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ODF Plugins and a Microsoft Promise of Cooperation 262

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the playing-nice-or-moth-to-the-candle-flame dept.
Andy Updegrove writes "Last week, the Massachusetts Information Technology Division (ITD) issued a Request for Information (RFI) on any plugins that might be under development to assist it in migrating from a MS Office environment to one based upon software that supports ODF. The RFI acknowledges the fact that it may be necessary or advantageous to see some of the code in Office in order to enable the types of features that the ITD is looking for. Conveniently, Jason Matusow, Microsoft's Director of Standards Affairs, had this to say on the occasion of ODF's approval by the members of ISO and the IEC: "The ODF format is limited to the features and performance of OpenOffice and StarOffice and would not satisfy most of our Microsoft Office customers today. Yet we will support interoperability with ODF documents as they start to appear and will not oppose its standardization or use by any organization. The richness of competitive choices in the market is good for our customers and for the industry as a whole." Presumably such support will include helping the plug-in developers that will assist Massachusetts migrate from a MS Office environment to one based upon ODF-compliant office productivity software."
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ODF Plugins and a Microsoft Promise of Cooperation

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  • by xlyz (695304) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @03:29AM (#15280284) Journal

    embrace and extend!!
    • by jb.hl.com (782137) <joe@@@joe-baldwin...net> on Sunday May 07, 2006 @05:33AM (#15280508) Homepage Journal
      *sigh* OK, if Microsoft don't implement ODF they are rejecting open standards. If they do, they're embracing and extending.

      They can't win, can they?
      • by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @05:48AM (#15280540) Homepage
        It depends on how they do it. If they impliment a working standards compliant version... well, that'll be great.

        Based on what they did to Java, HTML and everything else they have ever touched it'll be a almost compliant version, to an out of date standard, that is a massive pain in the ass to use with non-MS products. (Ref IIS/IE/Frontpage etc etc.)
        • by UseFree.org (950344) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @08:31AM (#15280799) Homepage
          The ODF format is limited to the features and performance of OpenOffice and StarOffice

          Micro$soft is lying through their nose. They know very well that KOffice [koffice.org], the Free & Open Source office suite that comes with the KDE [kde.org] desktop environment also supports the ODF format. In fact, they were publically informed [slashdot.org] about KOffice's capabilities last year in a open letter [kde.org] sent by the KOffice developers.

          Yet they continue to spread the outright lie that only OpenOffice and its derivatives support the Oasis Open Document Format (ODF) [oasis-open.org].

          KOffice has a much cleaner architecture and a leaner codebase than OpenOffice, making its startup faster and facilitating the addition of new features [koffice.org]. Because improving KOffice to meet the usability needs of governments, businesses and disabled individuals can be done with much less effort, KOffice is an even greater threat to Micro$oft.
      • With their existing track record on interoperability, any such negative reaction is fully justified. They have a chance to fix it now though... we shall see.
      • by cyber-vandal (148830) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @07:38AM (#15280715) Homepage
        That's the disadvantage of being a habitual criminal, trust is hard to come by.

      • *sigh* OK, if Microsoft don't implement ODF they are rejecting open standards. If they do, they're embracing and extending.

        They can't win, can they?


        Think about it as the case of an ex convicted con artist. If he doesn't try to get a job, he must be up to something. If he does, he must be doing it as part of a scam.

        Given Microsoft history, that's more or less their position, they will always be suspects, they can't win, of course, but they put themselves in that position through their past actions regarding
      • if Microsoft don't implement ODF they are rejecting open standards. If they do, they're embracing and extending.

        They can't win, can they?

        Microsoft has spent more than 25 years developing its reputation as the business partner who will steal your ideas then stab you in the back and dump your carcass in the ditch as they continue their triumphant shamble down the Information Highway.

        Microsoft has put more time, money, and effort into developing this reputation than they have put into developing any of

    • by fatman22 (574039) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @09:34AM (#15280922)
      It speaks volumes that Microsoft chose to call the position "Director of Standards Affairs" and not "Director of Standards Compliance".
  • So uh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spazntwich (208070) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @03:30AM (#15280285)
    Did Microsoft take the time to clarify exactly which features their Office suite offers that Open and Star offices don't?

