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The Uncertain Future of OpenOffice.org 259

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the nothing-is-for-certain dept.
eldavojohn writes "What's the biggest threat to the success of OpenOffice.org? Is it Microsoft Office? Is it the simple fact that Dell doesn't offer it with computers? Not according to some participants in the 'open' source project itself, they say the biggest problem with OO.o is the fact that Sun codes, owns & makes all key decisions for the project when it should be more community oriented. A professor who participates in the project itself said 'enough developers are frustrated by both the technical and the organizational infrastructure at OpenOffice.org' and cites this as 'a real problem that is weighing on the project.' Other members of the community agree like Michael Meeks who asked 'At what fraction of the community will Sun reconsider its demand for ownership of the entirety of OpenOffice.org?' Hopefully with IBM's entrance into OO.o participation we will see the product become more community controlled & accessible. Has anyone else experienced this when developing for OO.o or another 'open' source project? Is it a good idea to criticize a company when they've put so much effort into a project that is technically open source and completely free? Is Sun trying to control OO.o like Java? Do they have good reasons or evil underlying intentions?"
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The Uncertain Future of OpenOffice.org

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  • In order... (Score:5, Funny)

    by KingSkippus (799657) * on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:30AM (#20668211) Homepage Journal

    Not continually improving both feature- and UI-wise, yes, no, around 3/5, yes, yes, probably, and both.

    Now that we've cleared that up, anything else I can help with?

    • by shawnce (146129) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:36AM (#20668301) Homepage
      I think that wraps this thread up... direct and to the point... well done.
    • Re:In order... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:37AM (#20668317)
      Is it a good idea to criticize a company when they've put so much effort into a project that is technically open source and completely free?

      If they are doing a bad job of managing it, then yes. Releasing it under an open source license is good, and they should be recognized for that. However, doing so doesn't automatically excuse other problems they may have.

      • Re:In order... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Score Whore (32328) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @12:31PM (#20669075)
        This sounds like more Sun bashing rather than any real issues. Consider Linux. Only a few people have commit privs. Any forked version is pretty much guaranteed to die by the wayside due to the momentum of the parent. And if you have good ideas there's a reasonable chance that they may be copied by a more established kernel dev and checked in under their name. Look at Firefox, only a few people can participate. Both are arguably less open than OOo and yet we don't see anybody pissing on them.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mabhatter654 (561290)
          This is similar to the situation wiht Mozilla when it was still owned by AOL and Netscape. All of the code has to be "owned" by SUN and that turns some people off, especially when SUN slows the direction of OO.org to further it's Java or StarOffice agenda rather than letting it go on it's own. I think people would like to see OpenOffice spun off to it's own organization like IBM did with ellipse or Netscape did with Mozilla. That way the community has "assurance" that the needs of the Open product are be
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Score Whore (32328)
            Interesting opinion, but not relevant to the issue. Linus controls the kernel. Mozilla controls firefox. They will go where the controlling body determines. At absolutely no time is Linus or Mozilla at the whim of the community. The directions of the products will absolutely be to the needs of the respective controlling body. It's no different than Sun telling their developers to work in the directions Sun needs them to work. If you don't like their direction, fork.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              Linus controls the kernel. Mozilla controls firefox.

              Yes.

              At absolutely no time is Linus or Mozilla at the whim of the community. The directions of the products will absolutely be to the needs of the respective controlling body

              Umm, partly true. Linus listens to the community, that's what the LKML is all about. Is he at the community's whim? No. Does he accept input from others and make decisions that will be of the most benefit to the community? Yes.

              The same more or less holds true for Mozilla. Mozilla is not a money-making venture. Their sole purpose is to make Firefox, Thunderbird and Sunbird and related technologies available to the community. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. What other agenda could they

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Score Whore (32328)
                Do you really think that Sun doesn't have conversations with the community about OOo? The fact that they don't accept every idea floated doesn't mean they aren't interacting. No more or less than Linus being a hard ass about schedulers.

                And FYI the Mozilla Foundation has something like $40 Million USD a year in revenue via the Mozilla Corporation. Staffers receive paychecks. The fact that the Mozilla Foundation is a 503 and controlling the for-profit Mozilla Corporation surely demonstrates that they have int
    • Re:In order... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Aladrin (926209) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:39AM (#20668341)
      Exactly, except the fraction. Either the community owns it, or it doesn't... There's no 'partially community owned'. It doesn't REALLY matter, though, since the project is open source. If Sun gets stupid, fork time - 'Completely Amazing Office' has a nice ring to it. The fact that the initials CAO is pronounced 'cow' should not be taken into consideration. ;)
  • Not necessarily. The beauty of the license allows for forking. Just like you have the OS X variation. So OO will probably never die, but it might be forked and morphed under a different name eventually.
    • by gnuman99 (746007)
      The fork shall be called IceOffice or IceBucket.

