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Michael Meeks Says OO.o Project is "Profoundly Sick" 676

unassimilatible writes "Michael Meeks, who works full time developing OpenOffice, writes in his blog that the project is 'profoundly sick.' 'In a healthy project we would expect to see a large number of volunteer developers involved, in addition — we would expect to see a large number of peer companies contributing to the common code pool; we do not see this in OpenOffice.org. Indeed, quite the opposite we appear to have the lowest number of active developers on OO.o since records began: 24, this contrasts negatively with Linux's recent low of 160+. Even spun in the most positive way, OO.o is at best stagnating from a development perspective.'"
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Michael Meeks Says OO.o Project is "Profoundly Sick"

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  • It's 2009 (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28, 2008 @07:37AM (#26248253)
    Do users really need an open source desktop suite when they can meet their needs using a server based suite? Broadband is cheap.
  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @07:37AM (#26248255) Homepage Journal
    Sun wants give the impression of making the software open but at the same time they need tight control over the copyright so that they can continue to sell Star Office.

    The code is notoriously difficult to work with and the the owners of the copyright use this to limit the number of players.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28, 2008 @07:52AM (#26248293)

    Sun wants give the impression of making the software open but at the same time they need tight control over the copyright so that they can continue to sell Star Office.

    Thats FUD. There is essentially no difference between StarOffice and OOo. Star Office is just an alternative model to offer services to customers for Sun (sometimes organizations have budget for licenses, but not for services).

  • Not Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by countach ( 534280 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @07:52AM (#26248301)

    I think it's just not that interesting and/or rewarding to work on an office package, especially one of Oo.o's complexity, for no monetary reward, especially if you have to also deal with the politics of getting it approved by Sun. If I had an itch to tinker with something like this, I'd probably write my own from scratch.

  • by MongooseCN ( 139203 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @07:57AM (#26248317) Homepage

    Ever since Open Office 3.0, I've been able to completely move away from MS Office 2003. I can create word documents that look exactly the same in MS Word 2003, like they do in OO 3.0. Now I can easily exchange documents between coworkers and they have no idea I'm using OO.

    I work in aweful world of end-user IT for small businesses. These people are INCREDIBLY picky about how their word, excel, etc documents look. They are also incredibly slow at learning how to use office software. Switching these people from MS Office to OO is nearly impossible. People HATE HATE HATE software with a different interface. Most Office 2003 customers won't touch office 2007 for that exact reason. If OO were improved to the point that it could simulate MS Office so people could easily switch over, OO could take over. I think replacing MS Office with OO is one of the Big Steps linux needs to take to push windows off the desktop.

  • Re:It's 2009 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <daengbo.gmail@com> on Sunday December 28, 2008 @08:01AM (#26248339) Homepage Journal
    I read the article yesterday and said "Duh!" Everyone has known that OO.o was a screwed up project since it was open sourced. Very few commits have come from outside Sun -- the requirements to dual-license contributions and the messy code base from when it was closed deter people from getting involved.

    The statistics in the article are interesting, but its conclusion isn't:
    • Sun has always been the major contributor to OO.o.
    • Sun is controlling of the project.
    • Sun is now hurting and people claim heading into bankruptcy.
    • OO.o is now in big trouble.

    Anyone who has been following the project knows what's up. It's just sad that OO.o gave people the impression that other office projects (which could have flourished in the time people were using OO.o) weren't very important. I'm looking at Gnome Office and KOffice.

    I almost never use OO.o, though, because I do almost everything in Google Docs or Latex.

    p.s. Of course, Meeks is promoting Novell's Go-oo, so people can claim he has too much bias to be an accepted critic.

  • "Finished" software (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cillian ( 1003268 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @08:04AM (#26248355) Homepage
    This is an interesting issue - I develop an open source program, and it has the main features, is reasonably stable, and so in my mind is finished. There are other features I could add, but how useful they would actually be is debatable. I think this is somewhat similar to the state of openoffice, at the moment. So, what does one do in this state? (Admittedly, I have plenty of bugfixing and stuff to do, so I'm not out of work yet, but you get the idea)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28, 2008 @08:04AM (#26248357)
    OOo is quite healthy. However, Novell seems to be profoundly sick: They arent even keep their employees in line.
    This isnt the first time Michael Meeks is ranting mindlessly in a misguided attempt to promote Novells private fork (which has problems so big that the official OOo inconveniences are just laughable).
    Michael Meeks isnt the only one doing this negative PR for Open Source: Greg KHs bitching about Ubuntu just hits the same chord.