    Gosh, not that I'd like to insult the integrity of a company with such a spectacular record of interoperability and standards compliance as Microsoft, but I really just can't think of anything obvious that their closed document format offers beyond lack of compatibility with anything but their own products.
    • Re:So uh... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bacon Bits (926911) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @04:15AM (#15280371)
      Did Microsoft take the time to clarify exactly which features their Office suite offers that Open and Star offices don't?
      Excessive amounts of metadata, probably.

      Seriously, open up a Word document that you've worked on and modified several times. Select the whole document, copy it, paste it into a new document, and save it. The documents should largely be identical (you might've missed headers and footers or page margins). Now compare the fize sizes. The old document might be several megabytes. The new one is probably a few hundred K.

      What's missing? Gobs and gobs of metadata about every keystroke, ever action, every cursor positioning.

      Ever open up a Word document, scroll arounda nd read but make no changes, close it, and have Word ask to save changes? Metadata.

      • Re:So uh... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mangu (126918)
        Gobs and gobs of metadata about every keystroke, ever action, every cursor positioning.


        You can see the same thing if you print it to a file, in PDF format. Instead of positioning the cursor at the start of a line and then printing the line, Word does a separate cursor positioning for each character. A typical PDF file printed by MS-Word is at least ten times as big as would be needed to print the document in exactly the same format using the features of the PDF standard.

      • Hmm, why is positioning and keystrokes saved? It sounds like it's to be able to reconstruct the document step by step, or maybe the opposite? Do Word's undo feature work cross-sessions? That would be quite nice actually.
        • Re:So uh... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Bacon Bits (926911)
          I think it's part of the document versioning/revisioning system you can do in a Word document, but that has to be enabled and configured to work. So it's not clear why it's saved. Undo would be nice, but Word doesn't save across sessions, AFAICT.

          Most likly cause: multiple development groups. One develops the file format, one develops what is saved, one develops what is used from session to session.

        • Sorta. Have you ever opened a document in word that has its margins stuffed with little red boxes and lines all over saying "deleted" "added" or whatnot. If I author some policy document and send it about to my working group, everyone can make their changes and when it gets back to me I still have the ability to reconstruct what I did, but has all of their changes in the margins. Kinda hard to explain, you would really have to see it to get it. Personally I think its irritating as hell and people could
          • Please, please, PLEASE don't try and tell your co-workers to use an old typographic standard when every word processor they use has a feature to do that built right in.

            Word's "Track Changes" feature is one of the few things that make it such a useful writing tool. Every version of MS Word since Office 95 has it, and they all allow you to customize what is seen and how it's seen. Don't want the balloons in XP-on? Do what I do and turn them off. Want to only see the changes from Director Bob, or ignore al
      • Seriously, open up a Word document that you've worked on and modified several times. Select the whole document, copy it, paste it into a new document, and save it. The documents should largely be identical (you might've missed headers and footers or page margins). Now compare the fize sizes. The old document might be several megabytes. The new one is probably a few hundred K.

        this sounds like you have "QuickSave" (ot whatever its called in english) enabled. (this appends all Changed to the file)

      • Sizes of text files is one of my little peeves/obsessions. I usually just work with files that are pure text without any features fancier than occasional italics or footnotes. Even Word's rtf files are often bloated. I often open them up and save them with another program like Atlantis Word Processor and the file will regularly be half as big. If I then open it with Word, do nothing, and then save it, Word will regularly add 10-20K to the file size of the rtf file.
    • Re:So uh... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by qazwart (261667) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @05:07AM (#15280449) Homepage
      the son of a respected Deal rabbi, is also vice president of the 300-plus student Deal Yeshiva


      Oh, there are lots of features only found in MS Word that aren't in OpenOffice. These are things like their document wizard, VBA scripting, object insertion, watermarking, cross-referencing, index marking, and our favorite, Clippy the paperclip.

      Ever used these features? No? That's probably why they're not in OpenOffice.

      There are several reasons for all of these features: You've got one application that's trying to make sure that anyone who uses it can find the features they need. Because MS has hundreds of developers working full time on MS office, and they got to do something to justify their jobs. It looks good in ad copy (millions of features!). And, it is an important element of FUD. (If you switch to OpenOffice, there might be some feature not in OpenOffice that you will need.)
      • Re:So uh... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Tim C (15259) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @06:56AM (#15280647)
        document wizard,

        Yes, although rarely.

