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GNU is Not Unix

Gobe Productive To Be GPLed 275

ParisTG writes "The Gobe Productive office suite is to be re-licensed under the GPL, according to an interview by OSNews. "FreeRadical has purchased the gobeProductive source code and plans to continue to develop the product under a GPL license."" The people who wrote Gobe, are also the folks who wrote ClarisWorks ? , if you remember back to that. I've used Gobe a few times before - great office suite.
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Gobe Productive To Be GPLed

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  • ...and I still hear people calling for the open sourcing of WordPerfect. How many office suites do we need?
    • None, actually. Even a perfect Office clone would have marginal impact.

      Yes, develop one if you're convinced that it's needed to establish credibility with the corporate crowd. But, remember, there's no compelling reason for anyone who's happy using Office to switch to a "wannabe" package, especially when it means switching to a new and strange OS, throwing away all those shrink-wrapped programs that someone has paid for, and throwing away the familiarity of Windows.

      What's in it for them: Wipe my machine, throw everything away, and start a new and steep learning curve, just to use something that's "free"? No thanks, that costs too much.

      Linux, et al, will continue to appeal primarily to (1) people who like Unix, and (2) people who are motivated by ideology, and (3) people who can't/won't buy commercial software, until someone develops and markets software that provides capabilities that are so unique and compelling that it merits absorbing the very real cost of moving from Windows.

      • "there's no compelling reason for anyone who's happy using Office to switch to a "wannabe" package"

        Microsoft faces the same problem with their Office. If someone is happy using Office 2000 (or even Office 97) what reason would they have to pay to upgrade to Office XP? They really just have two choices to maintain their revenue stream: force upgrades by breaking compatibility or push for subscription licensing.

        The best hope for a sale (either MS Office or an alternative) is an OEM preinstall. Antitrust settlement or not, MS still has the big OEMS by the balls, so the mom and pop white box vendors are the best hope for a preinstall of free software like Openoffice.org or Gobe.


    • People always tells me there "a number of office suites that run under Linux".

      So I know there's openoffice, there's siag office, and some not-so-complete suites like "gnome office", or single-application thingies such as abiword.

      So, exactly how many of the "complete suites" out there that runs under Linux ?

      And if anyone is reading this so far, what's the other "office-related" applications that you know of, that may be not as famous as abiword or gnumerics, but still worth to be mentioned ?

      Thanks for any and all your inputs.

  • by ghazban ( 28784 ) on Monday August 12, 2002 @07:04AM (#4053411) Homepage
    It's very noble of Gobe to release the source after the product's financial demise, rather than sell it on for a pittance. Hopefully the clean and bloat-free source will live on.

    See osnews [osnews.com] for a comment by one of Gobe's developers Tom Hoke.
    • by phr2 ( 545169 ) on Monday August 12, 2002 @08:38AM (#4053705)
      According to the article, Free Radical paid for the code and then GPL'd it. It doesn't say how much they paid so I don't know whether it was a pittance. The GPL'ing does not appear to have been done as an act of charity. Rather, it looks like they want the Internet to be their unpaid porting, QA, and feature-addition department. The program will be dual licensed which means there will probably be proprietary versions, possibly including contributions from those same unpaid programmers. I'm not terribly thrilled with that kind of arrangement.

      Mozilla is licensed sort of similarly (the MPL gives Netscape special rights to the code) and it's not attracting so many volunteers either. I'm not real surprised. While the letter of the GPL doesn't prevent dual licensing, it's not really in the GPL spirit, which is that the original author of a piece of code doesn't have special rights that others don't have.

      If I add features to an FSF GPL'd program, I'm doing volunteer work for the free software community and it makes me happy. If I add features to a BSD-licensed program, I become an unpaid employee of anyone who feels like forking the code--I don't find that so attractive. If I add features to Gobe Office, I possibly become an unpaid employee of just one company, Free Radical. Once again, life's too short for that.

      I'm not a total free software zealot and I am willing to work on proprietary code. But when I do that, I expect to get paid, just as the vendor expects to get paid. So I'm not terribly impressed by these commercial dual licensed semi-GPL projects.

      (Man, topic drift inside a single post! Forgive me.)

      • Get ahold of yourself. modifications to dual-licensed software are still Free in all important senses of the word. Why should you care if someone forks it? Does that take anything away from the free branch?

        it's not really in the GPL spirit, which is that the original author of a piece of code doesn't have special rights that others don't have.

        So the fact that the FSF isn't happy with you simply GPLing your software, but wants you assign them the copyright is for what reason exactly? The copyright holder, usually the original author, does have special rights.

      • If I add features to an FSF GPL'd program, I'm doing volunteer work for the free software community and it makes me happy. If I add features to a BSD-licensed program, I become an unpaid employee of anyone who feels like forking the code--I don't find that so attractive. If I add features to Gobe Office, I possibly become an unpaid employee of just one company, Free Radical. Once again, life's too short for that.

        I'd really like to know whether you had useful patches for apache, bsd, or xfree86 that you held back because of the non-GPL license. Heck, I'd like to see anyone come up and claim that. Those making the most noise about licenses are usually those with nothing to contribute.

        • I believe that the claim is that because of the licensing, he didn't even consider working on the code.

          I sort of agree with that, though more to the point, that's not the place that I want to put my energy ... I've got a different project in mind. When I do it, it will be GPL. And it may interface with, say, Apache, but it won't be a part of Apache... but then it wouldn't anyway.

          A large part of what goes on is "What itch are you scratching?" Most people would be willing to put up with a license that they didn't totally agree with to work on the project that they wanted. There are limits, but I don't really feel that any of the open source projects go outside of them. BSD tends to be more for people who just want the code to get out there, and GPL more for people who don't want to be required to buy back the code that they wrote ...

