to be portable and stardard, but just because it's portable doesn't mean I actually _like_ it.

          - Chris
          • PDF is a useful intermediate stage between the computer and a printer, but it's not good for much else.

            I find it great for previewing pdflatex files before I print them, but trying to read internet documents on Acrobat Reader is just painful. Please can they fix the broken up/down pageup/pagedown buttons?

            Acrobat reader on linux stands out like a sore thumb for the same reason: "We know best, we'll program our own GUI" so it looks like a malformed concrete block amongst pretty aqua-themed gnome apps.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      In my opinion Microsoft Office is one of the best software packages ever produced. The Excel application is superb for modelling systems that does not require advanced math like that in Matlab or SPSS. They're in for some tough technical/engineering competition with Microsoft here.

      Now to another question that I think would be of importance to a large chunk of the Slashdot readers: What will the economic effects for the software industry be if software such as Office (which is a huge driver for software revenue and profits) is given away for free? Note that I'm talking about the broad ideological wishing here that all software should be free and open, not just MS Office.

      Since a lot of you are pursuing a career in software or systems I find the strive towards free software a bit strange. How many engineers (and for that sake.. people like managers and support staff) are involved in the MS Office product? Tens of thousands make their living of that product. That would NOT be possible if Microsoft did not pull in the cash to fund the product and made a profit (which is a requirement for entering into a business segment).

      While I must say that it is very nice to have free software such as operating systems, compilers etc available instead of having to buy (or copy..) expensive software, I think that this is doing more damage than good to the people involved in software development. Think about it: If there was no free Internet server, no free database engine and so on, COMPANIES (not CompSci-students) would buy those product to realise products and systems. Is it really that wrong to ask a software development company to pay money for all the bleeding edge tools that make their work so much easier? After all, that money goes back into the software industry and generates some important figures for those working in the industry. More revenues and profit for software companies leads to:
      More jobs for engineers
      More venture capital investments
      More new companies being started to share (and make smaller) that profit (microeconomic fact actually, despite the position of Microsoft)

      I used to think that it was great to be able to set up an entire advanced Internet-system for free, just download and boot up OpenBSD, Apache, MySQL and so on and your're off to coding your CGIs and apps in C and C++ on that nice free compiler (which is not only free, but also best). My thoughts have changed: That WAS nice when you were either a student with no cash wishing to work with technology to learn (been there) OR you were in the process of starting a business in a field related and wanted free software to run everything (been there too). BUT when you think of multi-billion-dollar companies re-building their software budgets and moving to free software to cut costs, it's a whole other thing.

      Anyway, don't you people here think that the money made from proprietary (open or closed) software sold for raw cash is what funds this industry? I mean, do you all want to work as sysadmins on Linux and databaseadmins on MySQL instead of software engineers & technical managers on projects that aim to sell the software you have created?

      • by Roblimo (357) on Monday April 29, 2002 @07:46AM (#3428296) Homepage Journal
        The only problem with this thesis is that the huge,overwhelming, vast majority of software engineers and developers do not work on mass-market software packages, but on custom and/or specialized software for internal corporate use.

        Make it easier and more cost-effective to produce custom applications (by, say opening the source code for the "base" applications), and you almost certainly create more software development jobs than you lose by turning base applications and operating systems into commodities.

        Another thing to consider is that (gasp) there is life beyond software. Most companies that use computers (and software) aren't in the computer business, but use those computers to help produce something else, like animated movies or car parts. Heck, even airlines, hotels, and stock brokerages use computers these days, and if they can have computers that run a little better/faster/cheaper because of Open Source software, they can provide their products or services at a lower price.

        Not that any of this matters to those whose only ambition in life is to write shrinkwrap software, but I thought I would throw it in here anyway.

        - Robin

        • No, the primary problem here is that his thinking is completely confined within the narrow box that seems so common. How in the hell can one believe that it's better for us to waste effort building the same product over and over again, to restrict viewing source code from which others can learn, and to make the number of useful products one can have be limited by one's funds when it doesn't have to be?

          If every piece of software that was useful for large numbers of people was open sourced, guess what would happen: those currently wasted development hours and dollars would be spent on research, or technical support, or, god forbid, charity. The world would be a better place.

          Getting rid of work is mostly what software is all about. We equate getting rid of work too much with getting rid of jobs. They are not the same. All human progress comes from getting rid of work. And we either find more work to do, that makes everyone's lives a little bit better, or we slow down on how much of our lives we spend doing work. Or should we still all be out building houses with our bare hands, adding numbers with pencil and paper, and plowing our fields with mules? After all, power tools, computers, and tractors have eliminated lots of work. Astonishingly, we have found more to do and lead better lives for it.
      • by koekepeer (197127) on Monday April 29, 2002 @08:05AM (#3428353)
        i think the functionality office provides us with is very cool, but the way we are forced to approach it via the gui stinks. hold your horses, and read further to hear my favorite view of the future:

        i a not-so-distant future, the desktop will probably not be ruled by "office suites that need to be able to do anything including coffeemaking".

        while i enjoy the efforts the open source community is putting into creating ms-office work-a-likes, that market will be history. everything is going to be webservices-based, and perhaps we will even reach the state where documents do not need to be tied to an application, but there will just be a unified (xml) document format, which can contain calculation-functionality (a-la excel) but also good layout functions to make it look nice. the whole idea of presentation software, wordprocessors, and drawing programs as separate entities is ridiculous anyhow in my perception. just choose the output device (printer, posterprinter, screen, beamer, webpage) and build the document.