        VBA scripting

        Yes.

        object insertion

        Yes.

        cross-referencing

        Yes.

        Ever used these features? No? That's probably why they're not in OpenOffice.

        Just because *you* don't use a feature, or know anyone else that does, doesn't mean that no-one uses it.
        • Just because *you* don't use a feature, or know anyone else that does, doesn't mean that no-one uses it.

          Because most slashdotters are unix guys and they don't understand complex software or modern technology. To them, if a program uses color, it's a waste of time, resources and processor clicks. Don't worry, they're a dying breed and on their way out.

      • Cross referencing is present in openoffice, i've used it myself
        as is index marking and watermarking, also used them (or seen them in use on documents i've opened)

        If by object insertion you mean ole objects, then yes openoffice also supports that but it will result in proprietary binary blobs existing inside your document which is far from ideal.

        There is no clippy, but openoffice does sport an almost-as-annoying lightbulb.

        And as to VBA scripting, openoffice supports macros written in openoffice basic, java,
      • Dunno about the rest but I find VBA scripting incredibly useful, it saves me so much time and boredom.
      • Re:So uh... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by x0n (120596)
        > Ever used these features? No? That's probably why they're not in OpenOffice.
        > ...
        > And, it is an important element of FUD

        Is it just me, or is there a certain irony to be observed in the above statements?

        - Oisin
    • by Craig Ringer (302899) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @05:38AM (#15280521) Homepage Journal
      Lots. One that's not specific to the file formats, though probably affected by them, is performance. OO.o can be very slow at accomplishing common tasks, particularly loading and saving files. I am constantly amazed as I use OO.o day-to-day by how much RAM it manages to use on simple documents, and how long they can take to open and save. I have it sitting beside MS Office, so I can make a very direct comparison on the same hardware and OS. There are lots of things I do like about OO.o, but its performance is not one of those things.

      Beyond that, I can't say there's too much I've run into that I can do in Office but not OO.o . A lot of things are much smoother in Office, though ... one could argue that except where OO.o has gone and done something new and intersting, most of its UI is a bad clone of an old version of a bad UI (Office '97). Office has moved on, and while its UI is still pretty poor, it's a lot better than it was ... but OO'o's really hasn't moved much. Frankly, it sucks badly to use, and that's despite my being more familiar with OO.o than Office.

      I think MS's argument is a lot weaker with regards to the file format, though I'm certainly no expert. I do expect that they'll be able to implement their own formats with better performance in Office than the ODF formats, but that's hardly surprising given that they designed them with that as one of their key goals.

      More interestingly, the Office XML formats require implementing programs to preserve unrecognised valid markup from other namespaces. This lets you do things like embed (eg) an order record in an Office document, embed a JDF specification (when Publisher gets around to going XML as well), and so on. It's not exciting for the end user, but for developers and larger businesses it's a really nice thing to see. One could argue that Microsoft are getting XML "right" in a way that few have so far. Most interestingly by far, you can link the foreign markup in to your Office documents, so that (eg) a user can fill in a form in a document that's actually an XForm with your own structured data. Alternately, a newspaper could insert some custom metadata when exporting stories from a database, so it can tell what's been done with it, keep the DB up to date when the story is imported again, and so on. It's quite interesting stuff. Check out Brian Jones' weblog for some interesting use cases and discussion (and some persistent questions about the licensing issues from me).

      The ODF spec only briefly refers to this issue at all. IIRC it permits apps to do this perservation, but does not require it or provide any facilities to support it. If apps aren't required to preserve your markup, then in my view it's not much darn good - it's somewhat like saying that apps may preserve your document text and structure. OpenOffice doesn't preserve foreign markup at all. If it's not directly in the ODF spec, you can't use it. This really loses one of the great advantages that XML has, and is very disappointing.

      If we had a standard office document format that I could rely on having these features, there are some very interesting things I could do with it, especially at work. This fragementation and the ODF limitations are extremely frustrating, especially given that the ODF folks are always banging on the XML gong while missing one of the key abilities of XML entirely.

      I think MS screwed up very badly at the start by attacking ODF with rhetoric and poorly thought out garbage, not a solid arguement over capabilities and other real issues. Insufficient audiovisual support indeed...