    One has to wonder if the Microsoft-Novell Deal was just a bribe to the Novell leadership to refrain from enforcing discipline among their devs. Either that, or its just incompetence.
  • by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @08:05AM (#26248363) Homepage

    Maybe in terms of feature-completeness, but IMO Microsoft really did Office 2007's new UI really well (though I certainly see why some people would hate it). My understanding of the Ribbon was that their goal was to expose functionality that's always existed but was hidden too deep to ever be of use - and they certainly did that. Plenty will call it pointless eye candy, but I for one consider it a huge step forward in usability for a product that I too had long considered finished.

    Maybe adding in additional features to OO.o would be bloat. Honestly, I don't use any word processors often enough to say (though it handled what I needed the last time I used it). But speeding it up and polishing the UI could go a long way in any software, and twice as much in OpenOffice.

  • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @08:09AM (#26248383)

    What more do you want them to add. The rest of the stuff Microsoft has, no one cares about enough to add it.

    That viewpoint, I believe, is one that limits open source's potential. Just because a developer does not find a feature useful does not mean a broader user community feels the same way. When they find features they need lacking in an OSS package they simply stick with the existing closed alternative.

    Having a small developer community acerbates this problem, since it's less likely one of them would also want some feature that the others find unnecessary.

  • by Bazar ( 778572 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @08:09AM (#26248385)

    Heres what bothers me about OO.o

    Its written in java, and like most LARGE java apps, it runs like a 3 legged dog.

    You can say that because its java, its more compatible and runs on all platforms. But only if the platform is supported.

    Linux 64 with Java 64bit. That didn't happen for a very long time. As a work around, i tried compiling 32bit OO.org for my gentoo linux, compiling failed, the package notes basically suggested that black voodoo was required to get it to compile, and to use the provided binary packages instead.

    As for OS compatibility, if you used a nice framework like say QT, you would get it while avoiding the instability and performance hit caused by java in the process.

    Now for all the people that are thinking that i'm just flamebaiting consider this. Every time i used koffice, as primitive and lacklustre as it was, it appealed to me. I WANTED to get involved and help make it the greatest. It was fast, sleak, and attempted to be (but failed) what i wanted.

    I never once felt that way with OO.org because the thing that needed most fixing was both its cleanness of source code and its dependence on java.

    Yes i'm still an OO.o user, its still the most powerful free office software... But i'm not interested in improving it, just trying to fix what can't be.

  • Too complex (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mlwmohawk ( 801821 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @08:20AM (#26248447)

    I would bet that as projects grow, fewer new developers join -- unless the complexity is managed.

    Open Office is starting to feel like X11. It hard to even build let alone modify let alone test. It is a very old code base and it shows.

    There is another issue as well I think. It is typically an application "end-point." Projects like Apache, PostgreSQL, PHP, etc. are foundations for other projects. People use them and contribute because they are interested in their own project and they fix or add features to the open source foundations to that end. The primary self interest is their project not PHP or PostgreSQL, but the open source foundations benefit regardless.

    With OpenOffice.Org, there is no individualized primary self interest. If I add something to OpenOffice.Org, I only add it because I want it. With the code base as big and complex as it is, I'd have to want it quite badly. I can't think of a feature I need that much or a reason to do all the work to add it. OpenOffice.Org is pretty good as is, what does it need?

  • Re:Not Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @08:22AM (#26248465)


    My wife often asks me for help with Office, on the general principle that I'm the computer geek, and she isn't. But I probably know less about the features of office suites than she does ; I certainly use them less.

    I sometimes use spreadsheets to make a few calculations. I use Word when I have to fill in some piece of red tape that's a Word form.

    I've donated many hours of my time to tools that make my life easier - almost entirely selfishly, because if I donate my patches and features, I don't have to maintain a separate version for myself.

    I don't use an office suite enough to care though, and I suspect the same is true of the majority of programmers, which means that it's likely that to get someone to write code for OOo, you have to pay them, and also that they are not in a position to pick and choose their projects, which likely means that they are probably not as good as say, kernel developers, who almost certainly enjoy the geek thrill of getting cool new hardware working smoothly.

  • by Geoffreyerffoeg ( 729040 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @08:31AM (#26248501)

    This is not true at all. Sure, you can type stuff in, mark some stuff bold, spell check it, and print it out -- but there's no need for an office suite to do that, and if that's all you intend to do don't call yourself an office suite.

    Here's something I ran into yesterday. There's a "Compare Documents" feature under the Edit menu. It doesn't compare the contents of tables. The bug reporting this [openoffice.org] was opened in July 2003, and nobody has seemed to care yet. In 2007, someone had a patch, which was committed and not added to the next release's codeline because "I don't think that this issue fulfills the criteria for 2.3.1". This may it was retargeted for 3.1 and rejected in November because There are too many open questions to finish in 3.1." People complained again in 2004 [openoffice.org] and 2008 [openoffice.org]; I don't think you can say in good faith that "no one cares enough".

    It occurs to me that your exact phrasing was "no one cares enough to add it", which is completely right. Nobody cares enough to develop OpenOffice.org to where it should be.