      (people that have no clue, go look for Firefox and Thunderbird and Mozilla in Debian)
    • "Eventually" should be "today." Open Office has a lot of good stuff, and allowing plugins is a very good move, but overall it seems to not be improving like it should be. Fork it, put it on Sourceforge, and strip it of all unnecessary functionality and implement what you strip out in plugins. New improvements that are unnecessary should be created as new plugins.
      • Re:Dont think so. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @01:41PM (#20670137) Journal
        Go on then. Do it. What are you waiting for?

        At the moment, Sun pays for 80% of the development work on OO.o, Novell for about 15%, and a few other contributors do the rest. If you fork it, you will immediately lose 80% of the developers, and may lose a lot from the remaining 20%, so I hope you're up for a lot of work.

        Or do you mean you want the 'community' to control it, but not actually have to write any of the code?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by junglee_iitk (651040)
          That is why I hope KOffice is a better bet. OO is a mess.

          Now if KOffice was gplv3, it would have been PERFECT :)
    • by westlake (615356)
      So OO will probably never die, but it might be forked and morphed under a different name eventually.

      For projects on this scale, "eventually" is the key word here.

      How much time and how much money has Sun spent to gain Star Office / Open Office minimum credibility as an alternative office suite?

  • Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by somersault (912633) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:33AM (#20668253) Homepage Journal
    "Is it a good idea to criticize a company when.."

    Is it a good idea to lie to a company or not provide any (constructive) feedback on negative issues just because they're being nice? If nobody is honest with them then their product may start off well and then head south quickly due to the pandering masses.
    • "I think it is great that you have made this software available under a free software license, but I believe you could get more and better contributions from the community if you improved this procedure."
    • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Informative)

      by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @01:26PM (#20669907) Homepage Journal
      Speaking as a Sun employee, and on behalf of many of my fellow employees: hear, hear! Sun has always had control issues. It's part of the corporate culture. People here criticize this every day, both constructively and otherwise. Why should the larger community be any different?

      One suggestion: don't complain to other Slashdotters: not a lot they can do. And don't complain to me: I'm just a hardware tech writer. Take your complaints to the top [sun.com].
  • by FranTaylor (164577) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:34AM (#20668263)
    Sun gets bad press for not developing free software...

    Sun gets bad press for developing free software...

    Tough crowd.
    • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:45AM (#20668427)
      You must be new here. On Slashdot, only Google's "black box" search engine (and related products) and Apple's proprietary OS and hardware are considered "good". All other products and companies (with some rare open source project exceptions) are considered bad and/or evil.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Lets see ... I must be doubly evil, since I'm running openSUSE both at home and the office ... and don't have a single piece of apple gear.

        Sun isn't perfect, and neither are Novell, but they've done some of the major heavy lifting, and we should try to sound bit more appreciative, because we're not perfect either.

        Otherwise, we just end up sounding like a bunch of fickle myspace bloggers.

    • by sumdumass (711423)
      I don't think it is a tough crowed as much a different crowds coming out of the wood work.

      Sun uses OO.org in their star office and shares some developments between the two. It makes sense that they want to keep some resemblance of control in order to maintain control of Star office development. When asking if the community should control it more then Sun, you have to answer the question of who is the community. By most definitions it would be everyone participating in open source software but depending on w
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        For open source development, there's only one community that really matters when it comes to picking the direction for a project: The community of people who contribute code[1] to that project, or pay others to contribute code. If you are not contributing to the project, your opinions are worth nothing, and the project should care about you exactly as much as a company would care about people who aren't in their target audience. If you want a voice, write some code, or documentation, provide some artwork
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by sumdumass (711423)
          I don't agree with that. Well unless you don't care if the project goes into obscurity with no users outside code contributers.

          The user is just as important as the code contributers in many respects. If you alienate them, there goes the steam behind your project. So while I do agree that the contributers should have some say, their say should be be in tune with the people using the program. The process just falls apart and there is no community if you create something that no one uses.

          Sun on the other hand,
    • by demachina (71715) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:54AM (#20668559)
      The open source "community" doesn't exactly have the best track record developing complex GUI intensive applications. There is Gimp which is OK but not great. Firefox isn't exactly doing much as far as UI goes. KDE and Gnome both have ... issues ... in particular the fact that there are two desktops in the first place fragmenting application development and massively duplicating effort.

      There are times when its not exactly bad to have one entity, whether it be a company or an individual, who puts an end to the bickering, makes a decision, sets the direction, imperfect though it may be, and makes everyone pull in the same direction. Linus serves that role for the kernel, SUN does it for Open Office.

      Debate is good, expressing different views is good, one entity with poor vision dictating direction is bad. But, a project with a hundred chiefs and no Indians, and design by committee is not a always a prescription for success.
      • by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @12:02PM (#20668671) Homepage Journal

        The open source "community" doesn't exactly have the best track record developing complex GUI intensive applications.

        And the "greatest understatement of the year" award goes to.... *drum rolls*
      • by richcoder (539438) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @12:12PM (#20668807)
        Firefox isn't exactly doing much as far as UI goes.

