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Software 3.0 Wants to Compete with Outlook 464

jason writes "At the 2007 conference about a month ago there was a presentation on what to expect in the next major milestone for their Microsoft Office competitor. "The presentation mentions bundling Thunderbird with their Office Suite, and refers to it as an 'Outlook replacement.' This is all assuming that Thunderbird recently losing two of its main developers doesn't affect the decision, because I'm sure OpenOffice wants to ensure that Thunderbird will continue to progress before including it." This probably won't sway large corporations away from using Microsoft Office, but it could make it more intriguing for the smaller businesses that are looking to cut some costs."
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  • by speaker of the truth ( 1112181 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @10:24AM (#20973477)
    Considering Sun refuses to incldue open source code into OOo [] without owning the copyright, this will be an interesting move. Although how will bundling Thunderbird help add functionality to OOo rather then simply installing the two separately?

    One could say the same about any office product, but at the very least they share the "Recent Documents" and can launch each other's applications (which is quite a nifty side-benefit). I'm not seeing even that advantage to the Thunderbird bundling. Although I'm sure it will be useful for those not knowledgeable enough to be able to install both separately.
  • by WED Fan ( 911325 ) <akahige.trashmail@net> on Sunday October 14, 2007 @10:40AM (#20973557) Homepage Journal

    How about a complete system?

    Open Office System would include:

    • Open Office Server
      • Exchange-like services
      • Office Collaborator - SharePoint killer
      • Calc Server - Spreadsheet Server
      • Office Project - Project Server
    • Word, Calc, Database, Outlook-killer, Presenter
    • Project

    And, all of this would be compatible with MS Office, down to a UI switch that would allow the user to choose the MS style interface.

    All of this would have MONO programmability for "macros". (Not the half-hearted programmability that MS offers, and sorry OO only pays lip service to.)

    You do all of that, my org MIGHT think of switching.

  • Re:Not what we want (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iknownuttin ( 1099999 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @10:57AM (#20973675)
    Apparently the OpenOffice team is not listening to what users want.

    It was once posted here on /. (I can't find the post - it was months ago) that FOSS developers write code for themselves not for the end user. Then I see an article about a FOSS project trying to compete with MS.

    I guess the guy who originally posted that comment meant to say that some FOSS developers write code for themselves and not for the users.

    Anyway, my point is that I'm not so sure that every FOSS project is really that interested in market share. Those that really are do quite well: MySQL, Mozilla, Apache, PostGre, etc....

    Maybe the OO guys should talk to them.

  • by keko_metal ( 1010011 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @11:03AM (#20973705)
    How about Kivio []?
  • by Alphager ( 957739 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @11:05AM (#20973719) Homepage Journal

    Kontact is Linux only. While I wish many KDE apps would make it to the windows platform, most aren't, so kontact probably isn't a good comparison. kolab perhaps, as it is based on kontact, but I don';t think that's exactly ready to uproot outlook any time soon.
    KDE4 will run under Windows.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 14, 2007 @11:43AM (#20973955)

    Have you tried using OO for anything related to earning money? I use Office for two purposes; writing manuscripts, and investing. And in these two respects OO fails miserably! (And I have tried to use OO)
    I routinely use OO.o Writer for manuscripts. I use GNU Cash for my investing, but I would be able to use OO.o Calc.

    WRT to manuscripts I can't keep comments, styles, formating etc straight.
    What does "keep straight" mean in this context. OO.o Writer has a perfectly usable style manager & it is easy to create new styles, apply them to sections, etc. I agree that the presentation of comments is better in MS Word. However, they are retained in OO.o Writer & might be good enough for some people. For articles, I tend to get only one to three comments per page. This is tolerable in OO.o. Also: There was a google sumemr-of-code project to add the comments-in-margin interface that MS Word has. So it certainly can be fixed & should be watched.

    WRT to investing the OO spreadsheet is way to limited, and to extend the spreadsheet with custom functionality is absolutely painful! OOBasic bites, and their component architecture is anything but simple. OO extensions are a joke when compared to Microsoft Office.
    I disagree. MS VBA also bites & MS keeps threatening to drop it from Office. OO.o does support some VBA if you really like it better. OO.o supports python, which is quite cool. The IDE still has a way to go, but I think that having a choice of scripting languages (including the one used by MS Office) gives OO.o a real advantage here.
  • by Sentax ( 1125511 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @12:02PM (#20974067)
    This reminds me of when I tasked one of my employees to burn a powerpoint presentation on a CD and make it auto-run. I knew it was simple with PowerPoint and I mentioned that he install MS Office for this purpose and to ignore that he thinks OO can do the same and will do it equally, well 4-5 hours later I noticed he had been burning alot of CDs and is still testing this thing. He said he was having trouble getting the right components to copy to a computer that may not have PowerPoint installed so it would play the presentation. I asked if he installed MS Office and used that PowerPoint because I knew there was a simple "Create for CD" wizard in the file menu. He said no and insisted on not installing it because he is a hard core OO fan and thinks that MS Office is the devil. I made him install it and within minutes we had a burned disc and everything ran great.