        as it is now, several (often small) companies exist merely because of the need to adapt the swiss-army-knife that office is into a specific tool that suits the client situation. there's money to be made there even if there is no officesuite, since there is always going to be a need for specific solutions.

        so if you ask me: get rid of all those office suites, build something that can do all the things i mentioned before, and build gui layers on top of it that can handle the specific objects within the documents, like editing text, database connection, performing calculations, making drawings/graphs, etc...

        we have all the tools. we have well worked out markup languages, style sheets, etc. we have good databases, good toolkits to build guis. things could become *really* platform independent, and we wouldn't have to worry about how to fit our grand scheme into the current situation, created by software giants as our favorite one from redmond.

        money can be made by providing services to companies that need specific functionality, and not by making software that still needs to be adapted to do the job. whether the solution i propose is done using open software or closed software doesn't make a difference. (to me it does, but let's not go into the open = better than closed subject ;-) but: as long as the document-standards are open, since anyone can then build any gui layer on it they like!
      • by xonker (29382) on Monday April 29, 2002 @09:16AM (#3428645) Homepage Journal
        More revenues and profit for software companies leads to:

        Fewer jobs at the companies that have to pay for software licenses.
        Smaller profit margins for companies that have to pay for software licenses.
        Fewer new companies being created due to the higher startup costs of buying software licenses.

        Free Software and Open Source leads to:
        More jobs for engineers at companies who need people to modify freely available software.
        Higher profit margins for companies not paying insane license fees to Microsoft, Adobe, Macromedia, etc.
        Startup companies being able to spend money on their business rather than software licenses.
        Adding features to software because they're necessary, not because marketing wants another bullet on the box.
        Software being released/deployed when it's ready, not when a company needs to generate revenue.
        A less jarring upgrade cycle for companies that actually use the software.
        Not being left with your dick in your hand when the company that makes your proprietary accounting package goes out of business without passing on the source code or any means of future support and leaving your data in a proprietary and inaccesible format.
        No BSA.
        No companies paying off their congresscritter to pass the DCMA.

        Bottom line - proprietary software hurts a lot more companies than it helps.

        If you want to work for Microsoft, Free Software might be a bad thing. If you want to do real and useful work with a tool that works well it's a very good thing.

        Never forget that Microsoft Office, Windows, Visual Studio and so on are designed primarily with one goal in mind: maximizing Microsoft's profit margin. That goal directly conflicts with the goal of a company that uses those tools - namely, to spend as little as possible to get the job done well. The same is true of just about any proprietary software package - the number one goal of Adobe, Macromedia, Quark and every other proprietary company is to sell more licenses. That means that their goal is to cause their customers to buy more software, more rapidly, than they would want to. Spending more IT budget on licensing than personnel - meaning, in reality, fewer jobs. If every company had one or two people supporting Linux and OpenOffice, say, there'd be a hell of a lot more jobs than are created than the 10,000 or so created by Microsoft.

        I mean, do you all want to work as sysadmins on Linux and databaseadmins on MySQL instead of software engineers & technical managers on projects that aim to sell the software you have created?

        Yes. Working on a team with the goal of selling software means having to work closely with marketing and salescritters. That's punishment enough for anyone.
      • by rutledjw (447990) on Monday April 29, 2002 @10:04AM (#3428838) Homepage
        No, I don't think you could have possibly missed the point by a greater degree. Software, in whatever form, provides a service. It's an OS, a webserver, an appserver, a ... That's it. Further, a decision to use SW or not should be based on the value this software brings to the table.

        If a SW package 'A' has less value then 'B', then one should probably use 'B'. Closed / Open source doesn't have any bearing. The OSS argument is that many OSS sw packages bring similar, and in some cases greater value to the table than closed source software.

        There are certianly exceptions. But for the most part, I see companies taken to the cleaners for software whole capabilities they will never truely exercise. (Could have bought something smaller and less expensive)

        More revenues and profit for software companies leads to:

        More jobs for engineers

        More venture capital investments

        More new companies being started to share (and make smaller) that profit (microeconomic fact actually, despite the position of Microsoft)

        I'd love to see any data/examples you have on this. I think history paints a somewhat different picture. As a software company (be it MS, Oracle, IBM, McAffee, etc) finds a successful product, they tend to expand in their own industry and dominate it. I highly doubt that you can find ANY example to support your ideas above. On the contrary, we have MS (desktop and office suites), Oracle (DB), IBM (used to dominate on servers, DB, etc), McAfee (anti-virus).

        Further, the billions made by SW companies goes into the hands of Executives, Share Holders and VCs NOT into the hands of the everyday worker. I'm not a class warrior, but let's call a spade a spade.

        BUT when you think of multi-billion-dollar companies re-building their software budgets and moving to free software to cut costs, it's a whole other thing.
        On the contrary, the best example I've seen used OSS software when they started out and MIGRATED to more robust closed source solutions as NEEDED (think sprial dev methodology). If they had gone straight to the expensive solution, they would have managed to waste a lot of money on stuff they didn't need and would have needed to purchase more sw later (as some requirements weren't totally hashed out early on).

        don't you people here think that the money made from proprietary (open or closed) software sold for raw cash is what funds this industry?
        NO, I really don't. And I DON'T work as a sysadmin, I AM a software engineer who does development and integration work. When I'm building custom SW, more of the money spent on development goes to me as oppoesed to a COTS company where I'm also supporting the beaurocracy.

        Again, I'm not opposed to closed source, I almost took a job with a closed source company, but I think it's incredibly mis-leading to say that closed source software drives the industry when most programers don't make their living writing closed source software..