        Some could successfully argue that Firefox contains a HUGE amount of UI work. The entire app is one large UI system.
        • > > Firefox isn't exactly doing much as far as UI goes.

          > Some could successfully argue that Firefox contains a HUGE amount of UI work. The entire app is one large UI system.

          ... and yet, Opera does it WAY better. I only started the switch from firefox a couple of weeks ago, and I'm hooked. As an example, I have test query that does 10,000 database requests via a local proxy and xmlhttprequest. Firefox can't complete the query ... after the first thousand or so, it gets so bogged down updating t

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by iamacat (583406)
        The commercial "community" doesn't exactly have the best track record developing complex GUI intensive applications. There is Photoshop, which is not affordable for 99% of potential market. Internet Explorer isn't exactly doing much as far as web pages appearance, standard compliance or security. Windows and MacOSX both have ... issues ... in particular the fact that there are two desktops in the first place fragmenting application development and massively duplicating effort.
        • by geekoid (135745)
          I can think of any case where the OS community has developed a good GUI.
          I can think of a few closed source that are. Does any OS GUI implement modern Gui technique's? How about implementing good human interface techniques that have been thought about, but computers haven't been powerful enough to implement?

          OSX does. No I don't own a Mac.

          Has there been any human interface innovations at all on the OS community? The potential is there, and I would like to see some, but based on the track record it doesn't see
        • by westlake (615356)
          The commercial "community" doesn't exactly have the best track record developing complex GUI intensive applications. There is Photoshop, which is not affordable for 99% of potential market

          Photoshop's target is the professional photographer, the production house, where it has for all practical purposes a 100% share of the market.

          The GIMP competes at the level of Paint Shop Pro, Photoshop Elements, Paint.NET, etc.

          Windows and OSX both have ... issues ... in particular the fact that there are two desktops f

          • by iamacat (583406)
            I am sure similar comparisons can be drawn between KDE vs blackbox as desktops. My point was that it's unfair to criticize "Open Source community" when commercial software has the same problems.

            As an aside, out of the products you mentioned, only Photoshop Elements runs on Mac. It is not really suitable for even casual work such as creating an icon or personal web site logo. Rather, it's only useful for retouching photos.
      • by 2short (466733)
        "There are times when its not exactly bad to have one entity, whether it be a company or an individual, who puts an end to the bickering, makes a decision, sets the direction, imperfect though it may be, and makes everyone pull in the same direction."

        Definitely, except I'd say those times are all the time. The processes of gathering input and making decisions may look different in open source vs. proprietary devlopment, but both can support either design-by-committee or benevolent-dictators. The quality o
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR (28044)
      Yep and if these developers really don't like it why not work on Koffice?
      I am sure that some people are frustrated. I know as a user I am frustrated over some of OOs short comings.
      However I think it is a pretty dang good system so far.
  • Crying wolf.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by downix (84795) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:35AM (#20668297) Homepage
    This is a panic piece, trying to rile upfeelings, almost trolling. Relax guys, Sun hasnt shown the steps that is being worried about here. When it does, then let us begin discussing. Till then, it is useless speculation and little better than FUD.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537)

      I don't think it's even a panic piece. The "uncertain future" isn't whether it will be developed or not. It's just uncertain how much control Sun will maintain, and whether developers displeased with Sun will bother to make a fork.

      Either way, OpenOffice will continue to exist, continue to be developed, and continue to be used.

  • Biggest threat? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TopSpin (753) * on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:39AM (#20668343) Journal

    What's the biggest threat to the success of OpenOffice.org?
    That's easy; Microsoft suing Sun for violating patents for MS Office 'inventions'. You know it's coming.

    As far as Sun's dominant position over OOo goes; as long as they keep performing I don't see the problem. New 2.x releases have been appearing every few months and each is a notable improvement. They're doing a good job and while they keep doing it they'll remain in control. Their latest release provides a platform for extensions; go develop your miracle feature and let Sun keep cranking on the core platform, as they have been.

    • Re:Biggest threat? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:47AM (#20668459) Homepage Journal
      That's easy; Microsoft suing Sun for violating patents for MS Office 'inventions'. You know it's coming.

      When they do that, it'll just mean that OpenOffice.org is ready for primetime.
    • Re:Biggest threat? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by zerocool^ (112121) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:48AM (#20668473) Homepage Journal

      For real.

      You're not happy with the direction of the project?

      Fork it. It's LGPL'd. Take the code, release it under your new project, and make improvements that "the community", whatever the heck that means to you, will approve of.

      Sheesh, as a previous poster said, tough crowd. Sun can't do anything right in the eyes of slashdot smitties.

      ~X
    • Microsoft suing Sun for violating patents for MS Office 'inventions'. You know it's coming.

