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ODF Offers MS Word Plugin to MA 263

Posted by Zonk
from the state-has-a-friend dept.
Goalie_Ca writes "Groklaw just posted that the OpenDocument Foundation is offering Massachusetts a plugin that could 'allow Microsoft Office to easily open, render, and save to ODF files, and also allow translation of documents between Microsoft's binary (.doc, .xls, .ppt) or XML formats and ODF ... The testing has been extensive and thorough. As far as we can tell there isn't a problem, even with Accessibility add ons, which as you know is a major concern for Massachusetts.'"
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ODF Offers MS Word Plugin to MA

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  • Don't worry (Score:4, Insightful)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:28AM (#15262183)
    Microsoft will make sure this plugin won't work well for a long time ;)
    • Re:Don't worry (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And if not by technical means, perhaps by legal means.

      Who knows how many microsoft patents (and eolas patents) you're violating when you write a plugin for Office.

      Isn't that pretty much what the whole Open Doc format debate was about after all? While there may be technical ways to get through Microsoft's bullshit formats, the patent threats may make it illegal to do so. Unless Microsoft indemnifies it, this plugin is not really any better than the patent-encumbered Microsoft XML format.

      • Re:Don't worry (Score:4, Informative)

        by CaymanIslandCarpedie (868408) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @11:21AM (#15262698) Journal
        you're violating when you write a plugin for Office.

        Not that Office invented the concept of plug-ins, but it probably is one of the most used targets for plug-ins there is. From CRM systems, advanced securities pricing models, Adobe Acrobat, etc, etc, etc, etc. There are TONs of plug-ins and MS explicitly built thier framework to encourage this.

        Isn't that pretty much what the whole Open Doc format debate was about after all? While there may be technical ways to get through Microsoft's bullshit formats, the patent threats may make it illegal to do so.

        Not an issue in this case. Just like Adobe's plug-ins which can convert and Office documents to thier format, this plug-in I'm sure won't even bother messing with the raw binary data. Just open the document in the Office application and then each application exposes a friendly API to be able to play with, convert, ect, etc the document all you want. No need to even consider the underlieing documents format (in fact would be quite silly to) just use the API provided.
      • Unless Microsoft indemnifies it, this plugin is not really any better than the patent-encumbered Microsoft XML format.

        Not that I've seen the plugin, but...

        Would using MS Visual Studio and all MS dlls count as indemnification [computerworld.com]?
    • by hotspotbloc (767418) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:37AM (#15262262) Homepage Journal
      Microsoft will make sure this plugin won't work well for a long time ;)

      From the old days: "DOS ain't done 'till Lotus won't run".

    • Re:Don't worry (Score:3, Insightful)

      by speedphreak (834189)
      I'm not following your logic? Wouldn't Microsoft benefit from this plugin? It allows the state to use their office suite (cha-ching $$$), and still give them the open document format that they are after. On top of that, Microsoft didn't have to do any work to develop it.
      • Re:Don't worry (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Zaiff Urgulbunger (591514) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @12:08PM (#15263137)
        But ulitmately it [odf plugin for Word] undermines an important USP for MS Office, namely, compatibility with MS Word documents! Microsoft specifically do not want people to use an open format such as OpenDocument because if they do, it makes it easier from them [the customer] to switch to a competing product, such as StarOffice or OOo.

        If MS wanted to, they could very easily have added such functionality to Word themselves. The fact that they haven't offered to do so highlights to importance they attach to keepinig people locked into *.doc and now OpenXML.

        In some ways, this plugin might undermine OpenDocument since it might provide a way for MS to keep their foot in the door, which they will likely exploit to "convert" customers back to using proprietry formats.

        However, I think that whilst it helps with using OpenDocument with MS Word, Excel is still a "killer app" that makes switching to competing office products difficult. There are a lot of companies that ship products that include Excel documents with macros as part of their product. Whilst these don't work with competing products (such as StarOffice/OpenOffice.org), then Excel retains the upper hand.