      Personally I don't care much whether ODF or MS Office XML wins, so long as the resulting standard:
      • can be reasonably supported in all office-style apps
      • isn't too much of a moving target
      • is royalty free, including automatic royalty free licenses on any required patents
      • is controlled by a standards body
      • specifies enough core functionality that incompati
      • The ODF spec only briefly refers to this issue at all. IIRC it permits apps to do this perservation, but does not require it or provide any facilities to support it. If apps aren't required to preserve your markup, then in my view it's not much darn good - it's somewhat like saying that apps may preserve your document text and structure. OpenOffice doesn't preserve foreign markup at all. If it's not directly in the ODF spec, you can't use it. This really loses one of the great advantages that XML has, and

    • Did Microsoft take the time to clarify exactly which features their Office suite offers that Open and Star offices don't?
      They don't have to, there is a bit of them that John Doe will never use, but bother some more advanced users. Like plotting experimental data with different error (uncertainity) value for each measurement. In OOo it's possible to do just the basics - i.e. same error (+/- value or percentage) for each measurement.
      This of course could bring questions like what sick people use Excel for p
    • Re:So uh... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Tatsh (893946)
      Let's remember how many useless features there are in MS Word (smart tags anyone?).

      Honestly, right now, Office 97 suits plenty of people's needs compared to 2003 or XP or 2000. A lot of offices still use Office 2000 or XP and will not bother with getting 2003 ever. There's just no need. The amount of money and time to deploy on systems is not worth it to them. Secondly, what are the new features after XP to 2003 that are so important? Nothing at all. Not even from 97.

      I like to think of what I did with Offic
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07, 2006 @03:36AM (#15280295)
    As groklaw has already reported [groklaw.net] there is a plugin for importing and exporting ODF files for MS Office all the way back to Office 97. It was recently finished and is in testing.
    • by Xtifr (1323) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @04:57AM (#15280432) Homepage
      On May 4th, slashdot covered the followup to this story [slashdot.org]. Now, three days later, they get around to mentioning the original story. I guess this doesn't actually qualify as a dupe, but it's definitely some sort of mutant nephew of a dupe, or something.
    • Let me start off by stating Im for the odf format. I think we need open formats. I hate to say it, but the plugin may be a bad idea. Why? Well in my mind FOSS helped Microsoft.
      We gave the government a way to keep using M$ Office. We as tax payers are paying the license fees for the government. If the plugin hadn't been available, odf format was mandated, and MS Office was not capable. The government may have had to use cheaper or free software. Saving the tax payer money. Money that could then be spent on o
      • But with the ODF plugin, there's no retraining necessary and the government can continue to use their old copies of word. This is even cheaper than trying to switch everyone over to OpenOffice. Then when it comes time to upgrade their version of Word, they can either upgrade, which requires retraining, especially with the direction office 12 is taking, or choose to go with OpenOffice/KOffice, or any other tools available at the time that support ODF. The ODF plugin isn't about helping microsoft. It's ab
        • There are continued costs with using MS Office. Most of the licenses need to be paid for on a yearly basis with the government. As for retraining. Have you used Open Office? It is so close to to the current Word the retraining costs would be close to $0.
        • I forgot to add, the odf format is about changing vendor lock in. But I think you and a lot of people confuse the format and plug in. The plugin by allowing the user to continue to use MS Office promotes the lockin because of the comfort factor. Getting users to stop using a program is harder than a lot of people think. Its why bundling works to M$ favor when they include software with Windowz. This isn't a problem when individuals or private companies/organizations want to continue to use M$ Office. But th
  • Excellent (Score:4, Insightful)

    by extra the woos (601736) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @03:37AM (#15280297)
    While we cannot and should not assume that Microsoft has OpenOffice's best interests at heart (of course they don't) this is still excellent news.

    This is extremely significant news. What this means is that, after years and years of MSO having no competition, years after they basically wiped out wordperfect etc... There is now significant competition to Microsoft Office, and they are being forced to acknowledge it.

    Hopefully this will mean that Microsoft will start developing some new revolutionary stuff in Microsoft Office instead of just resting on their laurels (sorry but I don't think any version since 6.0 has been that huge of an upgrade compared to going to 6.0). This is good news. We are all going to get better products instead of everyone just copying each other's minor features.