      I doubt MS wants to legitimize OOo in that way. Even more importantly, I don't think MS wants to risk having their dubious patents nullified in a court. They'd much rather rely on their expertise as FUDsters and the threat of patent litigation to try to derail OOo. Actually going through with that threat is a huge gamble that MS probably doesn't want to risk unless absolutely necessary.
    • Ergocracy (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @12:58PM (#20669447) Homepage
      For most free software, it is the case that those who contribute most work to the project, also influence its direction the most.
    • Sun seems to be doing a workman-like job on moving the basics of the project forward, but at the end of the day, whether it's Sun or IBM or a host of independent developers, Open Office will remain as it always has been which is basically a clone of Microsoft Office for Windows as it was in the 90's.

      For those commenting on how "someone needs to be in charge" in order for true innovation to happen (esp. around the GUI), I would point out that it hasn't worked so far. IMO open source programming is good for
  • Diffuse or Focused? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Frumious Wombat (845680) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:39AM (#20668355)
    The question becomes does the community want another diffuse, nobody really in charge project, or do you want a benevolent dictator ensuring focus and quality control? Sun should be commended for sticking with OO for so long, when they could have just dumped all responsibility and let it drift aimlessly. They obviously have an interest, because with a few other tweaks they sell (or give it away to proper channels) as StarOffice, so it's doubtful they'll want to let go too much. Unless the Linus of OfficeSuites steps forward, then I'd rather see Sun or IBM maintain final say, to keep it on track.

    From reading the comments here for years, the biggest issue with contributing seems to be that the code is a behemoth, and takes time and skill to understand. This hasn't stopped the NeoOffice folks from getting it running on Macs, and Sun's continuing final say shouldn't stop anyone from adding some missing features (such as a decent reference manager, or spell and grammar checker).
    • the code is a behemoth, and takes time and skill to understand.

      Last time I wanted to do some development on openoffice (some years ago) the documentation was amazing.
  • perhaps this inner turmoil and frustration is the blinking indicator light of why things don't get done. I've wanted good envelope and label support for quite some time, and with recent releases it has gotten better - but not really. It is sort of like a stub article in a technical wiki...we intend to put something more substantial here notice.
    Management is getting in the way of simple upgrades and additions?
    Never worked for a company like that before.

    cough cough

  • Sun Bashing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:43AM (#20668409)
    Why all the Sun bashing? Opensolaris is open source. Java is almost fully open sourced now. OpenOffice is open source. What the hell is wrong with Sun wanting to maintain some influence over the projects they started?
    • Re:Sun Bashing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:48AM (#20668469) Journal
      You're damn right. Anyone who doesn't like it can go fork it themselves.

      If you don't like the community around OO.o, fork it and make your own community. If you think the codebase is too unwieldy to fork, there are plenty of other open source office suites you can contribute to.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by monkeySauce (562927)
      I agree. The alternative is they might never have open-sourced StarOffice at all. Cut Sun some slack.
  • Can anyone... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrNemesis (587188) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:45AM (#20668431) Homepage Journal
    ...more proficient in programming than me explain why OOo uses its own inbuilt font rendering and toolkit? Aren't these things already provided by all modern guest OS's?

    IANAPBPKEAITBD [I Am Not A Programmer But Probably Know Enough About It To Be Dangerous] but if cross-platform-ness is a big thing, would it not be easier to have a series of OS-independent libs in the background with native frontends in win32, GTK, Qt, etc? This would also make it easier to make the user interface more "friendly" by way of familiarity and not sticking out like a sore thumb? To my mind the problems users see with OOo, aside from some user unfriendliness in some sections such as mail merge, are that it's slow as hell to start up, even from warm, the GUI is sometimes unresponsive/laggy and it looks (superfically) different from most apps they're used to (apparently this is "allowed" for stupid flashy apps, but a big no-no for "serious" apps).

    Chances are I'm barking up the wrong tree and my knowledge of OOo is hopelessly wrong, but for non-developers these things can be tricky to understand.
    • Re:Can anyone... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by domatic (1128127) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @12:26PM (#20669019)
      As near as I can tell, OOO has two major problems. Once upon a time, StarOffice actually had it's own mini-desktop from which the major pieces of the app like Writer and documents could be started from. This desktop even had its own widget set called VCL. Sun wisely did away with the goofy Desktop UI but OOO's UI is still implemented in this widget set. Whenever OOO is ported to a new environment, the major sticking point is that a binding layer has to be created from VCL to a widget set in the environment. Being a C++ widget set with more or less conventional semantics, VCL mapped well to GTK2 and Windows so Linux and Windows are easy ports in that regard. It is a very poor impedance match to Cocoa on Objective C and still appears to be hosing a truly native Mac port to this day. The NeoOffice guys use Cocoa through Java which makes a thin shim programming wise but a pig memory and resource wise as they have to have Java active and resident in memory for their VCL -> Cocoa mapper.