          Still, the "part commercial" licenses are special cases. They don't really seem unfair to me, at least not necessarily unfair. The Mozilla-Netscape connection seems to work out alright. Anyone can use it, but only Netscape is allowed to sell it (outside of GPL constraints .. anyone can sell it if they follow GPL rules).

          The thing is, most software projects really are small teams. The folks in charge are the folks in charge, and you may be able to join with them, but it may be years before you become a core member. If then. But this is just human small group dynamics, so it shouldn't be surprising. Of course the Netscape in group remained the major coders on Mozilla. They worked together, they got to know each other. Of course it was hard for outside coders to get in. For one think, they worked on the project full time, and the outside coder who did that was quite rare, but for another, they knew each other. They were "us".

          The Linux kernel group is more open, but that's partly because they are more dispersed. And that has negative as well as positive effects. Still, the core group of coders doesn't change rapidly. Anyone can earn a place, but the criteria aren't any hard and inflexible kind of thing. If the other members don't like you, they won't let you in. If they do, the entrance bar is lower. And this isn't a bad thing. Groups need social cohesion to work well. And this, be it remembered, is with a maximally "FSF approved" license.

          If you wanted to nit pick, I suppose that you could claim that if you were working on the kernel you were laboring on behalf of Red Hat (though other commercial entities would also benefit). Nothing wrong with that. They pick up their fair share of the tab, no reason they shouldn't benefit.

          Back to Netscape, and the work on Mozilla. Netscape picks up most of the tab, not reason they shouldn't benefit. This isn't like MS snaffeling the TCP stack from BSD. MS is just a sponger, but that doesn't describe Netscape. And I doubt that it will describe Free Radical. (If it does, then they've just wasted their money on a bad bet. They're going to need to put a lot more push behind it than just opening the code if they want to get decent development in any reasonable time frame, when KOffice and OpenOffice are looking so good.)
        • I'd really like to know whether you had useful patches for apache, bsd, or xfree86 that you held back because of the non-GPL license. Heck, I'd like to see anyone come up and claim that. Those making the most noise about licenses are usually those with nothing to contribute.

          The person you responded to is an extremely productive free software developer. I don't know if he wants to be identified too easily, so I'll keep this list short:

          • He wrote a replacement for the graphics subsystem for emacs under X windows (don't think it was ever incorporated, alas). I saw a demo of a chess front end in an X window.
          • He is a principal coauthor of a free-for-noncommercial-use encrypted telephone program.
          • He was a paid developer for the Free Software Foundation. You probably ran his code the last time you ran gcc, emacs or a number of other GNU utilities.
      • Mozilla is licensed sort of similarly (the MPL gives Netscape special rights to the code)

        No it doesn't. That's the NPL which Netscape only used in the very beginning of the project, everything they have released since then is under the MPL which is quite tolerable and grants no special rights.

        While the letter of the GPL doesn't prevent dual licensing, it's not really in the GPL spirit, which is that the original author of a piece of code doesn't have special rights that others don't have.

        So, would you rather have Sun throw a couple of developers at OpenOffice or a whole crowd of them funded by corporate licenses of Star Office? What's going on is clear to all contributors and if Sun ever decides to stop work or close their code base the GPL sources are there for you to continue with.
      • "Mozilla is licensed sort of similarly (the MPL gives Netscape special rights to the code) and it's not attracting so many volunteers either."

        I don't think that's because of the licencing so much as it's a factor of a C++ application which has a many hundred meg source tree, uses its own meta-description language for its interface (which is implemented in its own rendering core), has its own cross-platform COM interface for dynamic object meshing, and in general is a very, very, very complex and advanced piece of work.

        It's not exactly something you sit down and build a patch for over lunch. It's more complex than the Linux kernel in many respects. How many people hack on the kernel full time?

        I can take an OS design class that teaches me enough about how kernels should work that I can work on the Linux kernel; Mozilla requires that you know C++ well, code engineering, and also go on to know the project well (its class libraries, inheritance trees, XPCOM, etc, etc). It's more of a fusion of all your CS classes with a healthy helping of learning the project itself.
      • If I add features to an FSF GPL'd program, I'm doing volunteer work for the free software community and it makes me happy. If I add features to a BSD-licensed program, I become an unpaid employee of anyone who feels like forking the code--I don't find that so attractive. If I add features to Gobe Office, I possibly become an unpaid employee of just one company, Free Radical. Once again, life's too short for that.

        You don't have to sign over your copyright of your contributed portion of code. They may ask you to do so when they add the patch to their development tree, but you are under no obligation to do so under the GPL.

  • It's fast software (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 12, 2002 @07:05AM (#4053414)
    Basically, if OpenOffice is too slow on your machine try Gobe Productive. It has versions on BeOS, Windows, and Linux. The speed is amazing.

    I'm rolling out 30 P166s and this will be on it :)

  • Relly nice program! I just tested it on Windows and now i wonder why anyone would want MS office. Especially the graphics module is impressive, and I can't believe how fast this app is, yet has tons of features. It really make MS office look old, even XP. This is one of these nice suprises :-)
    • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .tteksehnad.> on Monday August 12, 2002 @07:35AM (#4053476)
      This is a constant problem with free/low cost software.

      People will say things like "this is better than office! why would anyone want office?!?"

      I've looked at every single office suite out there. None of them - NONE of them, have any type of automation interface.

      Big deal? YES. See, the thing is, people use Office for a reason. Often, its because another piece of software requires it/uses it. I work fo a vendor who sells a very expensive piece of vertical market software. This software can produce billing letters/etc. So okay, does our software have its own word processor? No, its uses automation compononents Word/Office.

      Can we replace that? Can we work in another suite, or offer a choice? No. Nope. None. Nothing. No support for it.

      There are a cadre of other things that the free suites don't do. People claim that these other products are analogs to Office - and its a complete crock.