    Open Office is here to stay. They have succesfully gotten a multi-billion dollar company to acknowledge them as a serious competitor just like Linux forced them to acknowledge that windows has competition. Microsoft no longer has the monopoly they did a few years ago.
  • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Sunday May 07, 2006 @03:50AM (#15280318) Journal
    I'm genuinely interested to know what features of Microsoft Word "most users use" that are not in OpenOffice or KOffice (which also does ODF).

    Nearly all the users in our office are doing standard officey things in MS Office. None of them use features that aren't present in OpenOffice - in fact, hardly any of them use MS Office as anything more than a glorified typewriter with a handy spell checker.
    • Prepared to be flooded with "Office is full of bloat" posts.

      But I would say most if not all features in MS office are there because someone, somewhere needs those features on a regular basis. You might not know of any of these people but there are probably people out there who would kiss Bill Gates personally for the inclusion of this feature that makes their task so much easier.
      • by mangu (126918) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @05:26AM (#15280493)
        I would say most if not all features in MS office are there because someone, somewhere needs those features on a regular basis


        No. About ten years ago I read an interview by a top executive from Microsoft (Nathan Myrwold, iirc) that most features do not come from customer requests, but from magazine comparisons. When someone wrote an article comparing different office suites they would include a table with tickmarks showing which features were included in each software. It became an obvious competitive advantage to have more tickmarks than the competition.


        In that interview, Myrwold mentioned that MS-Word had over a thousand different commands, and that was a problem because most of those commands would never be used by the majority of users and it had a big impact on usability. That's how Clippy was born, it was an attempt to concilate the wants of marketing who insist on putting useless features with the needs of users who want to perform simple tasks most of the time.

      • You're kidding, right? <i>MS office</i> is the bloated one, when compared to <i>OpenOffice.org</i>?

        Office might've been bloated once, and arguably still is, but it's nothing compared to the awe-inspiring bulk of OO.o in action.
    • by jmv (93421) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @04:02AM (#15280343) Homepage
      There are many areas where OO.o is still lacking badly. One of them is the math editor. I still think writing a scientific document in MS Word (and not LaTeX) is a dumb idea in the first place, but OO.o is far worse than even MS Word. Support for sound (works but buggy) and video (inexistant AFAIK) in presentations is another example. These are "just" implementation issues (not ODF-related), they will need to be fixed if OO is to compete with MS Office at the feature level (I refuse to us MS Office because the format is closed, but not everyone care about that).
      • by Alioth (221270)
        But those aren't the features most people are using. Sure, people ARE using them, but not most as Microsoft asserts. Perhaps less than 1% of our company ever makes a presentation, and so far zero has included video - the vast majority (i.e. the "most people" Microsoft are referring to) in our office use Word and nothing else. Finance use spreadsheets, but they aren't using features in Excel that are not present in OpenOffice either.

        I don't disagree that people use features in MS Office that aren't present i
        • It's fairly typical for IT in large organizations to customize some stuff in Office, usually very sily things like having default templates that for some reason include macros, adding buttons to the menus to insert logo's and "confidential" marks, that sort of thing.

          Those silly scripted pieces of annoyance are rolled out to every user in a large organization, and hey presto, most users of office are using "advanced" features, mostly because they can't be turned off easily.

          I've not been in a large enterprise
          • I've not been in a large enterprise organisation that did NOT have office customization. (Nor in one where the customizations were NOT silly, or NOT dependent on ancient VB macros - it must be on page 1 of the MCSE book)

            That's like saying that you haven't been in a large enterprise organisation that did NOT have shell scripts in their unix machines, or that didn't depend on C programming - it must be on page 1 of The Unix Programming Environment.

            Seriously, if you buy a tool and don't use its features... S

        • however say 1% of your workforce are people who actually need to use formulae to express what thier doing (IE are mathematicians or true engineers of some sort) and the facilities for doing so in oo.o are considered inadequate.

          you either have to deploy ms office everywhere or live with the huge pain of multiple almost but not quite compatible office suites. Much the same thing happens with different versions of office itself in fact.
        • Excel is very nice for financial models of any size: there is not that much difference between one spreadsheet and another but Excel has a slight edge.

          These days I no longer spend weeks working on building one spreadsheet (thank God) and I am quite happy with Gnumeric.