      The other problem is that OOO isn't well divided up internally. It was designed to load as a huge glop o' code back in the StarOffice days and still does. I once argued about this until I was blue in the face with a OOO developer on NewsForge. I could not get it through his head that I wasn't talking about splitting off Writer, Calc and so-forth into separate apps. I understood that OOO's "apps" are developed from an internal common set of objects (which also means an equivalent to MS' COM system is also loaded with the main app). I was talking about being smarter about which objects to load initially and then loading others on demand. This would get the startup time and usual memory usage down. It would also make it easier to use OOO as an API the way Office is used as an API.
    • why OOo uses its own inbuilt font rendering and toolkit? Aren't these things already provided by all modern guest OS's?

      Part of it is historical. The StarOffice codebase dates back to 1994. The target platforms at the time were things like Windows 3.1 and early X11 environments on systems like Solaris. The font rendering situation on Windows wasn't too bad, but on X11 it was terrible. Fonts were stored on the X server, which made it impossible to use ones installed with the app on a remote X session, and they didn't provide enough information to the application for proper kerning. The solution to this was to do the fon

  • Then fork (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jdavidb (449077) * on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:52AM (#20668535) Homepage Journal

    If you can do a better job coding, owning, and making key decisions, then fork the project and demonstrate.

    If you can't fork because you need Sun's expertise, then maybe you should admit that Sun deserves to participate on their own terms, just as you participate on yours.

    For years I've been amazed at how people will whine and whine about the direction an Open Source project is taking, rather than just demonstrating that another direction is better. The people doing the work are exercising their freedom to do whatever they want however they want it done. If you don't like it, not only is nobody making you participate, but lots of people have invested lots of work in giving you the freedom to do it the way you want to, instead.

    It worked for EGCS and X.org. But 99% of the time, it's just whiners whining that they don't have control. Power and control don't matter in Open Source; we all have equal power. You have the power to control your own version, and if that's truly holding the project that you're whining about back, then obviously once you unleash your new vision of project management yours will blow away the one you're whining about.

    • Re:Then fork (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @12:02PM (#20668675) Homepage Journal
      "If you can't fork because you need Sun's expertise, then maybe you should admit that Sun deserves to participate on their own terms, just as you participate on yours."

      It is a logical fallacy to say that someone only has a valid complaint against someone if they can do it better.

      "we all have equal power"
      No, we don't. It is perfectly valid for someone who can't code to complaing about a bug or the lack of a feature, or the fact that it is slow. Just like a automobile owner can complain if their breaks don't work. No one is going to say to them to shut up unless they are willing to build there own car.
      • I think it is invalid to complain about a bug or lack of a feature if you don't use the dang product. Of course, that would mean that 15% of slashdot wouldn't ever be able to complain about Microsoft.

        Seriously, they would have to shut the site down or sumting.
      • You ever hear the phrase "beggars can't be choosers"? While it's totally legit for non-development participants to bitch and whine about a free product, it's even more legit for the people who are putting their time and money into creating that free product to ignore the cry babies.

        The reason people say "there's the source, fix it yourself" is because they aren't your slaves. They don't have to work for you without getting paid. If you want to have some influence in the product's development take a substan
      • Re:Then fork (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bluesman (104513) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @12:48PM (#20669297) Homepage
        Complaints can be valid all day long, but that doesn't necessarily make them helpful.

        When you're managing a project, usually you have to make decisions that are going to piss some people off. Those people can whine about it forever or simply realize that the decision had to be made and shut up about it. If they feel a bad decision is THAT big a deal, then it's time to put up or shut up, and show everyone else how wrong they are. That's productive and helpful, complaining isn't.

        I find OpenOffice to be really good software, and it's improving rapidly. I don't see the problem in the grand scheme of things.

      • by mritunjai (518932)
        So get your money back !

        If like you said, your car's breaks don't work, you have a right to get it fixed because you PAID for it.

        In an Open Source project, people have an obligation to complain about problems and devs have an "OPTION" to fix it. They're not obligated to fix it. You don't put food on their table!

        So if you do want support maybe you should buy a copy of StarOffice, which gives you a support channel, and get your fixes. But please don't complain that somebody won't fix what they anyways provide
      • by Shotgun (30919)
        It is perfectly valid for someone who can't code to complaing about a bug or the lack of a feature, or the fact that it is slow. Just like a automobile owner can complain if their breaks don't work.

        If the brakes on the care you *PAID FOR* don't work, you have a valid complaint. Hell, you can even take it to a court of law and receive renumeration for your complaint. You may even be championed as a hero in some cases.

        However, complaining about a gift could possibly earn you the title of "ingrate". OpenOff
    • by soullessbastard (596494) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @01:49PM (#20670279) Homepage Journal

      Disclaimer: I am one of the founders of NeoOffice [neooffice.org].