        [going off on a tangent here...] it might be better to build an OpenOffice.org API wrapper for MS Office? That way, a company wanting to produce a spreadsheet with macro functionality, could create one for OOo, and use this [hypothetical] API wrapper to make the macros work with MS Office.
        Or somthing!
        (I'm thinking out loud here).
      • Re:Don't worry (Score:3, Insightful)

        by shotfeel (235240)
        One of the reasons many people upgrade Office is because they need to be able to open documents from other people who may be using a newer version. MS not only has people locked into their format, but by changing their format, they push people into upgrading too.

        Now, along comes a plugin that allows all the different versions of Office, plus many 3rd party applications to work with the same document. Suddenly nobody needs to upgrade an entire Office suite just because someone somewhere bought a new computer
      • Re:Don't worry (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rseuhs (322520)
        No.

        (Almost) nobody uses MS Office because of it's features, (almost) everybody uses it because - well - everybody uses it and the file format is the standard.

        So the standard is the most important thing here.

        This plugin eases the migration path to ODF a lot because:

        • No interface changes, so even the dumb employees will be able to use it without retraining.
        • You still have 100% Word compatibility, which is one worry less when you still have a huge amount of Word documents.
        • You can still use the old infr
  • Sounds great... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaHat (247651) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:29AM (#15262187) Homepage
    Sure there isn't the same victory for OSS in having them switch to OpenOffice as some would like, it instead shows that OSS can adapt as needed and allow the state to continue to use the same front end app and not have to deal with the cost and hassle of retraining countless workers with a new system.

    At the same time though... this does conceivably give more power to Redmond as there is now less incentive for MA to leave the Windows/Office platform.
    • Re:Sounds great... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:39AM (#15262277)
      I thought the point was to eliminate a barrier to entry. So workers could use either, not be forced to use Word.

      The desired effect would be to allow a gradual trasition that would be easier to swallow than a all-at-once changeover.
    • Re:Sounds great... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jmv (93421)
      At the same time though... this does conceivably give more power to Redmond as there is now less incentive for MA to leave the Windows/Office platform.

      Not necessarily. I may also make the transition easier. First everyone just save to ODF, then the switch is easy to make because you don't need to get everyone to make the transition at the same time.
      • Re:Sounds great... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Vegard (11855) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:55AM (#15262417)
        For me, it's not so much about getting everyone to use Open Source as to ensure that *I* have the freedom to use it, and still be a part of society (i.e be able to communicate with government etc).

        It's definitely true that it's open STANDARDS that matter. There is, however, a large pitfall: Don't let vendors like Microsoft redefine what an open standard actually is. They tried a little while ago, with their previous office XML standard...

        - Vegard
        • Preach on, brother. I'd give you mod points if I had them atm.
        • Re:Sounds great... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by CastrTroy (595695)
          I would like to know who came up with the idea of using binary files to store text documents. If Microsoft used something more sane, like the ODF format, we wouldn't be having this discussion in the first place. fewer people are pushing for 100% standard HTML everywhere because it's not such a hard task to figure out what the blink tag does, and how to implement it.
          • Re:Sounds great... (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Binary files made a lot more sense when every CPU cycle and bit of space counted.

            These days, you can just use XML and zip it, and have something with good enough space efficiency and much better interoperability.
        • Re:Sounds great... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nine-times (778537)
          I'm glad someone said this. We shouldn't be investing in getting people to stop using Microsoft Office. Why should they stop, so long as that program suits their purposes? The issue here is that, ideally, no company will be able to hold my data hostage, punish me, or blackmail me for choosing not to use their product.

          It's an issue of freedom. We should all demand open standards be used for data exchanges so that we have the ability to do with our data as we choose. Microsoft should not be in a positio

          • Re:Sounds great... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Vegard (11855)
            I didn't mean this. I'm dead sure that a significant amount of important customers have to switch to open formats before they themselves turn to open formats. Their history proves it.

            There is also another inherent danger in choosing the Microsoft standard - who's to say that Microsoft, once getting it approved by a standard, will actually *follow* their own standard? What's to prevent them, once having an ISO-standard that's widely accepted, to implement small but important, non-open extensions in their nex
      • If everyone's app can read/write to the same format, with no loss of formatting and such, then different departments can use whatever works best for them.