          Not everyone agrees with me and one guy who used to work for me, and now does do big spreadsheets using Excel, says he prefers Excel.

          The embedded video and audio in office documents is a menace. It just gets used as a way of emailing stuff tha
      • by odie_q (130040)
        Interesting. I study theoretical physics and, as you suggest, write all my papers in latex. However, the computer labs at school for some reason run Windows with MikTex, which is said to suck (I use my laptop, and wouldn't know), so a lot of people use either MS Word or OO Writer for their papers.

        Now, the way it goes seems to be they start out with MS Word, as it is most familiar. After having lost a couple of papers to its mysteries, they switch to OO Writer. Now, OpenOffice seems to lose just as much data
        • ... MikTex, which is said to suck
          I don't know who says this, but I have been using MiKTeX for 4 years now with no complaints. It's a good, solid package with everything you might need to produce LaTeX documents, and then some.
      • Video in PowerPoint is just about the least portable feature in it. Its incredibly fickle about paths, and doesn't handle going cross platform (Mac and PC) since the PC version doesn't show Quicktime files well, and the mac version can;t seem to show wmv at all.

      • For any math stuff, you should use LaTeX or some frontend like LyX.

        Word is a disaster, and MathType is awful. Wjy reproduce that garbage?

        Maybe OO could use some LyX Matheditor code to create eps objects for equations. This is basically what I do with tgif, where I have nice eps equation images. Click on them, it opens Lyx to edit, save and close lyx and the equation is exported to ps, converted to eps, then uploaded into tgif again. Basically, tgif allows you to add the lyx file onto the eps image and s
        • I actually do use LyX as a LaTeX frontend and I wouldn't switch to OO.o even if the equation editor was good. However, I use OO.o for the graphics because it's just so much faster than xfig and tgif. Problem is when I need equations in there -- the OO math editor is just awful. I haven't used the MS Word one either, but I don't think it's nearly as bad. BTW, I always find it funny that you can recognize a paper written with Word just because the equations don't look "quite right".
      • Support for sound (works but buggy) and video (inexistant AFAIK) in presentations is another example.

        You can insert video (as well as many other types of media).

        Insert...
        Plugins

        Then just choose which type of media you're inserting.

        I can't say I think it's very useful, but it can be done.

      • You are not making sense!!

        There are many areas where OO.o is still lacking badly. One of them is the math editor. I still think writing a scientific document in MS Word (and not LaTeX) is a dumb idea in the first place, but OO.o is far worse than even MS Word.

        When taking a Numeric Methods For Differential Equations course, I got the other students in my group to install OpenOffice exactly because of the math editor!! We would still be writing equations if we used MSOffice!!

        I remember writing equations with

        • OK, maybe I didn't use the right comparison and the Word equation editor sucks more than I thought. Still, I've been using LyX since 1997 and even back then (version 0.10.x IIRC), the equation editor was way ahead of the one in OO.o. It just seems to be that none of the developers actually care about it, which is a bit sad.
        • Perhaps compared to MS Word the OOo equation editor is a marvel, but coming from Latex it's atrocious. It feels like a bastardized version of what one would have done in tex and with close to no control on the way the output will appear. My feeling was that it's useless for anything lenghtier than a short presentation. Of course, YMMV.
      • There are many areas where OO.o is still lacking badly. One of them is the math editor.

        A couple points:

        Remember they were discussing differences in file formats. ODF is no worse at storing equations than DOC. I have DOCs that I've converted to ODT in OO.o writer & equations are identical. (You did mention these were "implementation issues (by which you really mean INTERFACE issues," but it is worth emphasizing.)

        Also: the equation editor that ships with Word is VERY bad. It is basically a limited sha

        • Remember they were discussing differences in file formats

          I do understand that. However, for a file format to be really useful, it must have good application support. So far, the app that supports it best is OO.o, but it still needs to be improved a lot (which is what I was trying to point out).

          Can you clarify what you mean by [sound is] "buggy?" Or at least give examples?

          I mean that 1) it's a bit of a pain to insert sounds in the first place and 2) On both my machines, sounds don't even work when I'm in pre
    • I'm curious if the commenting/version-tracking stuff is in there. This is one area where Word really shines, and has noticably improved in the past few versions.