      I think there's already interesting proof that forks can provide a very viable alternative to the overhead of the OOo project. Although the reasons are many, one of the big problems I historically had as a Mac OOo engineer was trying to get patches approved by Sun engineering. It has proven to be more efficient to have engineering freedom, allowing us to implement things that might never be approved by Hamburg. Being independent also has allowed us to implement a binary patching system so our bug fixes can be delivered quickly and independently if any marketing driven release schedules. Being outside the politics has also allowed us to integrate other open source technologies into the application that are important to Mac users, such as VBA support as well as OpenXML import and export. Yes, OpenXML import and export could be integrated into OOo today but engineering politics and Sun's manipulation of the project to foment a document format war have kept this functionality out of OOo, doing nothing except harm users that need to seamlessly integrate with MS Office environments.

      NeoOffice has been shipping a solid, native, GPL licensed Mac product for over 2 whole years. We have shown forking is successful. Dropping the politics of the OOo organization has made us more efficient and resulted in a better product that users appreciate. We have had a free software solution for Mac for years, and all OOo has done is exorcise all reference to us from their website. Perhaps it is just banishment for daring to do things differently and not helping to propogate the name of OOo (which Jonathan Schwartz has publicly said is Sun's second most valuable brand after Java). Seems a bit like Sun wants control to me. It will be interesting to see if Sun has the stones to snub IBM for its Lotus Symphony brand in the same fashion.

      ed

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drharris (1100127)

        I think you make an excellent point about the forking. In spite of what so many Slashbots say, I am never annoyed by the startup time or memory overhead of NeoOffice. Your efforts have given me ( and several other "switchers" I've influenced ) a hugely useful product that does pretty much exactly what I need and does it ver

        You have my gratitude ( and my donation to back it up ). I am always amazed at how many people will try to discredit your efforts by complaining about a few extra seconds of their l

  • by HerculesMO (693085) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:52AM (#20668537)
    Open Office is that, right?

    I just think OO.o lacks a focus. As other Slashdot members had said earlier, it seems to be over engineered and not thought out enough in a 'direction.' An engineer says "Java is a good idea to have" so they add Java... and bring other woes.

    While I know some people may dislike the new Office 2007, after using it for a while now, I can say honestly that it's the best version yet. The usability and UI are greatly improved (once you get used to them). Open Office lacks the 'polish' that a Microsoft Office delivers. This isn't about document format wars folks -- it's about the sheer usability of one platform over another. You cannot invent a similar animal as a MS Office, and then go your own direction even if it's smarter. You have to adopt the platform, and make it your own. That's how Firefox has taken off so well. They came in as a web browser, same functions, and built upon it.

    Open Office (and I haven't checked out the latest version) comes in and says that it's a replacement for MS Office... but it does things its own way. Some shortcut keys are similar, but a lot of stuff is different. It's usable for sure, especially for /. users, but for the average Joe who has used Office everywhere else, OO.o is a different animal. And it's uglier and slower.

    Make it pretty, make it similar... then build upon it. Not before. Just my thought anyway... maybe Sun will take it to heart. I don't see any benefit or disadvantage to having more control in the community hands, because like they say.. too many cooks spoil the broth. And we will have a LOT of cooks all trying to make feature decisions, instead of a focused core of people that guide the direction of a project.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      While I know some people may dislike the new Office 2007, after using it for a while now, I can say honestly that it's the best version yet. The usability and UI are greatly improved (once you get used to them). Open Office lacks the 'polish' that a Microsoft Office delivers. This isn't about document format wars folks -- it's about the sheer usability of one platform over another.

      Not a popular position here, but I'm forced to agree.

      I'm genuinely glad that there is an Open Office and people who work
    • by jimicus (737525)
      While I know some people may dislike the new Office 2007, after using it for a while now, I can say honestly that it's the best version yet. The usability and UI are greatly improved (once you get used to them).

      And, not to put too fine a point on it, represents the largest jump made by Office since Office '97. Outlook changed a fair bit in UI terms over that time, but everything else was just relatively minor stuff like "Let's change the colour of this icon, add a few minor features there, change the colo
    • While I know some people may dislike the new Office 2007, after using it for a while now, I can say honestly that it's the best version yet. The usability and UI are greatly improved (once you get used to them).

      Open Office (and I haven't checked out the latest version) comes in and says that it's a replacement for MS Office... but it does things its own way. Some shortcut keys are similar, but a lot of stuff is different.
  • by davidsyes (765062) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @11:56AM (#20668597) Homepage Journal
    This is why IBM should find a way to resurrect and rejuvenate Lotus SmartSuite, particularly Lotus WordPro, Lotus Approach, and Lotus 1-2-3.
    • by yuna49 (905461)
      Maybe you missed this announcement from IBM this week about its new, free Lotus Symphony product:

      http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/09/18/1155252 [slashdot.org]

      The beta is available for download here: https://www14.software.ibm.com/iwm/web/swerplotus/LotusSymphonyPick.html [ibm.com]

      You'll need to register to get a copy, however.
      • by davidsyes (765062)
        Symphony IS nice. I think I still have a copy in storage somewhere. But, most people cannot visualize using it correctly. As I see/understand, Approach and 1-2-3 together do MOST of what Symphony does. If I am correct, then this is a shame that SmartSuite is being deprived of massive industry and market buzz and renewed attention.