        • If a SW package 'A' has less value then 'B', then one should probably use 'B'. Closed / Open source doesn't have any bearing. The OSS argument is that many OSS sw packages bring similar, and in some cases greater value to the table than closed source software.

          Umnh ... value is the crucial term here. The first sentence is correct. With the second sentence you seem to have slipped into the false equating of value with $$. The monetary worth is certainly a part of the value, but it's far from being the whole thing. This is why sole-source agreements routinely need to be justified beyond just saying "it's cheaper". Sole-source in and of itself is a significant cost. The more imprtant a component of your business something is, the stronger the justification for sole-source needs to be. Think of it as a kind of insurance against future "accidents". If something could put your company out of business, then a sole-source justification is nearly impossible.

          People just got into the habit of thinking of software as a kind of fringe item that merely helped make things a bit more efficient. And they didn't change their way of thinking appropriately as the "fringe component" gradually worked its way into the center of their business activities. Now I doubt that many companies could either make their payroll or do their taxes without computer assistance. This is a quite central vulnerability. So sole source justification should be on the level of "this is sufficiently important to put the company out of business". But habit is a strong thing, so people still haven't started thinking of it in that way.

          Open source, and esp. Free Software, is insurance against the sole-source vulnerability. This is a value that very few items of proprietary software bring to the table.

      • ... Microsoft Office is one of the best software packages ever produced.

        At first, I thought that this may have been valid at one time or another, but, then, I realized it isn't. A recent example: even with its auto-super-helpful features disabled, Word 2000 still makes "decisions" for me and crashes frequently. An earlier example: I remember when formatting a nice paper was a piece of cake in Lotus Ami Pro (or even LaTeX, for that matter), but when I tried to do the same basic operations, such as foot notes, in Word, I wasted an entire evening trying. I quickly found that the Word user interface is really pretty crappy.

        You may have had better experience with Excel, and that is fine. But, as a whole, Microsoft Office is at best average and more likely mediocre. It solves many problems poorly and a very few problems well. I'd argue that it has caused more problems via its unreliable file maintenance (trust me, I've seen files disappear and files that simply go bad during normal use) than it has solved through its encyclopedic set of "features".

        What will the economic effects for the software industry be if software such as Office (which is a huge driver for software revenue and profits) is given away for free?

        In the long run, the economic effect can only be positive.

        For starters, the Market has made it very clear that office productivity suites are desirable. This is evident in the massively wide-spread use of them and the many many different office suites that came and went.

        However, Microsoft, over the years, has taken steps to ensure that its office suite is the one used by pretty much everyone. The end result is that Microsoft Office file formats have become a defacto standard communications protocol. One may think that this is a good thing, but I don't.

        Currently, this widely used communications protocol is proprietary, which means you really don't know how your information is transmitted. You don't know how to fix it if it breaks, so, if your file becomes corrupted, a text editor won't be able to save you (let's hope your IT dept. keeps good daily backups). If you have a very large number of documents, you don't know how to query them efficiently for various data (how does one search what are effectively random binary files?). How will you access these files in ten years, when there isn't even a guarantee that Microsoft will still be here (this is true of any company)? If Microsoft dissolves and you didn't save the CD-ROM for Office 95...well, those files might just as well be deleted.

        My argument, here, is that using the proprietary Microsoft communications protocol in Office is risky. Very risky. For some reason, our society at large has not grasped that our important data is simply not accessible to us without Microsoft getting it for us. From a risk management point of view, this is a terrible position for any company or individual to be in.

        Reducing this risk is why I choose do document software, write e-mail, take notes, etc. in plain text or plain-text-based file formats, such as TeX and SGML. This way, if I have the file in hand--but the software that created it is unavailable--it is trivial for me to write my own program to decode it again if all else fails. From a risk management point of view, this is nearly ideal.

        I think many people spend more time than they will admit to dealing with this proprietary communications protocol. Dealing with subtle incompatibilties. Dealing with data corruption. Doing everything manually, for cripes sake, when a text-based format would allow automation through scripts.

        When--not if--we are finally using open file formats, such as the XML formats with Open Office, we will notice a general improvement in the quality of our communications. These open files allow for flexibility that can be invaluable when large amounts of data need to be processed or when the office suite isn't available and we just need a few tidbits of information. It may not be possible to quantify the impact of these improvements, but they will certainly be good for our society.

        How many engineers (and for that sake.. people like managers and support staff) are involved in the MS Office product? Tens of thousands make their living of that product.

        Out of the millions of engineers, managers, and support staff in the world, a few thousand displaced is kinda sad, but it really is a small number of people. The people who used to make a living selling Microsoft Office will adjust. What happens to them is no different than what happens to realestate agents or car salesmen when segments of our economy take a dive. Volatility is nothing new. That's why community colleges are successful. They are an integral part of retraining our workforce as the markets evolve.

        While I must say that it is very nice to have free software such as operating systems, compilers etc available instead of having to buy (or copy..) expensive software, I think that this is doing more damage than good to the people involved in software development.

        Free Software is a real part of the software industry. Yes, it does affect the commercial parts of that industry. However, I, a software engineer, don't mind. I will adapt to the presence of Free Software. All Free Software does is alter what is marketable. I will find something new to produce and sell, and I might be successful at it. This is how the free market worked before and nothing has changed.

        We shouldn't try to do something foolish, such as suppressing Free Software in the hopes of creating jobs, when the Market obviously wants something else. This is what the U.S. goverment tries frequently often with debatable results.

        I used to think that it was great to be able to set up an entire advanced Internet-system for free...