      Yes, most people don't use the features. But if you actually do use one of the features, good luck trying to replicate it in a free software package.
      • I work fo a vendor who sells a very expensive piece of vertical market software.

        If it's that expensive, why not spend some money on hiring a developer to bring Abiword, or something similar, up to scratch in that respect?

        (Of course, if your product costs more than, say, 10x more than Office, people may well not care about the extra fee for the WP... but if that's not the case, surely having a free program available would remove the requirement for customers to buy Office as well, and possibly increase sales.)

        I realise this may not be possible unless the program in question has a reasonably clean and extensible infrastructure, but then you'd want to check that before starting work I guess. :)

        • If it's that expensive, why not spend some money on hiring a developer to bring Abiword, or something similar, up to scratch in that respect?
          We'd offer choice to our customers, if it were done. We're not going to go out of our way, spend a hundred thousand dollars, code this up, and then have people use it or not. PLus it will require ongoing maintenance.

          No way, it just doesnt make sense. Our clients by and large dont mind buy Office/Word. If there was an analog to it in the OSS world, great.

          Elsewise, people shouldn't go around claiming XYZ is equal to product ABC. It simply isn't, at this time.

          Basically we aren't going to invest a non-trival amount of time to a problem like this. If its out there and stable and working, we'll investigate it. Elsewise, its Office all the way.
      • Another example where open source software has a missing feature it doesn't need simply because it's open.

        At least for your example, you don't want an automation interface. OpenOffice has an open file format: just write out the files from scratch. It may be slightly more work up front, but you'll save tons in support costs, run way faster, and be generally way cleaner.

        Bryan
        • At least for your example, you don't want an automation interface. OpenOffice has an open file format: just write out the files from scratch. It may be slightly more work up front, but you'll save tons in support costs, run way faster, and be generally way cleaner.

          No, no, no, no.

          No way, nope. No.

          This will require LOADs of work. We'd have to learn the file format, learn how to work with templates in their file format, and then modify it for our needs.

          Then if they change the format, we are once again screwed or operating in compatiability mode OR stuck with an old copy of Open Office.

          An automated interface is the way to go: you pick a clean interface and it does all the nasties. As long as the developer maintains the interface it doesn't matter whats underneath it all. Thats the whole idea of an interface. It'd be nice if all the free word suites got together and used the same one. Then it'd be trival to let them choose the interface. Unfortunately the only one with any close to interface is OpenOffice, it really sucks.
          • Also OpenOffice DOES have a very extensive API, so I'm pretty sure you could do a similar thing as you're doing in Office. It supports Java and C++ plugins, so they could interact with your engine and create the documents.

            I don't see what the problem is here. I *DO* see it as absolutely essential that we find ways to dump the MS monopoly for open standards, and OpenOffice is one of the best ways we can do that. The long term benefits are enormous.
          • No, no, no, no. No way, nope. No.

            Now *there's* an open mind...

            If you bothered to actually look at it, you'd find that the OO file format is very straightforward and easy to learn.

            What's really cool about it, though, is that it's XML, which means that you can produce it with any of a whole host of tools, especially XSLT. I've found that OO is much better than MS Office for the office-type stuff I do, which is producing technical documentation. I define my own custom set of markup languages using XML, which allows me to structure the data in a format which is convenient for writing, and then I can produce, in a matter of a few hours, an XSLT stylesheet that transforms my documents into OO documents.

            I've used OLE to do automation with MS Office, and it is *much* more work than a little XML manipulation. Plus, my documents can be converted easily to other formats. For example, I have an XSLT stylesheet that transforms my Use Case documents into thoroughly hyperlinked HTML, another that transforms them into Docbook (which can be transformed into a host of formats, with a familiar, standardized structure that is comfortable for people who use Docbook) and a couple of others that transform them into OO documents (one for detailed output, another for overviews). I'm going to tweak my "overview level" UseCase->OO document stylesheet to make it produce an Impress (the OO presentation tool) document, rather than a Writer (OO word processor) document. The differences will be trivial.

            Oh, and I can save these docs as the MS Office equivalents for distribution to people that don't have OO.

            In addition, you can do other sorts of high-level manipulations with XML. For example I've got a stylesheet for my Use Case documents that trims any currently unreferenced actors/glossary terms/etc. to keep the document clean, and one that suppresses a certain set of Use Cases (which I follow with a run of the deadwood-elimination stylesheet).

            And this stuff is easy to do. A few nights ago I spent three hours creating tools for managing my SCUBA dive log: a custom markup language for documenting my dives, plus a pair of XSLT stylesheets, one of which produces nice OO documents and the other which produces HTML to put up on my web site.

            XML documents are also easy to work with in other ways; this afternoon I'm going to write a little tool to extract summary information about my dives from my log and produce a .signature file to be used for posts to dive fora. It'll probably take about 30 minutes, and most of that will be to write the code to iterate through the log and calculate statistics.

            Producing purchase orders, invoices, inventory sheets, etc., using OO and XSLT would be very, very easy, especially if you're using an RDBMS that can generate XML results to queries (most can).

            XML + OO is easier to use, more flexible and just plain better than MS Office + OLE automation.

            Oh, yeah, and there's UNO, too.

          • You don't need to learn the file format. It's XML: there's lots of libraries to do the grunt work. You just need to know what tags you want.

            And you don't need to learn how to work with their templates: you just include them from your file: that's one of the main reasons for using templates.

            The file formats include a version number, so OO 26 will still read the file in. Meanwhile, your MS Office automation interface will have changed 7 times.

            Interfaces suck. I've built them, and I've used them. Give me a nice clean file format that I can easily translate anyday. You can get ugly XML formats, but it's harder to do.

            The developers don't need to pick a common automation interface: they need to pick a common file format. And there's been tons of people screaming for it, so they'll get it eventually, because it'll scratch somebody's itch.