        IBM is SQUANDERING good code, it appears.
        • by yuna49 (905461)
          I think they just resuscitated the Symphony name. The word processor looks a lot like OpenOffice Writer in terms of menu choices. Also it comes with a bundled JRE (why couldn't it have just found and used my Sun JRE?). I'm pretty sure Java didn't even exist when Symphony was first released by Lotus many years ago.

          • by davidsyes (765062)
            I'm not sure, but I don't think L/S/S even has Jave embedded. It's an installable option, IIRC, but I shy from using Java TOO much. I hate crashing (not saying JAVA is itself bad, but some bad programming can be painful to users...), and am tired of having multiple Java versions/libraries having to be installed in *dows.

            It wouldn't hurt IBM to:

            1. Provide internal or 2-4 trusted collaborating Open Source developer teams a locked-down (no binaries accessible as code to programmers, say, locked on tamper-evide
  • Sun weren't trying to act all warm and fuzzy about open source one second and then siding with SCO the next and then shutting their mouths when it looks like SCO is going to get a smackdown and acting all warm and fuzzy about open source again, people wouldn't be all suspicious about their intentions.
  • by Bill Dimm (463823) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @12:07PM (#20668739) Homepage
    While I greatly appreciate the work that is done on OOo, there does seem to be something wrong when it comes to getting bugs fixed. For example, cell notes became badly broken in oocalc 2.x because they no longer move when their cells are moved (e.g. by sorting). The bug [openoffice.org] (yes, I filed it and I am biased) has remained open for nearly two years, and the developers have classified it as an "enhancement" rather than a "defect" even though it worked fine in version 1.x and is apparently causing problems for quite a few people with no work-around. I don't mean to whine, but leaving such obvious and problematic bugs unfixed for so long isn't good for the project. I don't know if this happens because they are understaffed or if there is a problem with how things are being managed, but getting the OOo people to pay attention to bugs seems to be a problem.
  • The future of OpenOffice.org most probably lies in a straight-GPL fork (which is allowed, since one of the licences under which OO.o is distributed is the LGPL -- and the LGPL allows for any work covered by that licence to be relicenced under the full GPL).

    As a consequence of a recent EU ruling, Microsoft will soon have to be releasing documentation of their proprietary file formats. If a library is written for properly parsing these, in good time, and released under the full GPL (not the craven "yooho
  • ...that would actually lead to a revolt is if they clearly cripple OpenOffice so that they can sell StarOffice. Even with the most dysfunctional management, the golden rule applies. And Sun has the gold paying for a lot of developers. Almost all the cases I can remember where the community took over the company was dead or dying, or the project was being abandoned. I think they'll come around the more people that share the effort (in forms of money or code, really), because they'd be fools to let this slip
  • by ryanw (131814) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @12:40PM (#20669205)
    Weird.... why is it then that other projects like AbiWord, KOffice and the various other open source office utilities haven't taken over the market?

    The main problem is OpenOffice isn't 100% compatible with MS Office documents. I have tried using Openoffice as a replacement to MS Word and Excel several times. Each time I end up getting burned because some executive pencil pusher thinks my layout sucked and looked bad. So in my attempt to use OpenOffice, I end up looking like a moron.

    SO sure, I can use openoffice for my own documents, and then open it in Word or excel and format it completely when giving it to others, but comon. I don't have enough hours in the day to use something just to "stick it to microsoft", because honestly, the company I work for already has site licenses for Office and all other microsoft products. So in reality my attempt to use Open Office won't ever "stick it to microsoft".
    • by jimicus (737525)
      Neither is Microsoft office, but I guarantee that within a few hours you'll be buried in comments saying that so let me pre-empt them slightly.

      Microsoft Office is not 100% cross-version compatible and does sometimes get some formatting wrong. However, it would be reasonable to say it's 99% cross-version formatting compatible. In other words, yes there are issues but unless you're doing some very fancy work in a part of Office which was never really designed for it (like doing a database with many tables,
  • by edmicman (830206) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @12:54PM (#20669379) Homepage Journal
    What I see with OpenOffice is that it is perpetually trying to be MS Office. It shouldn't try to be MS Office, with an always circa-5-years-ago. For OO to succeed, it needs to be better than MS Office. Make people want to use it instead of MS's offerings. This seems to be the case with a lot of open office software - they're pushed as alternatives that mostly do the job, but the "big" selling points are that they are free to the end user, mostly compatible with the competition, and use open formats. Look at what Firefox did - they didn't try and replicate an alternative to IE that was always chasing IE's features...they made a *better* browser.

    If material cost were not an issue, now or ever, who would pick OO over MS Office? All OO is, and will be in the forseeable future, is the bastard wannabe kid brother of MS Unfortunately, Exchange is in the mix, too, because of the links between the office suite, email, and intranet. Where's the open source initiative to create a *better* solution than the MS Exchange environment? Everyone just focuses on Exchange compatibility, and as long as you do that, you're perpetually going to be playing catch up.