        It still is. The Internet is about community; it is part of our civilisation's infrastructure.

        ... do you all want to work as sysadmins on Linux and databaseadmins on MySQL instead of software engineers & technical managers on projects that aim to sell the software you have created?

        No. As I stated above, there will always be marketable software that remains unwritten. There will always be new problems that need solving, and there will always be people (sometimes called entrepeneurs) who are up to the task.
      • I agree with you completely. This constant push to come up with free alternatives to successful commercial packages is generally harmful to the software industry and those employed in it.

        So many Slashdot readers want to make a career in software development yet many of them believe that all software should be free. I read some of the absurd counter-arguments to your well-reasoned post and they've got more holes in them than swiss cheese. The claim that significant numbers of companies will hire programmers to modify free GPL office suites is absurd. Companies don't modify word processors and spreadsheets. They use them. They don't want to be in a position where they would have to pay a programming staff to migrate customizations to each new version as it came out.

        Similarly ridiculous is the the claim that there is a real and significant market for software engineers to modify GPL software in general. Most of us think it's cool when companies run Linux/BSD. How many of those companies are paying people to modify, say, KDE, Gnome, or Mozilla? (Note that I said "how many of those companies are" and not "is your company." One person posting a response that his company pays him to modify GPL software and 50 other posters saying "yeah, what he said" does not mean that there is a burgeoning market.)

        One poster said:

        the huge,overwhelming, vast majority of software engineers and developers do not work on mass-market software packages, but on custom and/or specialized software for internal corporate use.

        This is wrong-headed on so many counts. First, what do you think it will do to salaries in general if a large percentage of developers of mass-market software find themselves unemployed -- and eyeing the same jobs you are interested in?

        What a self-centered attitude! The people that write commercial software are fellow programmers and yet you don't care about them because they are in the minority. It reminds me of this verse by Pastor Martin Niemöller:

        First they came for the Jews
        and I did not speak out
        because I was not a Jew.
        Then they came for the Communists
        and I did not speak out
        because I was not a Communist.
        Then they came for the trade unionists
        and I did not speak out
        because I was not a trade unionist.
        Then they came for me
        and there was no one left
        to speak out for me.


        Those of us who are, or aspire to be, software engineers should be supporting all software engingeers -- not just those working in the exact same sub-field as ours.

        Like the original poster, I don't have any desire to end up as a system administrator or someone doing phone support for Redhat. Because of that, I try to find good commercial products that meet my company's needs. While I feel that Microsoft Office is bloated with too many esoteric features, it is a very good office suite -- regardless of my distaste for Microsoft as a company. The creation of it has meant employment for many skilled software engineers. For that reason, I hope that it continues to enjoy commercial success and that any competitor that may someday supplant it is also a commercial software product.
        • [about Microsoft Office:]

          For that reason, I hope that it continues to enjoy commercial success and that any competitor that may someday supplant it is also a commercial software product.

          You didn't mention the artificial inefficiencies introduced by EULA-protected software:

          • Restrictions on how and when software can be used.
          • Restrictions on what other products can be used in conjunction with the software.
          • Restrictions on what can be said about the software.
          • Requirement to keep proof of purchase for an indefinite amount of time, lest the company be subject to a disruptive audit.

          These artificial inefficiencies reduce productivitiy and will therefore be swept aside by market forces. Reduced productivity means lower living standards for everybody; if you read your Niemoeller quote right, and include all of society in your consideration, not just EULA-software writers, then you'll have to agree that the death of the EULA model is desirable. Right now, it survives only because of companies that have been convicted of abusing their software monopoly. But there is no question that the EULA-software model is fighting a losing battle. Nobody can argue that "that's what consumers want". Consumers want high quality software, minus the restrictions, and that's exactly what they are going to get.

    • I disagree. We have two standards for storing office-like information: the current, MS-office doc, xls and ppt, and more importantly, the upcoming, most likely an XML-variant. As long as all these office-suites comply to both the current and the upcoming standard, the only reason not to want so much different suites is fragmentation of the sparse resource of open sources programmers, because to make a good open source office suite, you need a whole lot of voluntary programming hours.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 29, 2002 @04:04AM (#3427916)
      People use MS Office because they know sending a co-worker a PowerPoint presentation or an Excel spreadsheet will not cause any compatibility issues, because it is a fair assumption that this person also has MS Office.
      You haven't used MS Office very much, have you?
    • by Lumpy (12016)
      Wrong...

      No office worker even thinks about these things because they dont have a choice. Most of the time a large corperation or company will get a site license from microsoft for the operating system (the IT manager is a complete idiot if he doesn't) and Microsoft offer's the Office suite site license for the same number of client machines at a significant discount. Well, now you just saved some money (at first glance you save money) so if you sign the agreement for the Operating system product you usually pick the OS+Office product they offer for only a little more money.

      This is why Office is so prevalent. It's shoved out there to corperate and large businesses BY microsoft (Duh, a company shoving their products! what a concept!)