    This is where I get frustrated because he is fighting for a office suite that came about because of MS Office and everything he likes is a standard created by MS Office. He just doesn't get it. Since I work in the same department with him I want him to try things out for himself and not force him to use certain applications if he is so insistent on using something else. But in this case, when time matters and just getting it done is the main purpose, he needs to understand to use the tools that are already there and work.
  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @01:00PM (#20974481) Homepage Journal
    ok replacement.

    first, we need scheduleable TASKS, and we need them to be linkable with EMAILS and emails be THREADED, and also tasks linkable with events (meetings and whatnot) AND CONTACTS (emails and cards).

    current thunderbird with lightning addon doesnt cut it unfortunately, it just can function as a "reminder" service, not a complete scheduler/planner/organizer/communication client.
  • by The Spoonman ( 634311 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @01:06PM (#20974521) Homepage
    In spite of all this you're complaining, behaving like it whipped your dog. Why's that?

    Because those of us who know what we're doing are tired of listening to the majority of the IT field that's made up of incompetent amateurs who don't know what they're doing with technology, don't know what a business needs to operate, and feel that their failings are the only way things can turn out. The fact of the matter is, Microsoft products are superior to the OSS products. Period. When you have something that's worth looking at, we'll take a serious look. Until then, stop trying to think you're going to wedge Outlook out of the office by sticking in a half-assed replacement like Thunderbird. Even with all the nifty little extensions installed (which cause it to bloat more than anyone's ever complained about Outlook), it still can't do anything close to what Outlook can do, especially when tied to an Exchange backend. And, no, I'm not talking viruses. No one with a clue has gotten a virus in 15 years. If you're still dealing with them, you're a member of the group mentioned in my first sentence.
  • by Zigurd ( 3528 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @01:08PM (#20974551) Homepage
    I have been using Open Office and Thunderbird as direct replacements for Office and Outlook for over a year now.

    My main tasks are product planning, design, presentations, and documentation for software projects. For these tasks, Open Office is fine - no complaints about missing pieces, and the diagram editor in Open Office is sufficiently better than the diagram editor in MSOffice as to not require a direct replacement for Visio (though Dia is pretty good if you need something Visio-like).

    Thunderbird isn't going to make Exchange Server users happy, but that isn't the point. If you use a hosted mail service, as many small companies do, and if you use a shared hosted calendar, Thunderbird, plus a few plug-ins, especially Lightning, is an adequate replacement for Outlook in that context. All, or almost all the functions of Exchange Server and Outlook have equivalents in Thunderbird plus plug-ins.

    A year ago, when I started using Thunderbird, it was with some reservations: No Plaxo sync, iffy Webmail integration, Lightning was shakey, etc. In the past year I have found enough plug-ins to fill those gaps. As of now, people using Outlook without an Exchange Server would be better served by Thunderbird.

    Some people depend on particular features of the Office/Exchange combination, and that can't be helped, but the 80% that use that software to edit documents and read mail can switch without pain.

    For many organizations, the fact they can do all this without buying software, signing up for maintenance plans, and subjecting their budget to the continuous pressure on commercial software vendors to lock in and up-sell, is enough to make the OSS alternative more attractive.

    Not convinced? You don't have to be. You probably have an obsolete PC laying around. Put a Linux distro on it and try it.
  • Someone said Apple! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wuputah ( 1068216 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:35PM (#20975423) Homepage
    iWork [] is great. Sure, it only duplicates Word, Powerpoint, and Excel, and I'm sure it doesn't have every single last feature that Office has, but I think Apple is creating a strong competitor in iWork. Using it is certainly a lot less frustrating than using Office...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 14, 2007 @07:30PM (#20976845)

    Investment is the process of seeking to make gains by identifying companies which have a strategic advantage in their market or which are under priced for some reason.
    Your definition, which would be used by a layman, tells me you have very limited financial exposure. First off, the word investment means different things in different fields. In finance, investment is buying securities, or other monetary or paper assets. Investment requires trading and the bulk of trades are not done on the stock markets.

    Shifting back to the issue of Excel. When I worked for a forex trading company, we built an execution and order management suite for Excel using VB, at the request of our hedge fund clients. It had the following features:

    - Live streaming executable prices in Excel
    - Make real-time automated trading decisions from Visual Basic
    - Download executed trades into Excel
    - Realt-time mark to market positions in Excel
    - Calculate real time P & L
    - Send multiple order types (limit, stop, market) with different expiry conditions
    - Send blocks of orders in batch mode from Excel

  • by sgtrock ( 191182 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @08:30PM (#20977165)
    Wellll, not quite. Take it from a hardcore OOo user. I've used it for my primary office suite for about 5 years in a company that is a pure MS shop. Generally, I do all my work while saving to .odf formats, then do a final export to .doc so people will be able to open it for comments and edits. While things have improved, there are still tasks that are much more clumsy than they need to be in OOo.

    For me, the most painful thing that I've run into recently is partially due to the abysmal documentation that comes bundled with OOo and partially a clumsy implementation. The manuals that are located on the Website really used as the native help system. They are FAR better than the extremely limited and misleading information included in the help files. For example, compare and contrast the two sources for how to handle images.