    If you ask what more, are they not done, then I'll ask the same thing about the Linux kernel -- isn't it done? What benefit is there to running the latest 2.6.28 or whatever instead of 2.4, which worked fine for everyone a few years ago? But yet who in their right mind would (all other things being equal) set up a new system with 2.4 instead of some kernel released this year? And you'd laugh if I suggested the Linux 1.x tree, but that can open and close programs and files just as well as any other OS, can't it?

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @08:40AM (#26248549)

    Then maybe you can answer me one question, and it's a honest one, I couldn't find it: How do you print in MSO 2007?

  • by charlener ( 837709 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @08:55AM (#26248611) Homepage

    For a while, I used OO mostly to assuage my guilt at using Office illicitly.

    Then I found out that OO has a major advantage: internationalization for countries that just aren't within Microsoft's marketing strategy. As a (foreign) person working in Mongolia, the relatively basic addition of international spelling packs, particularly for Mongolian, has been a lifesaver - and though I haven't used it, there's a Mongolian localization for the entire suite that I think would remove a significant utilization barrier here. It's hard enough teaching someone how to click versus double-click; throw in a menu system in an incomprehensible language and you might as well give up at anything but the most basic data entry.

    For this alone I'll use OO over Office.

    And from a helping standpoint, I haven't done much beyond web-based DB-driven apps for a while, but with Ubuntu's relatively painless localization process, I'm trying to help out by doing Mongolian localization for the OS myself.

    There are places for everyone to help - it may not be exciting but I figure you should pay it back in somehow.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28, 2008 @09:16AM (#26248697)

    There was recently usability project to design the new UI and user interaction. It is called Flux, and it actually was selected as one of the winners in the recent innovation competition. The design exists for that polishment already, but there is a problem.

    Getting any developer to take a look at that stuff seems to be virtually impossible. Usability is simply not a priority for them and they are just happy with the present interface - which was literally modeled after Office 9x. After a few attempts I gave up trying. The developer people were just too thick and there was no sense of direction in the whole project.

    I used my part of the money from the innovation competition to buy a Macintosh computer by the way. iworks rules. :)

  • Re:It's 2009 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ta bu shi da yu ( 687699 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @09:34AM (#26248793) Homepage

    I'll let you make up your own mind:

    1. Kohei's story [kohei.us]
    2. Sun rebuttal [sun.com] by Mathias Bauer.

    Sun has a history of not playing nicely with other projects, however. A real culture of "not invented here", or just plain arrogance [cryptnet.net]. Makes me wonder what's going to happen to MySQL.

  • Re:It's 2009 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by z_gringo ( 452163 ) <z_gringo@hotmai l . com> on Sunday December 28, 2008 @09:36AM (#26248799)
    Sun requires commits be dual-licensed so that Sun can use the code in the commercial version, Star Office. That's how they control

    Digium does the same thing with Asterisk, and that project seems to be advancing nicely.
  • Re:It's 2009 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ta bu shi da yu ( 687699 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @09:45AM (#26248847) Homepage

    P.S. In case you think that Bryan Cantrill quote is made up, check it out yourself on Google groups:

    1. Original message [google.com.au]
    2. Cantrill's reply [google.com.au]
    3. Hilarious response by David Miller [google.com.au]
    4. Miguel de Icaza astounded response [google.com.au]
  • by PietjeJantje ( 917584 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @10:27AM (#26249049)

    My understanding of the Ribbon was that their goal was to expose functionality that's always existed but was hidden too deep to ever be of use

    Oh there are pros and cons. The disadvantage is all the sweet from Common User Access guidelines is lost.

    But that is not what the ribbon is all about. The ribbon is just another product cycle. The problem with WIMP is that basically, just as 20 years ago, you click an icon to start an application (etc.), and nothing has changed except looks. So Apple comes and goes with the dock and MS now entertains us with the ribbon. But it's all the same thing. Its only true purpose is to sell "next gen" which incorporates the new shiny. Is it better? That remains to be seen. Usually not (see dock).

    Personally I would never mind it as an option, but in reality it is now a mess and with each app you have to check whether it's ribbon or not, if menus are available or not, and how the ribbon, if there, is implemented. That's worse than any single method, such as the consistent CUA.

  • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @11:12AM (#26249305)
    Microsoft has built a business out of bad design which happens to fit the sloppy thinking and training of office workers.

    Excel is a program that means that you can create shitty models with no proper auditability - which means that people who cannot be bothered to understand databases can think they are being clever (right up till all those quants got their last paychecks during 2008...). Word completely confuses the processes of content creation, editing, proofreading and typesetting, and allows the visually incompetent to waste hours pretending to be proper typesetters on a memo. Powerpoint is...oh, Tufte has said it all, I've paid for his books, you go and do the same and strike a blow for proper presentation of data.