      Second... Most IT managers or CTO's are clueless about what is actually available to save the company money and as alternatives.. They are too busy in meetings, board meetings, Focus groups, fact-finding missions on silly topics, and networking( No not real networking, that thing they call golfing+taking someone to a 3 hour lunch... I have noticed that the higher yo go in a company the less the person actually does that is work, and the more they do that is considered Goofing-off if you or I were to do it... oh well back to the issue)

      It is NOT compatability, or a concern for the other person's ability to read something. That problem went away in the 1990's. Wordperfect was able to open office documents, and Office was able to read Wordperfect documents. and Now the other apps do the same (With the exception to the presentation graphics programs, but allowing a sales person to email someone a 120Meg presentation is damned silly. Teach these idiot salespeope how to distill it to a PDF file. Open office should save everything as a known format, (RTF... Oh! I can hear the groans already! Please someone show me a document that HAS to have macros, and other useless drivel in it... Dont try and show me a form they fill out, as printing it, writing in the spaces, and faxing it to you does the SAME THING, as does, just typing on the blanks and re-emaillling it does.... the point of all these documents is to convey information not to stroke someone ego.. as they are more and more trying to do.

      finally, linux DOES have a single office standard... it's called open Office. everything else is just a spin-off or a tangent.
      • by gilroy (155262)
        Blockquoth the poster:

        Dont try and show me a form they fill out, as printing it, writing in the spaces, and faxing it to you does the SAME THING, as does, just typing on the blanks and re-emaillling it does....

        Wait. Spooling to a printer, scrawling information on a dead tree, walking to a phone line, using an obsolencent technology to push a (bad) facsimile of the dead tree through copper wire, having the recipient print out another (nearly illegible) copy on a different dead tree, then store the dead tree in a large metal box.... This is the same as editing a file directly, remailing it to the author, and keeping it in machine-readable form while storing it as a handful of magnetic domains?


        There are some things that should be paper-archived. But most things should live in the machine. A golden rule from my days at NASA, learned when a transcription error rendered useless six months of IUE data, was: Nothing that has been entered into a computer should ever be entered again!

        • but I have too much trouble getting them to print directly to the fax machine to not waste a page of paper by printing it and then walking to the fax machine and faxing it. I was told by the sales manager, "the sales people like to proofread it after it prints. I then replied, "why? do we have a problem with the printer changing the words or spelling? how does it change from the screen to paper? " I am all for increasing productivity and accuracy, but management is willing to cater to laziness and stupidity when it comes to sales-people instead of allowing operations staff to streamline and increase savings.

          Chances are, even if you have a nice webpage to collect information, the sales people will fill it out and print it, then get it to you.

          sales people like to print things.. Hell I had a salesperson that would print,copy then fax every item.... why? they needed a copy for themselves, I asked what they do with the page they print, they replied.. "I faxed it silly!"

          sales people = the stupidest people on the planet.. and it's genetic.

    • One thing I've noticed within the past year or so is the huge increase in the number of competitors for office suites in the open source/Linux community.

      While competition may spur innovation in most cases, I don't believe it to be true when taken to this degree for open source software.
      The main reason behind this belief is simply the fact that the reason most people don't adopt secondary office suites is because of the different standards. People use MS Office because they know sending a co-worker a PowerPoint presentation or an Excel spreadsheet will not cause any compatibility issues, because it is a fair assumption that this person also has MS Office. What the Linux community really needs is a single office suite standard, eliminating the compatibility issues. Then we can work on competition.


      One thing I've noticed within the past year or so is the huge increase in the number of competitors for operating systems in the computer industry.

      While competition may spur innovation in most cases, I don't believe it to be true when taken to this degree for operating systems.
      The main reason behind this belief is simply the fact that the reason most people don't adopt secondary operating systems is because of the different standards. People use MS Windows because they know installing new hardware and software will not cause any compatibility issues, because it is a fair assumption that all hardware and software are compatible with Windows. What the marketplace really needs is a operating system standard, eliminating the compatibility issues. Then we can work on competition.

      (I'm demonstrating the absurd by being absurd. :)

    • I think there already is a single office suite standard for Linux / Unix and it is StarOffice / OpenOffice. The main reason for this is its compatibility with MS Office is almost perfect (not quite, but almost).

      I'm a technical author, and my publisher requires me to submit documents in MS Word format using a template they provide and with revision tracking features enabled. StarOffice's MS compatibility is so good that I can use it to do all of my work. My publisher can't even tell that that I am not using Word. StarOffice imports the templates with no problems and does the revision tracking with no problems either.

      Basically, and Office package that is going to have any chance of becoming a Linux standard is going to have to have MS Office compatibility that is damn near perfect since almost all Linux / Unix users are going to have to share documents with Windows users running MS Office. So far, StarOffice / OpenOffice is the only package that even comes close to being MS Office compatible. It will be the standard because people can exchange documents with MS Office users and be virtually sure that there will not be problems.

      Personally, I would rather see something like Abiword's format become the standard (Abiword uses XML as its native document format). This format makes it really easy to work with documents in other applications (XML modules in Perl and Python for example).


    • While you think there is too much competition, I still hold on to the notion that Diversity Is The Key.

      Why ?

      MS-Office may be the de facto standard on Office Suite now, - and the keyword is "now" - who knows what will happen 5 or 10 years in the future ?

      Will there be something else REPLACING office-suites ?

      If there is, what will be it ?

      Will we wait for Microsoft to invent some new standard, and then all of us emulate / copy what Microsoft has done ?

      Innovation is the KEY thing Microsoft is holding on. The Open Source movement may be great, but INNOVATIVENESS on the part of the Open Source community is definitely lacking.

      Diversity, on the other hand, may FORCE innovation. There's only so many things an office-suite can do - Spreadsheet, Graphics, Presentation, Word Processing and so on, and if there's a TRUE DIVERSITY - and the millions of programming literates in this world can chip in anytime they want, using Open-Sourced Souce-Code, and they can ADD anything they want.

      Perhaps innovation does not come under the "forced" category, maybe innovation just happen as an accident.

      Or maybe there are 3 different diversed projects, all based on Open-Sourced source-code, and project A did something not entirely new, project B did something else, and project C something-something-else-else ....