    Really, they should start from the ground up, and create a whole new office app/email app/email backend. Whose goal is to be *better* than the competition instead of a cheap or free alternative. That is, if anyone really wants to try and supplant MS's share. Just my $.02.
    • Sun bought StarOffice, originally with the plans of selling a cheap office suite. Sun never expected to "take-over" the market, unless they were insane, but rather to hurt Microsoft. Sun and Microsoft fought in the Server room, and in engineering workstations. Microsoft has nearly unlimited resources from their Desktop and Office monopolies.

      If ALL Sun accomplished with StarOffice was getting a few Microsoft Site licenses to use it as leverage to pay Microsoft less money, Sun "won." If you see the world
  • by NekoXP (67564) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @12:55PM (#20669389) Homepage
    I think IBM weighing in will make it easier (more developers) but I'd be sad to see the commercially-oriented development structure go away. I doubt IBM are planning that considering their focus is a Microsoft-competitive Lotus suite and not entirely freedom-oriented.

    Taking some of the control from Sun, and having IBM give in some effort and direction will mean the product can only get better. Wresting control from them and doing a design-by-committee open-source movement might fundamentally destroy the package.

    There are only very few projects which have been spawned from a commercial development and moved to a true open source, open development and open community design model and survived with a great product. One might say Firefox is one of them, but would it have even gotten there if Netscape/AOL hadn't been pushing their buttons to produce browsers? It's perfectly possible that, given the way most open source projects are run, we would still be running Mozilla 1.8 beta right now and Firefox would never have been spawned from it.

    I guess, if you want to fork Open Office, you're free to. Go ahead, make Open Open Office and see how far you get. The best parts of it might be rolled into Lotus Suite and Star Office, or.. they might not.
  • by jilles (20976) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @01:00PM (#20669487) Homepage
    Sun being in charge is not necessarily the problem; the problem is that they lack the competence and vision to bring the necessary changes to OOo and are making it hard to bring in external expertise to fix it. Lets face it, they're a hardware company that also does server software. They sell products to enterprises, not to people. They've never had to deal with end users and they are not very good at it.

    The simple reality is that Sun historically has done a less than great job designing and implementing user interfaces for end users. It's true for netbeans; solaris; Java and indeed open office that each of these products has a very long history of quirky, non standard user interfaces that pale to competing products. In all these products progress has been made. Basically solaris now sports a nice Gnome desktop (but they took their time killing their old UI), netbeans is undergowing the zillionth lets "fix the UI" effort, Java did great on the serverside but so far failed to get people enthousiastic on the desktop side (JavaFX being the latest misguided/doomed effort).

    The Open office UI looks out of place on any platform. Ugly icons; weird fonts; clumsy stuff like the cross references dialog or the poor excuse for a bibliography manager. Yes you can sort of do most office related stuff in it and for most people that is enough. Sun has been fighting the symptoms for years and they seem to be pretty proud of their work. The truth however is that the overall Sun UI experience is mediocre or adequate at best across their product line.

    What open office needs is somebody like Blake Ross to kick out the old UI and do a proper one. Blake and friends rescued the quirky mozilla from the fate that OOo is now facing: being a second choice cheap product that people use for cost rather than quality.
  • I think the bizarre name (for a software package) is a greater drag on "OpenOffice.org" than anything the management committee might be doing. If they really think "Office" is a Microsoft trademark they should name it something else. Anything but stick an awkward top level domain identifier on the end. That is a marketing disaster.
  • YES (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @02:14PM (#20670691)
    The question was: has anyone else experienced the kind of frustration described by the OO.o coders, on another open-source project. And my answer is yes, I have had some experience with that.

    I got involved in a minor way with a certain open-source project which shall remain nameless. A co-worker of mine, however, put a lot more into it. The "leader" of the project, who ran the SVN server and merged the code and the like, pretty much had full control over what was included into the project. The problem is, the guy was arrogant, spiteful, and himself a terrible coder.

    My co-worker submitted a change to the core code that increased its speed in some cases by as much as 100 times. However, the "project leader" apparently did not like his own code being fiddled with. (He had written the module containing the inefficient code.) At first he rejected the code changes, saying that he "did not like the coding style". Then, he incorporated the code changes incorrectly, which broke a lot of other things. Then, when he finally merged the code correctly, he publicly derided it for causing errors, when in fact the errors were in completely different parts of the program and he knew that.. and which was later demonstrated, also publicly. Did he ever apologize? Hell no. He cut the contributor off from the project, and me as well when I spoke up about this.

    In short, the guy was a real ass. I am glad he was not my boss at work or something. I would probably punch him in the nose and walk out. He was completely unsuited for "leading" a "team effort".
  • but if, as a person, i had ibm behind me, i think it would be stupid to talk about an 'uncertain future' for me anymore.

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928

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