      Granted, I rarely use OpenOffice, but am curious to see how it stacks up. I actually do enjoy the fact that many of the more "advanced" features in word work extremely well when I need them. The features for managing large documents are appreciated as well with support for tables-of-contents and excellent footnote support.

      I'm no big Microsoft fan
      • by Tom (822) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @04:53AM (#15280426) Homepage Journal
        I'm curious if the commenting/version-tracking stuff is in there. This is one area where Word really shines, and has noticably improved in the past few versions.

        Can I get some of what you're smoking? The commenting is one hell of a mess. Oh yeah, it looks all shiney and look! colours! on the surface, but have you ever tried to really _work_ with it? The only use is within small workgroups where a little bit of improved communication would make it superfluous anyways.

        I've tried working with both commenting and versioning in a non-trivial environment where several different - and at times hostile - parties are involved. You can forget about it. We're currently using .rtf because .doc contains too much hidden information the parties don't want revealed to each other, just as one example.
        In .odf I could at worst write a small script to get it out, if it were stored at all (I've done scripts to touch-up .sxi files before, it's easier than it sounds).

        And let's not even speak about versioning. 20 year old CVS beats it with one arm tied behind its back.

        Almost all of Words advanced features are half-assed at best. I'll celebrate the day its market share plummets to insignificance.
        • Not sure if you are using OpenOffice.org or not, but just in case you are (and for others out there concerned about version changes staying in sensitive documents):

          Tools - Options - General - OpenOffice.org - Remove personal information on saving (tick it)

          You can also go into File - Properties - General and then press the Delete user data button on any existing document to clear revisions, user data etc.

          HTH
        • by Tarwn (458323)
          So your saying commenting/version-tracking does work for small groups of people? Thats been my experience as well. Sharepoint has a lot of promise in extending these, but unfortunatly I think Sharepoint has fallen fairly wide of the mark in terms of usefulness and useability.
          I believe that the granparent's point was that this feature (commenting/version-tracking) is useful in some circumstances and is not included in Open Office. And I am willing to agree that it is useful in many cirucumstances. However:
          OO
    • by Tim C (15259)
      Remembering that the slashdot audience is primarily composed of programmers, sysadmins and other geeks*, I really suspect that you're asking the wrong people that question. Most of us here will be using Word as "a glorified typewriter with a handy spellchecker" because that's all we need from it. You might have a better response about Excel, but I think you'll be out of luck with regards to Word, Powerpoint, etc.

      (* Note that I said primarily; please don't take me to task because not only geeks read slashdot
    • by Bert64 (520050)
      And infact a significant proportion of msoffice customers are still using versions as old as 97, which also don't support many of the feature they're talking about.
    • After 15 years using MS Office, I've never found a "common" (to me) feature that OpenOffice can't replicate. YMMV.

      I think what this announcement translates to is "Resistance is futile! You will be assimulated." Meaning: We will ensure that every time you us a MSFT product to open a ODF file, it will be converted to the superior technology without delay and we will repeatedly question the intelligence of any motions to continue with this puny ODF format. This is typical behaviour for their software app

  • by tsa (15680)
    Like an old castle, Microsoft is slowly being abandoned and crumbling away. Like the old castle, they will probably be around for another thousand years or so.
  • by joevai (952546) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @04:53AM (#15280425)

    I am constantly amazed by the sort of mass-delusion people seem to have about MS office, intentionally perpetuated by ms - the idea that ms office is a framework of acceptably workable office productivity applications. Wrong wrong wrong.

    Each and every office application is buggy, has gaping holes in terms of usability (for example the Access report designer makes adding columns to data a nightmare - you have to align line elements to the pixels manually, or use the severely clunky grid system), and makes any use beyond bare minimum severely frustrating (my job is to work with Microsoft Office and I'm at expert level with it so I know those only too well).

    Microsoft dominate the market, and they have abused it as most public companies in a monopoly would do. The software is incomplete and as far as I'm concerned unacceptably faulty but it's the best out there given that they have had virtually no competition. Now that's changing, they act as if their so-far monopolised customer base would find other software unacceptably bad. It's ridiculous.

    Thank God for open source giving people a more usable, workable solution not only for portability's sake but to finally give us an alternative so we can all show ms what is and isn't acceptable. In my opinion it isn't there yet - but it's only a matter of time before Openoffice exceeds MS in terms of functionality I'm convinced of it.