      And then came the 4th party - Project D.

      Looking at the diversed projects, Project D get something from A, B and C and then add in some twist, and something new and innovative emerges.

      We shouldn't start to think of programming projects in terms of the Zero-Sum-Game - that is, whatever Project A does, Project B will not do.

      Instead, we should see all these diversity as something akin to jigsaw puzzle - sometimes real innovation just can't arrive basing on the thought and knowhow of just a person - or a group of people - but something emerges when two or more groups of people start a mind-melt, and what is better for a mind-melt in the programming world but Source Codes ?

      Competition is always good. There is NO SUCH THING as "TOO MUCH COMPETITION", if we are talking about Programming, and especially Open-Source (sprinkle with a little LIBRE spirit) is involved.

      Let the hundred flowers bloom !

    • Ever heard of XML?

      Seems to fit the bill nicely.
      We don't need a standard suite as much as a standard file format.
  • I haven't tried it yet, but it seems with it's gradient fills, bezier curves, and some of the other graphics features, that it could be good for companies/individuals looking for a little more power in their office suite. Especially when you factor in the price of competing products or products you would need to accomplish the same thing.
    It would be interesting too, to see how other products compare against it. (There have got to be some features that SOT Office lacks that others include)
    However, I for one, will probably never use this, though I will try it out.
  • by aussersterne (212916) on Monday April 29, 2002 @02:51AM (#3427749) Homepage
    Is it just me, or is this going to sound like "Sod Office" in casual speech?
  • OSX Port (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OptimizedPrime (558992) <`tedwardm' `at' `gmail.com'> on Monday April 29, 2002 @02:52AM (#3427756)
    I wonder how long, if ever it will be before this gets ported to OSX. That's a platform that seems to be getting a lot of growth as a unix, with the powerbook routinely being rated as one of the best unix portables available. This is a platform that, while it has office, really needs a free suite of office programs for those of us who don't want to use Microsoft's products but need the compatability, and this program seems like it would fit the bill exactly.
    • Nice, easy, simple 'n neat.

      99% of the crap in MS Office is not used by 99% of users.

      Lets face it for the vast majority of people wordpad & RTF files are all they need.
  • by Morthaur (108553) <slashdot at morthaur dot net> on Monday April 29, 2002 @02:52AM (#3427758) Homepage
    The screenshots show an application that's identical to OpenOffice, save only the name, and the colours used in the instaler. Makes you wonder, what's the point?!

    Why does this even merit a /. story; it's just a niche-market re-branding of a free software product. Stick to OpenOffice, it already rocks.
    • That is, a rebranding, for a niche market (though I am at a loss to say exactly what that niche would be). I am in agreement with you -- perhaps they're trying for venture capital? Seems needless to me too. It would make sense (maybe) if they re-badged an existing proprietary product, or if the size of the original proved impossible to download cleanly through a fast connection. Perhaps the Bezier curves capability mentioned by another poster is much improved over OOffice. I don't know as I've not used that part too much at all. In that case, however, it would make much more sense to just simply release the filters/modules/whatever for this part as an upstream add-on to OOffice and let everyone know about it. Oh well. I won't switch, at any rate.
    • by villoks (27306) on Monday April 29, 2002 @03:28AM (#3427841) Homepage Journal
      Well,

      As far as I know, their primary target is the Finnish audience. They have added features like Finnish spelling and the package has also Finnish menus etc.

      This actually makes sense, many Finnish government agencis are currently considering switching to linux and the Finnish office software is something which is really requited. The Finnish Custon uses already Open Office btw.

      Ville
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I don't think offering a new office suite is really a good idea. There should only be one office suite that everyone uses. Who cares if you can make them all compatible.

    People don't like choices. People don't like spending the time choosing between products and comparing them to see which one is the best. What they do want is one choice. That is why Microsoft is doing so well. Windows has everything they need and they don't need to compare anything to get the product.

    Linux on the otherhand is just a mass of choices. You want security, you take this distro. You want compatability, you take this distro. That is why Linux will never make it on the desktop. People are just overwhelmed at the amount of choices.

    If you really want to dethrone Microsoft Office, promote StarOffice/OpenOffice as the ONE choice in opensource/free office suites.
    • If you really look at what is happening is that that SOT distribution has chosen OpenOffice as the office suit. So that's the only (default) choice for that distro's users. It's obviously openoffice so it's oo compatible as well as msoffice compatible.

      If anyone else wants to custom install this SOT on other distro, it may be someone that is not the average user. Don't be folled by the apparent number of competitors. You only have. The KDE suit, the Gnome suit, and openoffice. Everything else is next to unusuable.

      If sun bundles gnome with sun computers, you will get openoffice. If it's not a corporate targeted distro you may have gnumeric, abiword. If the distro focuses on KDE, kword and family.

      I like having 3 alternatives. In the opensource arena you can't can't afford to put everything into one basquet. If you do that you risk losing everithing if a project fades away. And that has already happened.

      Anyway i agree that 1 perfect aplication is better than 3 half working ones!
    • Brilliant, I guess we can all go home then. Thank you for your help in solving this.
  • SOT Linux and Office (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lucky_Pierre (175635) on Monday April 29, 2002 @02:59AM (#3427771)
    I downloaded their new (renamed) distro SOT Linux along with SOT Office (Linux and Windows) Saturday night. SOT Linux installed very nicely as did both versions of SOT Office. So far I have nothing to complain about. Nice distro and VERY nice installer.
  • According to SOT, it is the only office application you will ever need, as it is fully compatible with MS Office and StarOffice

    Is it compatible with WordPerfect? Nearly all of the word processor files I have are in .wpd format...
    • Re:WordPerfect (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mstyne (133363)
      It would seem that it doesn't handle .wpd. However, it looks like you can open Microsoft Word files going back as far as Office 95. It also handles Star Office's Star Writer format. I'm going to look into both this and the original Open Office, as my Star Office 6.0 Beta is slated to expire in June.
  • Will this thing make my machine hang during installation like OpenOffice does?