        This would also include any vendors or contractors that they use.

        Standardizing on the format gives everyone the Freedom to use whatever app they prefer. Some companies might prefer MSWord95. Others like MSOffice 2000 pro. While various governmental departments are migrated to OpenOffice.org to save taxpayer money.

        And they all work together, seamlessly.

        Free
    • Re:Sounds great... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by OglinTatas (710589) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:55AM (#15262422)
      I read it differently: This completely blows Microsoft's lame argument out of the water that MA considering ODF is unfair to the millions of people who already use MSOffice, because it is impossible to rewrite office to use this "crazy new format."

      If a simple plugin can allow MSOffice to use ODF, there is then no argument whatsoever for MA to use Microsoft's proprietary formats, which really do shut out all non-Microsoft users.
      • I doubt Microsoft really cares what file format you use, so long as you keep buying MS Office.

        The whole issue in MA was forumulated as Either-Or debate (by both sides, "Hairy Guys" and MS) in order to force an artificial choice between OpenOffice and MS Office. That's why the political stakes got so explosive.

        At least now CTOs can consider the merits of ODF without having OpenOffice brought into the equasion -- because for most shops, a fileformat is not worth switching your office suite over.
      • by Rob Y. (110975) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:32PM (#15263876)
        Not only does this plugin allow MS Office users to use ODF, it does it with their existing MS Office licenses. Microsoft's OpenXML would have required an Office upgrade in order to achieve interoperability. And if they had implemented ODF in the upcoming Office release, this plugin probably wouldn't have been written, so again, you'd have needed to buy an Office upgrade to play.

        Now there's interoperability with no revenue stream for Microsoft. Nice going, MS.
    • Re:Sounds great... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by theguyfromsaturn (802938) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:58AM (#15262454)
      I disagree. The idea behind an Open Format is that I can use the program that I choose to produce it. It would be ludicrous to pretend that most people aren't using Word today. We should be happy that this plugin exists as it makes it more likely that people will use ODF. Once ODF is well established, then people will see that they can choose whatever software they want to create such documents. In the long run it benefits the user and other office suites (not just OO.o)
      • Not trying to be trollish but doesn't Open Office and the like support RTF? I mean, while this new open document format may be more flexible than RTF the bottom line is that Microsoft has always and will probably always ship MS Word with universally accepted formats. Hell, Windows comes with a "free" RTF editor.

        So what's so great about this new format? Unless this format can convert every single style of MS's ".doc" format than it's really nothing more than another universally accepted format.

        I guess what
        • Re:Sounds great... (Score:4, Informative)

          by arodland (127775) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @11:42AM (#15262870)
          RTF has no standard (other than various halfway-compatible implementations from Microsoft and open-source products), and has extremely little support for any useful formatting or metadata that you would want in an office format. Choosing RTF as your common-denominator standard format would be a lot like choosing HTML 2.0 for the same task. ODF, on the other hand, is flexible, with a complete and open spec, and one of its design goals is feature-compatibility with existing software.

          So while I haven't tried this plugin, I find it entirely possible that it supports all or very nearly all Word features, allowing for open-standards interoperability without compromising the quality of the document. It also doesn't hurt that it's apparently implemented in terms of XSLT transforms -- translating OOo XML to Word XML.
          • Re:Sounds great... (Score:2, Insightful)

            by east coast (590680)
            OK Again, not to sound trollish but...

            [RTF] has extremely little support for any useful formatting or metadata that you would want in an office format.

            I was always of the impression that metadata is normally considered evil by the people of slashdot. I'm not going to claim to be an expert but I see little real world use of metadata in Word. This is one of the few things that I agree with the slashdot crowd on.

            ODF, on the other hand, is flexible, with a complete and open spec... So while I haven't tri
          • RTF has no standard

            O RLY? [microsoft.com]

            And considering how well the ODF documents I'm sent tend to work in KOffice, I'm not sure how much of it is a standard and how much is "do what openoffice does" (The bugs are mostly documented as places where the spec is ambiguous). Finally, for me at least, a grepable format counts for a lot.

            and has extremely little support for any useful formatting or metadata that you would want in an office format.