    Recently I was using OOo 2.2, then 2.3 to work on a short 30 page whitepaper (including the appendixes) for work. I needed to insert just two image files to illustrate a point I needed to make. This is a task I've done plenty of times and it's never as easy as it should be. This last time, for whatever reason, was more than usually painful.

    It took me the better part of a couple of hours to place and size not only the images, but the frames that surrounded them. Time and again I'd click on the image and get just the image and not the frame that bounded it. I wouldn't notice, re-size or move the image, then wonder why I still wasn't getting the text to flow properly around it.

    After much mucking around, I FINALLY got them both where I wanted them, then saved the file as a .doc. Imagine my horror when I opened the document up with MS Word and realized that all of my work had been for naught, BECAUSE OOo HAD DELETED THE IMAGES WHEN SAVING THE DOCUMENT AS MS OFFICE .doc!!!!!!!!!!

    No, this wasn't a PEBKAC problem. I double and triple checked saving the document in Office XP format. I even saved it as .doc, then opened it in OOo just to make sure that it wasn't MS Office misinterpreting the image placements. Nope, still missing.

    To say I was pissed would be an understatement. Oh, sure, I could have exported the file as a .PDF, but then how would my boss be able to make comments and pass it back to me? A read-only format just doesn't work in that case.

    Besides, this is the first time that I can remember that OOo has failed me in such a fundamental way. Lord only knows why, because I sure don't. It does mean that there's no way that I can recommend OOo for even a pilot project here. This kind of basic functionality simply MUST work. First time, every time.

    Will I open a trouble ticket with the OOo team? Maybe, if I can figure out a way to duplicate the problem in a file that's not full of company confidential information. This is a HUGE issue. I can't believe somebody didn't stumble across it during the beta cycles.
  • by sgtrock ( 191182 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @11:28PM (#20978431)

    ...The fact that you've discovered a specific case (an image in a floating frame) where the export functionality is janky isn't a major issue, it's not even surprising.

    When doing something one way is way harder than it seems like it should be you need to stop and try to see if there's a better way to do it. Maybe you don't really need the frame?

    I invite you to try it yourself. Just insert a picture from an image file using just the default settings. Go ahead, I'll wait.


    Back yet? Good. Then you'll know that the default setting, and so far as I can tell the ONLY setting, for inserting an image from a file REQUIRES that it be wrapped in a floating frame with its own anchor. Please tell me, how the H E double hockey sticks am I supposed to explain the nuances of dealing with that to a company of 50,000 people?

    If you can't recommend OO.o for a pilot project until it provides perfect export functionality for whatever weird combination of native layout elements you might cook up then you'll *never* be able to recommend it. I suggest the following instead: Do a pilot project of OO.o and ODF. That'll work perfectly.

    Heh. Haha. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (wipes tears from eyes) Thanks, I needed a belly laugh. Oh, wait. You were serious? Well, let me explain in really small words, then:

    It. Won't. Work. Satisfied?

    No? Well, I guess I'll have to use somewhat bigger words and more complex concepts. I hope you can follow along.

    First, what I tried to do was NOT some "weird combination of native layout elements", it was straight up insertion of a graphic image into a document. This is Word Processing 101, folks. Well, OK. Maybe Word Processing 201. It certainly isn't graduate level, pie in the sky sort of stuff. It's just day in, day out normal work.

    Second, I work for a company with more than 50,000 employees. We don't look at pilot projects for desktop deployments of such a basic component unless we fully expect to deploy it across at least half the footprint. However, any such pilot MUST still be able to effectively trade files and data with the rest of the company, or the pilot will be deemed a failure by the people who can sign checks. We don't have the luxury of isolating small workgroups. Everything that we do is too interconnected.

    Third, you may have noticed that I said I was working for a COMPANY, not a governmental agency. As such, we don't get to dictate what our customers and vendors use. Whatever they wish to use as a medium of communication, we have to adapt to. Now, granted, we spend metric boatloads of cash (that's a technical term, btw) on specialized communication applications and interfaces to do that for the more obscure stuff that our vendors want to use, and metric fleets of boatloads of cash (another technical term) for the more obscure stuff that our customers want to use. (Why the difference? Because the customers give us cash while the vendors expect us to give /them/ cash.)

    However, if our theoretical and increasingly mythical pilot project is to stand any chance of success, the participating users absolutely /must/ be able to use their existing communications channels without modification. Asking vendors to make changes to /their/ ways of doing business just to accommodate us can make them cranky. Asking CUSTOMERs to make changes to /their/ ways of doing business just to accommodate us might make them look for someone else to give their money to. Therefore, if we can't produce documents that are at least somewhat close to what outside organizations expect, the pilot will be deemed a failure.

    On a final note, you want to know what REALLY annoys me about this particular incident? I've done this sort of image insertion using OOo, then saving it as a .doc format for literally years and I've never seen this behavior before. What on earth got broken? And why on earth didn't anyone notice during the beta cycle??

Mr. Cole's Axiom: The sum of the intelligence on the planet is a constant; the population is growing.