    (OpenOffice hangs my machine when attempting to run it with DRI enabled, apparently a known bug or something).
  • by steveha (103154) on Monday April 29, 2002 @03:56AM (#3427899) Homepage
    SOT is a little odd, but the one that got me was Bunch of Helpful Fixes (BOHF). When I saw BOHF I immediately thought "Bastard Operator from Hell".

    Maybe the first BOHF will add Back Orifice functionality to SOT Office, so you can take over all the MS boxes on your net. And an exuses database.

    steveha
    • "When I saw BOHF I immediately thought "Bastard Operator from Hell.'"

      Bastard Operator Harassment of Finland. For starters, the minimum system requirements call for 64 MB more RAM than you have, regardless of how much RAM you have. And they have a talking paperclip that, rather than trying to help you, tells you to RTFM, which is, of course, written in Russian. This product is exciting news, because in spite of everything, it's still more cost effective and easier to use than MS Office.
  • by nomadic (141991)
    I hope this shows the corporate world how profitable open source can be.

    By releasing the source code to open office Sun stands to make MILLIONS on this.

    Once again the open source model triumphs in the marketplace.
  • No UTF-8 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bertilow (218923)

    I tried out SOT and to my amazement it had no support for UTF-8, only for UTF-7 and UTF-16 (at least it claimed support for those two). This seems ridiculous. UTF-8 is the most important form of Unicode. Any app that supports Unicode really must do UTF-8 first of all.

    Is this a problem in OpenOffice generally? Or is is something peculiar to SOT?

  • Real time review... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Monday April 29, 2002 @06:07AM (#3428115) Homepage

    Stream of consciousness installation process for Windows version (on WinXP)...

    • Tricky getting to the file. ftp server is hosed. http gets there eventually, then serves at 109KB/s. Nice. Now serving over gnutella, "soto_en.exe", incidentally, 41MB or so.
    • Unzips OK. Installer is nice and clear. Still can't understand why it needs 102MB of disk space though.
    • Hey, where's the clickthough? The fuck? Did I blink and miss it? Can I just use this thing?
    • Start->Program->SOT Office 2002, let's see, "Text Document", that's 90% of the use cases.
    • Do I want to import my Windows Address Book? OK then, do it.
    • Fails. More information. Ah, it's looking for an Outlook Express address book. Fair enough, I'm not using that P.O.S.
    • OK, a blank document. Looks pretty much like any StarOffice/OpenOffice/Word clone. I could easily forget this isn't Word.
    • The basic test: open a Word '97 .doc... 100,000 words (yes, I'm one of those poor struggling "content producers" you keep hearing about), no styles (ask me about styles in StarOffice 5.2 or Office '97 under Wine for that matter, go on, ask me). Opens fast, looks fine, the endnotes are all intact.
    • OK, options, Load/Save. Looks just like Word. Autosave every minute, create backup (oh yes). Oh, default save format? "SOT Office 6.0 Text Document"? A quick save reveals that this is a binary format, not anything sane like XML. So, no, I don't bloody well think so. Word 97/2000/XP, please. "This may cause data loss.". I'll take that risk. If I can't use this to reliably read/write Word 97 .doc binary formats, it's no use to me (sorry, but it isn't).
    • Languages now. Again, looks just like Word 97. Default locale, set as English (UK), language as English (UK).
    • Spellcheck time! Uh, "The spellcheck is complete". I don't think so. Try again. Apparently it's complete. No, it clearly isn't. What's going on? Oh, there's no dictionary for English (UK), only for English (US) and Finnish. It would be handy if it could actually say that.
    • Back to the web site. Uh, sotoffice, addon, dict... it's empty. No English (UK) dictionary for me. Damn. OK, get it later, press on with English (US). No, dammit, it's still not checking. Come back to this.
    • OK, try loading a Word '97 document with embedded images. Hurrah! There they are, in the right place. Actually, in better places than in Word '97, it's fixed the image that was spilling over the page end. Make some mods, save it out, load it back into Word (this is vital). It look fine.
    • Back to the spellchecker again. Let's check those languages. Ah, what? It's changed to German. Hmm, wasn't that a "feature" of StarOffice 6 beta?
    • No, I absolutely cannot figure out how to get it to perform a spell check (or to tell me why it isn't). Also, I can't see a word count tool or find it in the help; this is an astonishing omission.

    So there we go. It looks like Word, it opens Word, it saves Word (so far), but it's got bugs (I'm back to German as the default language again), the spell checking works unusually (which means badly if you're trying to attract Word users), and there's no word count. My god, there's no word count. I really cannot do without a word count.

    But it's free, and it looks good. I'm certainly going to stick with it for a few days and see if I fall in love. Definitely worth trying... unless you need a word count. ;-)

    • OpenOffice/StarOffice word count:

      Click on "file," then on "properties," then on statistics.

      Dumb, but it's there. I have not yet found a way to have a "running" word count or to count words in a highlighted block or a portion of the document instead of the whole thing.

      - Robin
        • OpenOffice/StarOffice word count: Click on "file," then on "properties," then on statistics.