    I know I'm probably gonna be modded down for trolling/off-topic/etc. but I feel so strongly about this - please can we all stop acting as if their software is acceptable. In any other industry a company producing such faulty goods would have gone out of business, and rightly so from the customer's point of view. We're only encouraging Microsoft to not bother fixing anything time and time again if we stay complacent, and yet again us customers' will be cheated out of decent software. They could do it. They have very talented people working for them. But they only understand the language of commerce - so let's make the competition strong and force them to change their ways. It's time for change.

    /rant

    • Yeah, see what happened with Internet Explorer; it stagnated for a few years after they killed off Netscape (quite rightly as Netscape was turning into a piece of crap by version 4.7). Now that Firefox is gaining market share, they're starting to work on IE7, tabbed browsing etc and all the features people have been screaming for over the last few years and have gone to Opera, Firefox etc to get.
  • I've just been reading Clayton Christensen's book "The Innovator's Dilemma" about disruptive technologies. Actually "technology" is a bit of a misnomer: it ought to have been called "disruptive marketing". While technology is often a key part of the story, the real driver is generally the discovery of some small niche that is either not served at all by the incumbents, or that is over-served because the incumbents are always releasing bigger, better and more expensive versions and something simple, small
  • Say what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by myxiplx (906307) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @07:02AM (#15280652)
    Gotta love that. MS say they will support OpenDoc? Makes a change from last year "Yates reiterated the Microsoft does not intend to natively support the OpenDocument format" - Sept 05 (ZDNet) Also a little confused about this line: "The ODF format is limited to the features and performance of OpenOffice and StarOffice". I thought OpenDoc was created by an open consortium of companies and was based on real world needs instead of an artificial construct to match the features of a particular program. Surely MS' doc format is the only one limited specifically to the features of a particular program? And last, a real doozy: "we will support interoperability with ODF documents ... and will not oppose its standardization or use by any organization." Hmm... so how come MS spent so much time & effort lobbying Mass. in an attempt to derail their attempts to implement OpenDocument?
    • Also a little confused about this line: "The ODF format is limited to the features and performance of OpenOffice and StarOffice". I thought OpenDoc was created by an open consortium of companies and was based on real world needs instead of an artificial construct to match the features of a particular program.

      Allow me to quote from http://xml.openoffice.org/ [openoffice.org]
      OpenOffice.org XML file format: The OpenOffice.org XML file format is the native file format of OpenOffice.org 1.0. It has been replaced by the OASIS Op

      • "That's good, because it caused Microsoft to respond by opening up Office 2007's formats as a standard too (a move that OO.o and their allies didn't foresee)."

        Ah, but thats where you are wrong. MS *pretended* to open up their formats. In reality, there will still be XML-encoded binary portions that will only be understandable using MS provided Windows-only libraries, and their licensing terms prohibit GPL software from implementing it.

        ODF had to have somwhere to start - it would have taken quite a bit longe
      • "So, neither side can honestly play the "use us because of our document formats" game. ... They both have to compete on functionality/price."

        This is a contest between open formats (where the use controls access to and use of the documents they create and closed formats where Microsoft controls access to and use of users documents. This is an important distinction. For Microsoft, it is about control of the customer. For OpenOffice.org it is about giving the user control.

        It's not really about functionali

  • Embrace & Destroy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gvc (167165) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @08:49AM (#15280830)
    Nothing new or encouraging about this. Microsoft ruined html, Java, and so on by embedding non-standard features supported only by their software. They're well on the way to embedding Windows dependencies in Windows-generated Postscript and PDF files, too.

    Transparent as it is, the strategy is remarkably effective. The masses blame the standards-compliant software for "not working", not Microsoft for having poisoned the standard. The courts will sit on their hands and a couple of billion-dollar buyouts will silence the commercial opposition.
    • Re:Embrace & Destroy (Score:3, Informative)

      by SysKoll (48967)
      Microsoft ruined html, Java, and so on by embedding non-standard features supported only by their software.

      Add C++ and Kerberos to the list.

      Oh, and Active Directory is a clever way to sabotage LDAP.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @08:59AM (#15280848)
    a Microsoft Promise of Cooperation

    ... and you can take that to the bank.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"

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