            Bryan
      • Automation only makes sense if you're trying to do a total clone of Word. (Note to confused readers, of which there appear to be a few: "Automation" refers to the OLE/COM interface supplied by Word and other MS programs, that let you script the application from other applications, embed live Excel spreadsheets in your Word documents, etc. It has nothing to do with "office automation").

        Some of the free word processing programs including Kword have their own Automation-like interface, but not using COM. Those allow scripting under Linux using CORBA or DCOP or whatever, but probably doesn't help your vertical app under Windows.

        Based on my own goals of using a computer with 100% free software, I don't see much point in precisely emulating Word's Automation interface, since I don't want to run Windows or anyone's proprietary COM-dependent app. However, if the app simply launches Word and handles a few simple operations, it might be possible to put some COM wrapper around KWord that turns the COM calls into appropriate DCOP calls. If you really want something like that, I know people who might be able to do it for you, though not for free. However, if you only need a minimal interface to support your vertical app, it might be pretty simple to implement. It would certainly cost more than a single copy of Word, but might be worth it if you want to run it on 10's or 100's of machines.

        • I know people who might be able to do it for you, though not for free. However, if you only need a minimal interface to support your vertical app, it might be pretty simple to implement. It would certainly cost more than a single copy of Word, but might be worth it if you want to run it on 10's or 100's of machines
          That's the thing, man. It comes with word, which is like $150 stand alone. Our clients would use it anyways if they had it.

          So our options are (1) pay nothing, and drive some Word sales for MS while giving our clients something they want anyways or (2) wrap some layers around something else and support it ourselves.

          Also, we do some advanced stuff with it, so its not that simple.

          But the general point holds: MS makes it very easy to work with their apps and to integrate them together. In the OSS world, that is usually (rightly, I might add) a very low priority.
      • Wrong, the only way automatition is possible is with special software that does only the job you want it to do.

        Or, perhaps you know how to make MS Word calculate without forgeting formula from template? Or use DB without having to code your own bloathed macro that's (1. slow like hell, 2. no average user is capable making it us), or capable of recalculating data on-fly and still having a printable form (Sorry excel is non-usable for printing just as OLE interface). In all of the mentioned forms Open Office performs much better and looking from this point of view guess what MS Office isn't automatised. Nor friendly.

        Depends on users needs and users points of view of automatition. Not trolling, but my office use shows that MS Office sucks. But then again there are probably people with different points of view than me.

        Take up Office costs. Use that costs to develop some applications. It will probably cost more than that if you're really demanding, but then and after then your work it will be customized and automatised.

        "But if you actually do use one of the features, good luck trying to replicate it in a free software package."
        I had luck, much more than with MS, thanks.
        • Wrong, the only way automatition is possible is with special software that does only the job you want it to do.

          Okay, well.. I think you misunderstood what I meant by "automation". I was referring to COM/OLE, which known as "automation" in the Windows programming world.

          Glad other software worked for you, but lots of times, a critical feature is missing from an OSS package, and attitude is that "you don't really need that anyways".
          • "Okay, well.. I think you misunderstood what I meant by "automation". I was referring to COM/OLE, which known as "automation" in the Windows programming world."

            I understod you, I named only component features that could be achieved by using such objects. read like mailing lists, document sampling and recalcualting etc.

            I just named a few critical features that are missing from MS Office, with mentioning the point that missing points are not commercial/OSS software features, but software based. Let's say, MS Paint is commercial, but does not achieve functionallity of most simple paint software, no matter proprietary or OSS. On the other hand, there's a lack of SSH terminal in Windows? We could o on and on.

            WTF, your saying that commercial software is better than OSS is FUD. Sometimes this is truth and sometimes not, but this is not based on assumption proprietary vs. OSS, it's based on programs (every piece of software that you evaluate) features and how this software covers your needs. Otherwise we would all be using AutoCAD for editing text documents, it's commercial and expensive. As based on your assumption, better than OSS and cheaper software.
            • WTF, your saying that commercial software is better than OSS is FUD

              I never, ever said that. Ever.

              I said its true in specific circumstances, not generally. People are claiming that these products are the same as Office, or just as good. And its not true in all cases. Yes, if you stick to the basics, its fine. If you use certain features, then well, you are probably out of look.
      • Yes, most people don't use the features. But if you actually do use one of the features, good luck trying to replicate it in a free software package.

        This is a very good reason for people to not use MS Office. Why should a corporation spend tens of thousands of dollars on features only ten people in the company use?

        When feature utilization reaches this level in normal software, that software appeals to a niche, while many other people find cheaper alternatives.

        For example: Pro/ENGINEER vs. Autocad, Photoshop vs. xv or GIMP, Sun cc vs. GCC, MS Office vs. OpenOffice. There are many more.

        It is a basic fact that MS Office has gone out of control in a number of ways. For those people who can live with this, they can be happy with their proprietary formats and interfaces doing what they need to do best. Everyone else can find immense simplicity and flexibility in OpenOffice's good functionality and open file formats.

        As long as the other free office suites also follow the model of open file formats, interoperability will be the rule rather than an exception, and MS Office will gradually find itself falling out of fashion. For office productivity, this would be a very very good thing.
      • Some of that probably comes from Gobe's BeOS heritage, actually; in BeOS, every application is, to some degree, scriptable. It's just part of the API.

        As I recall, Gobe wanted to expose a more complex scripting API in version 3, but that seemed to get pushed back due to the port to Windows and a scramble to get some of the more vital basic features done (like the ability to have sections in documents) and the neat PDF creation ability.

        It's possible that FreeRadical, or even open source contributors, could go back and finish that. Also, unlike a lot of the other "lite" office suites, Productive's components really are components: if I understand the design correctly, it's theoretically possible for people to write new modules using the existing component API to add new functionality.

        I agree with your complaint in general. I think Productive may actually prove to be a better "base" to attack these problems from than the other open source suites allow, though.