            Huh? The formatting is there, and styles would appear to be kept. I've done t

            • Hey, you're right! It's an RTF spec. Well, maybe it is. The website says it is. But it's a Windows EXE file, so I have no idea what it actually does or contains.
    • But why would MA or anyone continue to pay 100s of $s per license/upgrade to work with the ODF?. The only reason you'd stick with MS Office is to continue to use the few unique features and its native proprietary file support.
      • You must not have read my comment very carefully as I clearly mentioned the biggest issue... training.

        Sure, they could ditch MS Office tomorrow and roll out OpenOffice across the board... problem is that you will have a fair number of people (we are talking about government employees here) who will not know how to use the new system.

        Until the cost of retraining and transition can be brought well below the cost of an MS Office license... Microsoft will win this battle as people are very familiar with their p
  • Hilarious! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Vengeance (46019) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:29AM (#15262193)
    Microsoft can't/won't provide interoperability tools, but the ODF (an organization with far more money, right?) is able to do it.

    I love it.
  • Heh.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by the_skywise (189793) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:30AM (#15262201)
    Embrace and Extend...
  • too easy? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:30AM (#15262202)
    As far as we can tell there isn't a problem, even with Accessibility add ons, which as you know is a major concern for Massachusetts.

    I've met plenty of people from Massachusetts. I can imagine the Accessibility add-ons would be crucial there.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:33AM (#15262229)
    No one posts a link?
    wtf is the point of posting something like this without a link?

    wtf good is a plugin if no one can get it...

    eesh
  • by towsonu2003 (928663) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:34AM (#15262240)
    Microsoft wins yet again:
    FTFA: So, to Microsoft: never mind. You don't need to lift a finger.
    • Microsoft wins yet again:

      FTFA: So, to Microsoft: never mind. You don't need to lift a finger.

      Prior to that quote: Some people might wonder why the Foundation would be interested in "extending" the life and vested value of these Win32 bound desktops?

      Our reply is that this isn't about "Windows" or MS Office. It's about people, business units, existing workflows and business processes, and vested legacy information systems begging to be connected, coordinated, and re engineered to reach new levels o

    • by chill (34294) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:45AM (#15262334) Journal
      Microsoft wins yet again.

      No, this is not correct.

      The Office division of Microsoft has long been one of their major profit centers. MS Office is also a bigger monopoly than Windows, having greater penetration in the market percentagewise. These facts stem from the ability to lock-in customers by holding their data hostage to a closed format.

      This plug-in is a door to the world of non-MS Office products -- a way out, if you will. Yes, other office-type products exist, but none of them have gained serious traction because of the perceived lack of totally compatibility with MS .doc and .xls. This one will solve the .doc issue and, if widely distributed, have two effects:

      1. It will increase the market share of non-MS Office products at the expense of MS Office;

      2. It will cause Microsoft to lower the price of MS Office to compete, thus lowering their profits on what is widely rumored to be their LARGEST profit center, Office.

        -Charles
      • as if millions of investors cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced...

        Microsoft will have to compete on a level playing field now.

        They have the money, they have the programmers, they have the marketshare. Competition should not hold any fear for them. We'll see how it plays out.
      • Charles very nice summation - you've hit the proverbial nail right on the head ... and Sorry but I've got no mod points.
      • 2. It will cause Microsoft to lower the price of MS Office to compete,

        This is happening. MS has announced a $100 entry version of Office 2007.
      • Hmmm.....

        Microsoft ... penetration ... market

        I think those terms imply a different meaning to me than what you intended...?

        *childish giggle*


        This karma-burning Viz [viz.co.uk] (NSFW?) moment brought to you by the letter:
        -Q

    • to Microsoft: never mind. You don't need to lift a finger.

      Yes, but not having a finger lifted was Microsoft's optimum strategy.

      If there is something your enemy would be a complete idiot to do, make them a gift of it. (This is where the phrase White Elephant comes from)

      Their hand has been prised from their cold, dead monopolistic format by interoperability. The issue is choice vs. monopoly, not my monopoly vs. their monopoly.