        Thanks! Yes, that's less than ideal. I guess it's only professional wordsmiths that really rely no it, but (as has been pointed out elsewhere) it's the first thing that a reviewer will notice.

        I'm getting to like it more. Still can't figure out the spell check though. ;-)

    • by Surak (18578) <surak@nOsPaM.mailblocks.com> on Monday April 29, 2002 @08:03AM (#3428345) Homepage Journal
      OK, options, Load/Save. Looks just like Word. Autosave every minute, create backup (oh yes). Oh, default save format? "SOT Office 6.0 Text Document"? A quick save reveals that this is a binary format, not anything sane like XML. So, no, I don't bloody well think so. Word 97/2000/XP, please. "This may cause data loss.". I'll take that risk. If I can't use this to reliably read/write Word 97 .doc binary formats, it's no use to me (sorry, but it isn't).


      If it uses the same format as OpenOffice, then the file format is a set of XML files that are zipped (as in PKZIP format)

    • by Uggy (99326) on Monday April 29, 2002 @08:26AM (#3428435) Homepage
      Go to File --> Properties

      You'll see word count and bunch of other stuff there.
    • by spasm (79260)
      "Spellcheck time! Uh, "The spellcheck is complete". I don't think so. Try again."

      That's weird - the problem goes the other way with 'standard' open office & SO6 - save a document as W98/00 and Word would refuse to spellcheck it. The workaround is to select all & set language to [anything]. Fixed in the development version of openoffice, but needs the workaround in the stable release.
    • by eggz128 (447435)
      OpenOffice.org's additional dictionaries are here [openoffice.org]. English UK is there too.

      I'm not suprised you couldn't find it, it's buried quite deep :)
  • I've been using Microsoft Office for years. That being entrenched, I wonder how it is Star Office, Open Office, and perhaps others, are coming out with supposedly compettive offerings with less features. Here's the pieces of MIcrosoft Office that have come bundled with one version or another, in the frequency that I use, or have used, them:

    1. Microsoft Outlook (PIM)
    2. MIcrosoft Word (Word Processor)
    3. Microsoft Excel (Spreadsheet)
    4. MIcrosoft Access (RDBMS)
    5. Microsoft PowerPoint (Presentation)
    Before anyone slams me on Access, it was my first introduction to an RDBMS and served as a proof-of-concept learning tool -- light-years ahead of no DB offering at all

    So, for me at least, both Star Office and Open Office appear to be missing the PIM (not just e-mail!) functionality thus eliminating them from consideration. I suspect from my peer's reactions that I'm nearly alone in actually using a PIM.

    I know there are open source PIMs out there. Why they haven't been integrated is beyond me. Is there anything else people feel are missing from these office suites? Perhaps something that exists and could be integrated?

    • I know there are open source PIMs out there. Why they haven't been integrated is beyond me.

      Yes, there are. However, out of curiosity, what purpose would integrating them serve? It just seems like a waste of bandwidth to make everyone download pieces they won't use, to me.

      A linux distribution should put different pieces in different packages. If you think its more convenient to be able to deploy everything at once, you can create a metapackage named "task-openoffice" which depends on everything else, and just install that.
  • Wish I'd known about this before I spent 300 dollars on MS Office 2000.

    Really, these guys are v. smart by releasing both a version for Windows and Linux.
  • by gimpboy (34912) <john@m@harrold.gmail@com> on Monday April 29, 2002 @10:04AM (#3428842) Homepage
    if someone can send me the files. email me if you have the binaries, and i'll put up a mirror to relieve the load on their ftp servers.
  • Right now, it's hard to evaluate office suites for the office environment. The problem, I think, is that techie reviewers usually are not familiar with the problems that they are used to solve. I don't care how well SOT imports memos: there are bigger things.

    Excel is an amazing program. Think of it as a visual development platform complete with an IDE with context sensitive help, huge function library, built-in goal-seeking/optimization engine, cross-tabbing, statistics engine, monte carlo simulations, graphing, GUI (you can embed buttons/menus), DB functionality etc. Oh, and WYSIWYG reporting/printing comes free. People develop sophisticated business applications with Excel. Text books exist for this purpose. Real programmers may like to say "use a real programming language!", but the fact is that nonprogrammers can very quickly crank out powerful, maintainable apps relatively free of bugs. And many do: it's the right tool for many jobs.

    So what does this have to do with the success of a new office suite? The question is the ease of migration. It's one thing to preserve the formatting of a Word memo. It's another to be able to import sophisticated Excel applications with confidence. Otherwise, the penetration of a rival office suite into the corporate environment will be severely hampered.
  • FWIW at this late date...
    --
    From: SOT 24/7 Support Team [mailto:support@sot.com]
    Sent: Monday, April 29, 2002 9:04 PM
    To: tony@bluetree.ie
    Subject: Re: SOT Office

    Hello,

    Here are the differences you have asked about.

    Differences between OpenOffice and SOTO:

    *Finnish language support:
    - graphical user interface
    - manual
    - spellchecker
    *Set of primitive templates
    *More advanced online help
    *Latest Microsoft filters
    *Easy access to applications from menu, like word processing, spreadsheet
    and graphic applications modules
    *Easy installation/deinstallation on Linux by RPM package
    *Hyphenation support

    On CD:
    Both versions for Linux and Windows
    Both versions for English and Finnish languages
    Sources available
    SOTO manual for English and Finnish language in pdf format

    Best regards,
    Roman Rudenko

    --
    SOT 24/7 Support Team support@sot.com
    tel. +372 6419875
    http://www.sot.com Web page
    https://www.sot.com Online Shop

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