        • Yeah, I really liked BeOS - it's too bad it had to die. I would have loved to write a nice cross platform app, destribued a customized version of Be and integrated the app with Productive 2.0.

          There is hope with OpenBEOS though.

          Hopefully they will get a nice interface worked out for the 3.0 line sometime soon. It'd be really supper nice if all the non-MS vendors got together and standardized a single interface and file format.
      • That's unfortunate for you that your company has decided, willfully, to tie itself intimately to Word. That was a choice -- there were many possible alternatives. Most of them are not exactly analogous to the technique you've used, but they can achieve the same results.

        Your complaint is like saying, "Perl is no good, because we can't run our Visual Basic programs in it." It's not the fault of other office suites that they aren't Word -- they aren't Word by definition. Your company wrote your software against a very proprietary interface, and so you're stuck with Word until you rewrite.

      • I agree that an automation interface is important. AbiWord doesn't currently have anything, but automation is planned. They will expose stuff via CORBA, which should be great in a GNOME environment.

        They also will do something with scripting. I'm not sure what, because I haven't found a recent discussion of that; if you do a google search, you will find dozens of messages two years old or older, from flame wars on what is the best way to do scripting. (Some guys want Perl, some guys want Python, some guys want a free clone of Visual Basic, and no doubt there are LISP fanatics out there who want SCHEME. And so on.)

        You must admit that automation isn't a requirement for the vast majority of word processor users; it made sense for the AbiWord developers to focus on core features, and add automation later. I assume that since they knew they would be automating later, they didn't make any stupid designs that will be hard to automate. At least I hope so.

        steveha
        • Ohh sure, I fully understand where AbiWord is coming from: core features first, bonuses later.

          That's fine. It just bugs me when people claim that it is functionally equivalent to Office or Word. That may be true from some peoples point of view, but from others, its completely false. If you are someone who needs feature X and Abiword/whatever doesnt support it, then Office and AbiWord are definately not functionally equivalent.
  • by jukal ( 523582 ) on Monday August 12, 2002 @07:15AM (#4053433) Journal
    Bruce Hammond: We are planing to rename it somehow. I would love to get feedback from the community as to what the name should be

    gobeProductive...an obvious anagram is: Pivot Core Debug :) and for business users, call it PCD Productivity Suite.
  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Monday August 12, 2002 @07:20AM (#4053441)
    I should first issue a disclaimer that I haven't tried to hack around with the StarOffice code, nor have I looked at Gobe code. However, just from the mere size and responsiveness of Gobe, I have the impression that it must be a fairly clean bunch of code. It does a lot without being bloated, and it might not turn out to be terribly hard to get it to do more.

    In a way, it's a little sad that open source fans can't all get behind one specific office suite. I mean, choice is good, but we also need to hammer in to the minds of office managers (via mantra) that StarOffice is "just as good as" and "a suitable replacement for" MS Office. There are many people doing just this, and there is finally a little bit of buzz in the non-techie world about StarOffice.

    Gobe office will complicate this, because in many ways, it's as good as StarOffice (better at some things, worse at others). Techies who advocate a GPL office suite will no longer speak with a single voice, and managers who are contemplating a MS-software purge in their offices get scared because now they must undergo the agony of deciding which suite to train their staff on. This might make them more likely just to say "aw, forget it" and fork up the MS licensing fees. I mean, there will be flames all over the internet to the effect that "Now that GOBE is free, there is no point in maintaining OpenOffice anymore" and others that say "GOBE will die an ungraceful death because OpenOffice is just too far ahead." Managers will freak out and start worrying that the horse they pick will die mid-race, and then they'll have to retrain their staff again. Well, anyway, it's a thing to watch out for.

    Having said that, I have a feeling I'll be a GOBE user real soon. I've played with it at a friend's house and I was pretty impressed by the performance.

    • by foobar104 ( 206452 ) on Monday August 12, 2002 @08:40AM (#4053720) Journal
      I mean, choice is good, but we also need to hammer in to the minds of office managers (via mantra) that StarOffice is "just as good as" and "a suitable replacement for" MS Office.

      The only problem with this idea is that StarOffice-- as anybody who has actually tried to use it in a business setting knows-- isn't "just as good as" or "a suitable replacement for" MS Office.

      Evangelizing about StarOffice-- or any of the open source office software products-- right now would do serious damage to the reputation of open source software. When serious business users look at an open source office suite, they're not going to say, "This software, while unfinished, has a lot of potential. I'm excited and intrigued!" Instead, they're going to say, "Those open source nuts clearly don't get it. I've tried their software, and found it wanting. I will ignore them from now on and stick with what works: good old Office XP."

      Evangelizing a new product or technology too early can result in its failure rather than its adoption.
      • A very salient point. I've been using OpenOffice on Windows and Linux since pre-1.0, and quite frankly it's not ready for primetime business use (tinkering, sure...where the hell do you think I'm writing this from?). There are some graphics bugs in their Excel-clone that, to me, would be show-stoppers if implemented in our busy office (column headers and recently-changed data simply disappear).
        I think we should throw our support behind these open-source Office suites, but squarely behind the development. The deployment can wait, at least until I don't have to worry about getting fired for implementing software that hasn't been solidly debugged.
      • The only problem with this idea is that StarOffice-- as anybody who has actually tried to use it in a business setting knows-- isn't "just as good as" or "a suitable replacement for" MS Office.

        How so? I'm working with a small company right now that's already committed to switching all new computer users to Star Office. They are open to desktop Linux on some desktops as well. This is a technical company, and the CEO (PhD. physicist) was quite impressed when he imported a Word document and all the formulas came through flawlessly.

        They figure they'll have one workstation with Office for document export, when HTML or PDF isn't sufficient.

        Microsoft pricing has finally gotten far enough out of sync with small business budgets, that I think you'll see quite a few switching. Sun made a smart move charging a nominal price, now businesses are starting to see Star Office as a serious product.