      Microsoft has been very publicly denouncing the move to ODF as a my monopoly vs. the
  • Let me see.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:38AM (#15262270)
    Microsoft built Word/Office with Plug-in support, did they not? In fact, they built their OS with every intention that other companies would offer services on their platform.

    This foundation has decided to do so.

    Kudos to them. They just proved that there is none of that so-called vendor lock-in.

    Sure, it takes effort, but if you can be bothered to do it, it pays off.

    • Kudos to them. They just proved that there is none of that so-called vendor lock-in.

      Lock-in doesn't have to be absolute to be lock-in. Otherwise, all MS would have to do is support *one* other format (like .txt, or .rtf) and they could say, "see, we don't lock you in".

      This plug-in actually is an attempt to break the lock-in, and I really hope it helps, but the fact that the plug-in is necessary *proves* that there is lock-in, not the other way round.
    • Offering plug-in support isn't the same as having no vendor lock-in.

      Think of it this way: plug-ins are like little apps that run on top of an existing application to extend its functionality in some way. If extrapolate that for a moment and say that applications are like operating system "plugins" -- they are apps that run on top of the OS and extend its functionality in some way. If we take this analogy to its logical extreme, then Windows doesn't do any vendor lock-in because it runs apps from other co
  • the light. Eventually every company in M$'s position has to realize that ultimately that you have to transform from being a company that makes standards, to being a company that contributes to them.

    IBM was the M$ of it's day and now look, open source darlings. :-)
  • ...till ODF's plugin won't run.

    Watch for this, in an automatic "security" update coming soon.

    I imagine several confirmation boxes asking you to engage in a binding legal agreement saying that you understand that Microsoft did not write the plugin, and holding Microsoft harmless in the event that the plugin does not translate documents correctly, damages your computer, or directly causes terrorist attacks on the United States.
    • I imagine several confirmation boxes asking you to engage in a binding legal agreement

      Oh, I think you signed that when you clicked "I agree". This will just be your friendly reminder(s). It's down on page 47, subsection 3, second paragraph.
    • Well, you can imagine it, but I rather doubt it's going to happen. The plug-in interfaces are fairly stable, and MS is not going to change them and break compatibility with one plugin out of spite. There are a lot of third-party providers of Office plugins [microsoft.com], and MS doesn't want to annoy them.

      I know that MS has done similar things in the past (DR-DOS comes to mind), but usually that's only when a) they have a technically plausible reason for it and b) they think they can get away with it. This issue is too

  • Step program (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbeaupre (752124) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:45AM (#15262336)
    Can you feel it? It's the tide of inevitibility.

    Why? The Catch 22 has been solved (we need MS vs. can't convert while using MS). And it's the bean counters that ultimately sway government decisions.

    1) Plugin will be installed on gov pc's
    2) Documents will be handled in ODF
    3) Gov bean counters will be suggesting to managers everywhere they can save $XXXX if they use OpenOffice instead of MS Office
    • Re:Step program (Score:4, Insightful)

      by westlake (615356) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:57AM (#15262449)
      Can you feel it? It's the tide of inevitibility

      There is more to building a successful office suite than a choice of formats for storage, output and exchange.

      • Re:Step program (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jbeaupre (752124)
        A friend told me a little story that may apply here (forgive me if I mangle it):

        After losing the "look and feel" lawsuit, Jobs said to Gates "But it will never be as good as ours." To which Gates replied "I doesn't have to be."

        "Good enough" is pretty powerful. And whereas MS could bond things to windows to fend off free stuff like Netscape and many others, it will be very difficult (impossible?) to bundle MS office to fend off OpenOffice.

        For the record, I use MS Office. But I used to use Word Perfect. I
  • by IANAAC (692242) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:49AM (#15262367)
    I'd be passing the plugin along to everyone I knew.

    Seriously. I don't use MSOffice all that much, but have to constantly exchange .doc, .xls, etc. formats all the time with other people. For the most part, OO.o saves in these formats and opens in Office fine, as intended. Sometimes it doesn't though. If I could save in ODF format and include a plugin with the document itself, I would think that would be far more helpful in getting people to at least look at open source, rather than just pointing them to OO.o and saying "Install this".