        • It depends on what your needs are. Test it thoroughly with what you actually do. Don't expect that features that you haven't checked will work in the current release. (Many will, but there are some that don't, and some that "sort of work".)

          I would recommend running a few systems in duplicate for a week or so before beginning a real switch. It's a real nuisance, but often if you catch a bug at that point you can either fix it or work around it, but after deployment it would just be a killer, and leave everyone with a really bad taste in their mouth. (First impressions are very important. People who know that they are testers are willing to be a bit more forgiving than those who expect that this is the for-real version.)
    • by ReconRich ( 64368 ) on Monday August 12, 2002 @08:55AM (#4053787) Homepage
      In a way, it's a little sad that open source fans can't all get behind one specific office suite.
      This attitude, that "There can be only one" is a sure fire recipe for making Open Source software suck as badly as closed source software. The competition between KDE and Gnome has been nothing but good for both sides. M$ succeeded in the first place by the desire that many people had 10 years ago for 1 OS, 1 Word Processor and so on. Well, we have it now, and only people with an MCSE like it.
      The desire for a single Office Suite, Desktop System, etc. comes from the desire to "Beat Microsoft". We have one strength over M$ - They are a marketing machine, not a technology machine. If we try to beat them at their own game, we will lose. If we play our own game - Free software competing with ITSELF, then we will win. And we won't get stuck with software that was developed for its marketing value. The idea that we ought to all work together is rubbish; for all its ugliness the KDE vs. Gnome war made both sides better. And they will continue to get better because of the competition. The same chance exists with Office Suites. Don't tell me we ought to "work together" ; tell me why "yours" is great, and mine "sucks". "Mine" will be better for it. And so will "yours"

      -- Recon
    • This might make them more likely just to say "aw, forget it" and fork up the MS licensing fees.

      Huh? How do you figure this?

      "Hrm, I can have free ice-cream, or free soda... damn, too much choice... I think I'll pay $5 for a taco instead".

      I don't see that happenning.

  • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Monday August 12, 2002 @07:21AM (#4053442)

    It's great that there are so many open source office suites now. But if there is one thing that will really help the uptake of OSS applications on the desktop, it is agreeing on standard office file formats. Sun's already done the work for us - the openoffice.org formats are good and well documented. Come on guys, if you're really serious about getting Linux onto the desktop, then you've got to agree on standard formats.

    • Can't all the suites make .rtf files the default? Or do they lack features?

      I think that the standards are there. The problem is that until all those save buttons choose the same extension and format, we are going to have no power to fight .doc.

      • I can't claim to be an expert, but from a brief examination of .rtf versus MS Office or StarOffice/OpenOffice formats, "yes" .rtf lacks features. For a start, where do you store the chart in an rtf? What about macros/user-defined functions? Functions full-stop?
        Like it or not, you even need a method of storing how text should slide along the page in a presentation (never been to a management meeting?).
        There must be loads of different things which have become standard in the documents created in offices around the world which rely on a format more complex than rtf.

        (disclaimer - I'm willing to be corrected)
      • by 1015 ( 239564 )
        RTF is a bogus format, that

        - doesn't get formatting right,
        - is exceptionally bad at tables,
        - was made by microsoft (see http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/R/rich_text_format_R TF.html) which - right there - makes it unacceptable for lets say 99.4% of your average linux geeks

        I say, lets go for postscript, and lets' all learn forth, too.
        • postscript isn't a bad idea for a word processor format. But it isn't great, either. A postscript document can require arbitrary amounts of computation to display, to mention only one problem.

          What's wrong with the suggested Open Office format? (I haven't looked at it yet.)
    • One of the benefits of having products like Gobe going Open Source is that older documents can't get lost. Anybody can look at the code and write a translator.

      The other good thing is that it has historical value. If you ever wondered how the programming team wrote that particular function, now you can learn from the source. Maybe this will help other, unrelated projects to become tighter and more elegant. Maybe even OpenOffice can benefit from this "cross pollination".

      Of course, if your software is proprietary, it's best to make the translator module a separate piece of code, like a plug-in.
    • If they agree on a standard for office files, then the MS filters can be done just ONCE and for ALL office suites. The filter could used by any office suit, new or old ones.

      But standarizing has a problem, not only because different suites have different features. They sometimes do the same things in amazingly different ways which allow for "growing" in different directions.

      So they have to agree on more than just a file format, and start sharing what's best of each implementation.
  • Make perfect sense for more people to start looking at Linux as a desktop alternative (*gasp*). The recent news that we can't buy computers without an OS (welcome to the United States of Amerikka), leads me to belive that MS is starting to get scared.

    Recent reviews of Gobe have shown it to be a good office suite, and one that understands native MS binary formats. I hope that the OS community can continue development and make it a real competitive force unlike mozilla. IMHO the non GPL browser OPERA is a much better product than the open source Mozilla, and I have no quams with paying for good software. I'd just like to see more world class software open source.

    cluge
  • One common complaint about free software development is the waste of effort reproducing functionality with different, distinct projects that rarely share code. Text editors, desktop environments, browsers, window managers....there are tons of each, ostensibly to fit individual's needs. Unfortunately, it seems to me that only a handful, probably two, actually end up with the majority of users in each category. Either vim or Emacs. GNOME or KDE. Konqueror or Mozilla. Windows managers...well there are more, but there are certainly a ton of window managers that got (half-)developed that hardly anyone uses. Why we didn't stop with twm, I'll never understand! ;^)

    Now, we have OpenOffice, GNOME Office, KOffice, and eventually this project it seems. At least two of these, OpenOffice and the new Gobe guy, have some commercial push behind them. Not all of these can possibly pull in the full benefit that the GPL (or other free licenses...I seem to recall that OO might be a mixed license) would normally grant them as they try to draw from the community. That pool of potential eyeballs all checking source and potential fingers typing in patches and extra functionality...it's all going to be split up.