  • We should expect the following from Microsoft. Microsoft are going to prepare a patch that will eventually disrupt the working of this plugin in all Office versions.

    Or even better, they could change the license to every new shipment of office to specifically prohibit installation of plugins that are not Microsoft approved. This plugin will fall in this category of course.

    • We should expect the following from Microsoft. Microsft are going to prepare a patch that will eventually disrupt the working of the plugin in all Office versions."

      Of course, if MA passed a statute stating that government agencies had to use open document formats, then if Microsoft to action to prohibit the plugin from functioning as you suggest, they would be eliminating Office from being suitable for use by state agencies. As such, it would not be in their best interest to take action to disable or hin
  • by gentimjs (930934) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:58AM (#15262457) Journal
    Office 97? Office XP? Office 2002? Office 2000? Office 2007? Forward-portable to future versions? I'm quite sure this is a good thing, but at the same time I'm quite sure it wont work well for many many MS Office users...
    • FTFA: all versions of MS Office dating back to MS Office 97. RTFA!
    • Given that the plugins do not work at the file format level (at least of the MS formats), but at the level of normal MS Office integration, I would imagine that the plugin will work across most current MS Office versions.

      There are plenty of vendors that offer MS Office plugins that work across most versions, and the existence of these plugins is one of the reasons for the "MS Office lock-in". The plugins are NOT offered for other office suites (and this was one of MAs concerns; disability support plugins for MS Office that didn't translate well into other platforms).

      The existence of these plugins makes MS Office a platform instead of simply a program. This plugin simply allows continued use of the platform where needed; yet allows competing product and platforms to coexist.

      Note that conversion accuracy is no longer a concern: .doc &etc. files will be handled by the NATIVE application, and the ODF format is clearly defined. As long as ODF supports the feature set needed by the plugin (and, given the plugin can be made, it does), which must be reasonably feature complete, things will work.

      Now, the plugin layer MUST be (reasonably) feature complete -- simply because if it is NOT, other plugins would suffer badly (eg. screen reader wouldn't be able to determine formatting, thus rendering difficulty to blind users of MS Office).

      If you are paranoid about Microsoft, and think that the feature completeness of the plugin layer will or can be compromised -- that is very unlikely. Other plugins would also suffer, and government users would be forced to start looking at alternatives.

      The existence of this plugin means that an ecosystem with both Microsoft and alternate vendors can be supported. Which is a good thing. Previously, the only way to use .doc (officially) on many Unix platforms was to use the limited Microsoft viewer. So this is a very good development.

      I don't think it will hinder or improve MS Office sales at all, but it will make things possible that have been VERY difficult in the past.

      I will start seeding the plugin as soon as I can!

      Ratboy
  • Smart Move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @11:08AM (#15262542) Homepage Journal
    Very smart move. It allows the office workers to continue as if nothing had changed, for the moment. But when M$ comes knocking and tries to sell them an upgrade to Office200x, the answer will be "if we have to upgrade anyways, as you have just elaborately shown, then we'll upgrade to OpenOffice, thank you".

    Especially if the new Office they release with Vista changes the interface considerably, and requires re-training anyways.

    Of course, the next Office update will break the plugin. It'll be a cold day in hell before M$ can let this stand unchallenged.
    • by buckhead_buddy (186384) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @12:27PM (#15263280)
      Tom wrote:

      But when M$ comes knocking and tries to sell them an upgrade to Office200x, the answer will be "if we have to upgrade anyways, as you have just elaborately shown, then we'll upgrade to OpenOffice, thank you". Especially if the new Office they release with Vista changes the interface considerably, and requires re-training anyways.

      On the topic of Office 2007's user interface, the recent promotional movie [microsoft.com] published on the Microsoft web site seems like they're trying especially hard in this next release to be different for the sake of being different. So hard that some of their innovative ideas may prove better in concept than implementation. Here were some of my thoughts on this 12 minute video.

      • They've done away with cross-application familiarity by doing away with the menu bar. With one exception, they put everything in tab like toolbars at the top of the window called the "ribbon". The one exception is the Microsoft Office logo icon in the upper left corner of the screen that, when discovered you can click on, opens a menu with unimportant options like "Save" and "Open".
      • The "ribbon" has some sets of checkbox buttons (for settings like applying bold and italic styles) but mostly it's littered with icon popup buttons where your choice causes an action to happen. There's text labels on some buttons but text is minimized as much as possible including removing keyboard shortcuts. Perhaps they've been placed in the "tooltips".
      • Speaking of tooltips, the video touted that Microsoft has revolutionized tool tip technology by making them larger providing fuller explanations of what you're looking at. The demo looked suspiciously like Apple's horrible Balloon Help feature from System 7.1. This was useful for about the first five minutes of using an application but quickly became obtrusive and annoying. Unlike balloon help though, they they showed no way to turn these new "wordy" tool tips off.
      • Can't find which button you're looking for in the ribbon? That's probably because it's contextual. If you drop a photo into word, a special toolbar appears that gives you options you can only see if the photo is selected. Or rather, you must see if the photo is selected. Now we're looking at the days of 1998 with OpenDoc that promised to give you custom options for your web browser embedded in your MacDraw document: any accidental context selection or de-selection will drive you crazy looking for options that don't apply. Additionally you have duplicate options that would apply to all contexts, but in different places of the ribbon.
      • Big features like Footer, Header, and Cell Format have been reduced to action popup buttons with about a dozen Microsoft designed templates in each. There's an option for you to customize your header/footer/cell format, but that was apparently not demonstrated. Like the Microsoft clip art that came with Word For Windows I think you'll get pretty sick of seeing many of these templates pretty fast. Hopefully there's a way to add 3rd party templates instead of the Microsoft defaults, but the size of those popup menus just won't show more than a dozen or so options in a comprehensible way.
      • Changes from those popup action buttons happen automatically. You don't even have to select the option, just hover over it in the menu and the change happens automatically. The demonstration of previewing changes to typeface and typestyle just seems easy. Apart from performance issues. Apart from making concepts like style sheets even more abstract. Apart from accidental selection issues. But you can't see your whole document at once so your hip red and grey Microsoft excel template may look fine on the selection you can see, but look awful on a part you can't see. This isn't a new problem with the new office, but it easier than ever to do now.
      • They claim these new popup action icon buttons in the ribbon does away with the need for "Undo".
      • Your comments appear to be based merely on your observation of the demo, and a lot of (largely incorrect) assumptions.

        Undo, for example, is not gone. There are toolbar buttons in the "quickbar" by default next to the big round button you seem to dislike so much. It also doesn't "do away" with the need for undo, but it does significantly reduce it since most actions have live-previews that go away as soon as you move off it.

        The "shy" toolbar doesn't appear when you're typing, but rather when you make selec
  • Open documents good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DesertWolf0132 (718296) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @11:19AM (#15262667) Homepage

    Currently my office runs on M$ Office 2k3. We could easily switch to OpenOffice save one luser who creates every one of his spreadsheets using M$ specific formatting that throws the OO conversion tool for a loop. I would switch the rest of us but we all have to be able to access his documents as he is the shop manager and he gets cranky when people don't read his crap. Had I been here when the network was set up in the first place this would be a M$ free shop as Linux has all of the tools these lusers need in a default workstation install. So I am going to sit here patiently waiting to move everyone to Linux immediately after we can get ODF translations for all of his crap. At least I can move the website to a Slack server soon (after I weed out the useless ASP code). IIS is killing me

    I am Microsoft Certified, which is why I use Linux.

    • one luser who creates every one of his spreadsheets using M$ specific formatting that throws the OO conversion tool for a loop. I would switch the rest of us but we all have to be able to access his documents as he is the shop manager and he gets cranky when people don't read his crap.

      If you just have to read his crap, you can always download the free Excel 2003 Viewer [microsoft.com].

      Of course, if you need to edit, you might be SOL.