    Heck, just look at the Mozilla project. It's been my impression that most code is getting done by the paid professionals and that Mozilla draws on the community primarily for bug testing and evangelism.

    Anyway, this is all to say that two years ago I might have cheered a company with commercial backing buying up the source to a decent office suite and releasing it. (In fact, I was happy to have Sun take over StarOffice, and moreso when they freed the source.) But now this Free Radical could be just one more company that goes down the tubes basing their product on a GPLed source code. They can blame the community for not helping out and the cheap-ass users for not paying for the product that could be had for free. Other than that negative press, the net result will have been that resources (users, coding, testing, time) would have been diluted, being split up among this and the other projects, and those projects that did survive would be less well-developed as a result. Cooperation is needed to guarantee that GPL source that lives forever is actually useful source that lives forever. Modules that can be picked up and shared, like one that imports and exports MS DOC format files.

    Not that it'll do any good for me to be a nattering naybob of negativity on this subject. Someone probably just filed a new window manager on freshmeat as I was typing this.
    • Wasted effort? You're very enthusiastic about determining what other people should be doing with their time -- how would you feel if someone told you what to do with yours, and you didn't have a choice?

      This effort is not wasted if the people expending the effort don't feel that it is. 'Wasted' is a value judgement that you're making, not an objective statement of fact.

      You're getting stuff for free, and you have the balls to say "Oh, no, I'd rather have more of this and less of that?" Write your own damn code, or pay for the software you want to be written, but stop trying to stop others doing what they enjoy.


      • Wasted effort? You're very enthusiastic about determining what other people should be doing with their time -- how would you feel if someone told you what to do with yours, and you didn't have a choice?

        This effort is not wasted if the people expending the effort don't feel that it is. 'Wasted' is a value judgement that you're making, not an objective statement of fact.

        Perhaps you'd have been happier if I used the word "redundant"? It is redundant effort and my post is a comment on the possible results of the release of Yet Another Free Office Suite. However, I never "told" anyone what to do. Reread my post: I say here is a possible outcome of this kind of community dilution. If people have suddenly decided to take my opinions on what the future holds as orders for how to run their lives, then it sure doesn't manifest itself very often. I could see that on the highway to work this morning...they all blithely ignored my suggestions for better driving.

        And, quite frankly, I do think we should criticize the things we get for "free". I complain about how my taxes are spent on "free" services for myself and other citizens every day. And my vote is my key to push those free things towards the places I think they're necessary. Coming here to /. and expressing my opinion and then voting with my download and bug reports and (if it comes to it) my code patches is how I'll vote for my favorite free office software.

        So yes I've got balls to complain about free stuff. Do you? Or are you simply another one of those sheeple that feels that free software is also "free" of fault simply because it's got a free license?

        If we, the free software community, aren't critical of ourselves and take appropriate actions then surely others will be, and they will be a lot less constructive about it.
    • One big problem is that there's no open format that can compete effectively with Microsoft Word's ".doc" format. Each of the Word competitors has its own format. RTF was a step in the right direction, but that's weak, and lacks much needed functionality. RTF 2, maybe? Or perhaps something XML-based. Anybody working on this? We need something well-enough defined that file validity can be tested independent of who created it, so that everybody interoperates.

      We also need an open format for editable drawings. Flash, maybe?

      The first time Bill Gates tried a web browser, his memo noted "I was was on for three hours and didn't see a single Microsoft file format." He's fixed that "problem". The open source community hasn't pushed back hard enough on that issue.

    • You are applying antiquated notions of commercial success based on a sports metaphor of winning to non-commercial projects. Sure, StarOffice and Free Radical's office can be judged by commercial success, but their goals can be satisfied by profitability, not necessarily world domination.

      The standard for success in the non-commercial open-source software world is different. Here, it doesn't even matter if a piece of software is profitable, as long as the developer wants t maintain it. It doesn't really matter how many people USE the software if it is maintained, and doesn't really matter if it is maintained if it still gets used. Bizarre, huh?

      Your point about window managers shows how alive this community is, and it shows that innovation is happening. Anywhere that you are really pushing the innovation envelope, you will see the path to success littered with the dead bodies of the failures. There are tons of window managers out there, and only a couple of them make any sense to me, but their diversity has brought some interesting ideas about. The worst thing that can happen is if everyone lines up behind a single solution. Only then will the open source software community have failed.
  • Office Shakedown (Score:4, Interesting)

    by peatbakke ( 52079 ) <peat@p e a t.org> on Monday August 12, 2002 @07:38AM (#4053480) Homepage
    Hey, this is great stuff. A couple years ago, people were saying that Linux didn't stand a chance in business computing unless a good office productivity suite was available ... and now we have several in the pipeline, a couple of which are actually quite reasonable. Give 'em another year or two, and I think we'll have some solid cross platform products.

    So, I'm curious: Releasing GP under an open source license is certainly The Right Thing To Do, but what specific benefits might we get from it? Are office suites as layered as operating systems, with code on higher levels fairly portable, or are the only standards at the file format level?

    Also, is it a "from scratch" rewrite of ClarisWorks, or might there be some sticky licensing issues with Apple popping up in the near future .. ?

    Regardless, having different ways of doing the same things, so long as there's open and stable file formats, is always a good thing ...
    • Re:Office Shakedown (Score:3, Interesting)

      by praedor ( 218403 )

      THE problem with Gobe (and ALL linux office suites, err, the word processor part) is that NONE have the ability to handle citations and references. ONLY Lyx can do this and Lyx is simply not a generally user-friendly app vs standard wordprocessors that virtually everyone on the planet it comfortable and used to. Thus, we will get a pretty suite in Gobe but it will not distinguish itself from StarOffice/OpenOffice, KOffice, or whatever the suite name is for the Gnome equivalent is. None of these suites can do citations and references and thus, if you do ANY sort of research paper writing, scientific writing, ANY writing that requires applying proper attribution, then the only game in town, unfortunately, is Lyx (or straight LaTex for you real nutbars out there).