  • by bertramwooster (763417) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @11:22AM (#15262706) Homepage

    Hi,

    I work in a fairly technical group, but many of my colleagues are quite ignorant about the problems of using proprietary standards (e.g., office) in their day-to-day life. When Firefox was released, I put up the copy of the New York times ad in the lounge and people noticed. I wondered if there is a similar blurb for ODF (or OpenOffice). Now seems to be the ideal time to make people aware of the choice and alternatives.

    Is there a nice one-page (non-technical) write-up that clearly states why open standards (ODF) is better than closed standards controlled by evil monopolies (Microsoft's doc format)?

    Aravind.

  • very cool that they did this for Office. I wonder if they can produce it for the other offices. If there is one format that is accessable from ALL the packages it will make very easy to argue that it is the format to go with.
  • by maggard (5579) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Thursday May 04, 2006 @11:54AM (#15262999) Homepage Journal
    MS Word isn't going away, at least, not any time soon.

    My sweetheart works for a non-profit health agency in Massachusetts. Nearly all of his paperwork is in MS Word. Not that he has any particular feelings for or against MS Word, but because the Massachusetts Department of Public Health requires this.

    Nearly every grant application, mandated report, etc. must be in MS Word "doc" format. Not plain text, not HTML, not SGML or XML or anything else, MS Word "doc" format. If it's not in MS Word "doc" format the state won't accept it and your grant application won't be received, your mandated reports not accepted, etc.

    Sure other levels of state government are talking about adopting ODF, but that is just theory, until the state converts all of it's huge library of forms and applications, the paperwork that it all runs on, to something other then MS Word "doc", this is all theory. For that there will need to be a huge transition, and this sort of plugin is what can make it possible.

    In the meantime all of the elaborate integration many of us take for granted, and that there are islands of in the state, and pockets of in state contractors, affiliated agencies, and the huge range of state-government dependent organizations, will be able to continue using MS Word in their established workflows.

    Back to my sweetheart's agency, they do have a considerable investment in MS Word. Not just in licenses, they know MS Word. Their staff aren't computer geeks, indeed most of them only tolerate the crappy PCs they have now (running Windows 98) because they have to. But at least their fingers are trained to the keystrokes, they know the menu options, the more ambitious can even do a mail merge, lay out a flyer, etc.

    Yes readers of /. think nothing of staring at an unfamiliar screen and working out how to do something with it; for a case manager trying to find a spot in a detox program for a 65 year old homeless woman who wants to get clean that is just not a hassle they want. Therefore anything that eases adopting open formats is a huge benefit, and critical to the process being painless and positive.

    While many would like to hurt MS more of us really just want a level field and files that can be properly read a hundred years from now. Let applications and vendors come & go, lets at least have some durable file formats.

    • So exactly which version of Word are they mandating people use if they are still running Windows 98? Word 95? Word 97? That's the problem with proprietary formats, they change and force everybody to change too. If they truly are running Windows 98, which I do not doubt, then they must be mandating that people submit grant applications in one of the older Word formats, because they can't be running the latest version of Word.

      As such, it sounds like this grant office would be a prime candidate for somethi
    • But WHICH version of Microsoft Word doc format do they specifically mandate?

      ie. Can I give them a doc file from word v6? or v2?

      --jeffk++
  • This sounds promising but there is not enough information here to discuss anything. A big issue with MS Office files has always been conversion of a small but important subset of features. How does this plug-in handle equations? How does it handle a document that's been marked up using the "track changes" feature? What happens when a document contains VBA?

    Just this week I sent a LaTeX document and the pdf'ed version to a journal editor. It came back in MS Word format for my final approval, and I'm using the
  • Some might call this a loss for OO, since the requirement to switch to it to support OD is now missing. Not completely true.

    Now, rather than being locked into either Office and the Doc format, or OO and the OD format, they can run either. This makes it into an issue of costs, convenience, and features -- may the best system win.

  • I live in Mexico. Here, the extreme left-wing contender didn't go to a debate because he said he would be attacked for no reason by the other contenders, and other lame excuses. (The real reason he didn't go is because his proposals would be bashed and squashed and spitted over - he's been a terrible mayor, to say the least).

    So he didn't go. The result? He lost a great deal of supporters, and now the officialist candidate is on the lead

    The same could happen to Microsoft. All the excuses will vanish once the

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