      On the other hand, Office and Wordperfect (I don't know about AppleWorks) CAN deal with citations and references via third party addons like EndNote. Thus, virtually everyon in my biochem department uses either word or wordperfect on macs or PCs to write their scientific papers because they can handle citations. None would even consider any other suite because of their glaring lack in this regard.


      First question out of a graduate student co-worker's mouth to me when I was talking to her about my use of linux was "Can it run EndNote?" No EndNote, no linux. Now linux doesn't need EndNote, mind you, just the same functionality of EndNote either organic to a wordprocessor OR the ability for each wordprocessor to accept simple addons with the capability of EndNote (Pybliographic or Sixpack in combination with Lyx, for instance, via the bibtex intermediary).


      Until a linux office product can handle citations and references in its wordprocessor, they are mere toys for fluff writing (letters to mom, resumes, recipes, etc), not useful for professional technical/scientific writing.

      • I have written a few hokey papers and I ended up writeing them in vi/emacs then doing the formating on a mac in Quark

        lets face it in terms of layout all these editors suck

        if you just want to write something then emacs/vi get you there the main problem is makeing something that people who are used to MS word want to use

        Open Office does a good job but it needs its Visaul Component Libs (VCL) sorted

        this is what you have to hack in order to get native widgets like the aqua interface they had to hack the VCL for aqua so that the widgets would look right rather than just useing a Xlib solution
        (that was what all the open Office on MacOS X was all about currently they just use the Xlib interface)

        open office needs to convert VCL to aqua and GTK 2 as well as MFC to look right and appeal to the mass's

        regards

        John Jones
      • I use endnote with OpenOffice every time I publish - on windows though. And there's one more manual step involved in turning the temp citation markers into final citations if you're using anything but wordperfect or word, but that hasn't been enough of a problem to stop most of my non-geek colleagues migrating slowly over to OO as we run out of msoffice licenses and/or word second-guesses someone once too often and they snap.. : )

        I've emailed ISI (or thompson or whatever they're calling themselves these days) and asked them to consider making a plugin for OO & describing the migration to OO in my field, & received a nice (if noncommittal) reply from them.

        Of course, none of this helps you much if youre using OO under linux. I do most of my writing under linux & reboot to a windows partition for that final run through the paper to swap out my notes about references ("dig out one of those italian papers done last year to cover this.." etc) for the real thing, but that's because other tools I want to be able to toggle to while writing (like some custom data manipulation & query tools) are only on linux. It also meant I had to download & install both the windows & linux versions of OO.

        But anyway, you might consider writing a nice note to ISI mentioning your burning desire to see a linux version. And the fact your department is considering a wholesale switch to sixpack : )
  • After installing BEOS on my old quad cpu mac, I installed the no longer available version 2 of GOBE Productive on my machine see here for a snapshot here [beosppc.org]. This inspired me so much that I purchased the windows version and run it on windows 2000. I can honestly say that I no longer need any MS suite at home now, and that is a great thing. The ability to save as a PDF is a real bonus as well. The flexability of the "family license" (can install on all your home machines) is a real bonus to those of us that have many machines at home.
    • My question for pdf format saving...can you edit it after it is in pdf format? No other linux office app that can save to (well, actually print to) pdf format can then open and edit same pdf. It is one way.


      I like pdf generally but for the inability to edit it (unless one has windoze or a mac and shells out for the Adobe pdf suite.

  • ...and buy Microsoft Windows source code! I bet the GNU project can handle that.

    No wait, they said it's too dangerous for national security to publish it. Whops. :)
  • review (Score:2, Informative)

    by froseph ( 549853 )
    Arstechnica did a review of it a while back http://arstechnica.com/reviews/02q2/gobe/gobe-1.ht ml
  • by snarfer ( 168723 ) on Monday August 12, 2002 @09:04AM (#4053833) Homepage
    You can get the 14-day demo of gobeProductive here [com.com]. (Windows version.)
  • I wrote a review of Productive 3 for my Web site a while back... Check it out at msboycott.com/thealt/reviews/gobeproductive.shtml [msboycott.com].

    This is great news for everyone because gobeProductive is slim and trim - it is to office suites what Opera is to Web browsers.

  • Now, of course, I'm not really a big fan of "office suites" when it comes to word processing and the like (go LaTeX!!), but it's great to see more and more companies using GPL'ed code as a tool against M$ monopoly oppression. Overall, OpenOffice has been very disappointing thus far. It's buggy, it's slow, it's bloated, it uses its own widget library, and the code is spaghetti at it's best. Maybe the OpenOffice team will 'pull a mozilla' a couple years from now, but that seems a ways off. Parts of the 'Gnome Office' collection are great tools, but are also rather disjointed and have terribly buggy import/export filters it seems. KOffice 1.2 is slick, efficient, and very promising, but needs more developers. (it's my long term bet, actually) Now along comes (formerly-Gobe) Productive. By the looks of it, Productive won't become a 'competitor' to the other open projects for some time, but at least we'll have more code base to draw on. Perhaps it should be merged with the now-fragmented Gnome Office (and get rid of the uselessly anorexic AbiWord that doesn't even support tables). Perhaps the code contains some insight on making better import filters for M$ office formats. Perhaps we can agree on a standard XML format for vector graphics too. And of course, that's the biggest issue in all of this -- standardization. We need ONE file format that all Open Source office tools can use seemlessly.. a format that is feature-extensible, straight-forward, and consistant. And we need to agree on a single name for this format so that it can become recognized and comfortable, just as most non-clued business people now say "send me a Word document" or the like.

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