    People like MS Office because it enables them to waste lots of time and think they are being productive. Why can I write a 6 page white paper in a morning and it then takes the "customer facing" people a week to pretty it up? Because I was brought up on exercise books and typewriters, and was taught to leave presentation to people with presentation skills.

    I use OOo because I need to read the documents produced by these people. But all my models are generated in SQL - usually nowadays in Transact-SQL running on SQL Server, so this is not an anti-MS rant - and my output is in plain text and PDF for things like flowcharts and system diagrams.

    Fortunately, as I'm a dinosaur, I can do this stuff in Office and so I'm less likely to suffer a mass extinction event.

  • Re:It's 2009 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rysc ( 136391 ) * <sorpigal@gmail.com> on Sunday December 28, 2008 @12:18PM (#26249697) Homepage Journal

    TeX would be an excellent format for a WYSIWYG editor to save in to. It would not be possible with the WYSIWYG to do all of the nice things you can do with TeX, but as long as it saves down to this common, malleable format a broad amount of compatibility is achieved for free. Let the users who want to learn nothing use a simple GUI tool which produces code which can be tweaked by hand, or by other existing tools, when needed.

    Why not?

  • by IICV ( 652597 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @12:23PM (#26249729)

    I do tech support at a small company, and most of the people there have never seen the ribbon interface before. For some reason, I can usually find stuff in it faster than they can, even though I've used MSO for a total of maybe two years and most of them have been using some version of MSO for their entire professional lives. I'm doing tech support for them, so I guess this is my job, but it was astonishing to me how I could figure out where the functionality they wanted was in a few seconds, after they'd been scratching their heads for minutes. These are intelligent people, not the sort of users that just memorize a couple of clicks; in fact, they're perfectly capable of figuring out most other software. It seemed like the Ribbon UI wasn't leveraging their experience with the old UI at all - rather, I got the impression that the ribbon paradigm was entirely at right-angles to what they expected, like it required a different mode of thought that they did not have but for some reason I do.

    Of course, when I had that thought, it became clear to me what was going on. I'm sure Microsoft did acceptance testing for this new interface, with focus groups and all that, but it seems to me that they missed something. Fundamentally, in order to use the ribbon properly, you need to think like a programmer and not a normal user. I don't know why this happens, but from my experience (the plural of anecdote is data, after all :) ) I've found that people in more programming oriented areas have less trouble with the ribbon than everyone else.

    Maybe this is just confirmation bias or something, but the fact remains that almost everyone in the company wishes we had 2k3.

  • Re:It's 2009 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday December 28, 2008 @12:40PM (#26249857) Homepage Journal

    As far as I understand it, it isn't just agreeing to a dual-license, but handing over the copyright to Sun. Sun could decide as the copyright owner to ONLY include it in Sun Office, and not include it in the open source versions of OpenOffice.

    That being said, there already is a nice fork that Meeks presides over at go-oo.org and several distros use it in place of Sun's OOo right now, and most people don't even seem to realize it.

  • by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday December 28, 2008 @12:42PM (#26249877) Homepage Journal

    No it isn't. If you don't agree to hand over copyright to your code to Sun, then it won't be included in OOo. The reason they must own the copyright is so they can decide if they want to include it solely in Star Office, and not OpenOffice at their discretion.

  • by Qwavel ( 733416 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @01:05PM (#26250039)

    I'm a C++ developer and I was interested in participating in OOo soon after Sun purchased it.

    I joined the project and started participating in the discussion about which GUI toolkit to use. The idea was to start using a common GUI toolkit such as GTK, wxWidgets, SWT, Qt, instead of continuing with the current GUI code which was a mess and was specific to OOo. A lively discussion took place and some consensus emerged, but then behind the scenes it was decided to stick with the existing code.

    It seems so obvious to me that using one of the GUI toolkits would have facilitated sharing code and developers with the rest of the open-source community. For example, I wanted to work on the GUI code, but I had no interest in getting involved in this toolkit that was just for OOo, so I abandoned the idea of participating.

  • It's so Intuitive... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28, 2008 @02:38PM (#26250791)

    ...They had to make a plug-in to find things.
    Yup that's an office-ial Microsoft site. ;)

    Back on Topic. Reply #26248659 by AmiMoJo says it best. Open Office seems to work fine for me. I don't need to download a minor version every 2 months. I understand developers like to code, but as a user I appreciate going 6..12..18 months without changing every damn app I have.
      Pro-tip: That's how you know it's feature-rich.

    Yet another reason I don't use Windows at home. Update Much?

  • Re:Very bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dubl-u ( 51156 ) * <2523987012@NOSpaM.pota.to> on Sunday December 28, 2008 @03:08PM (#26251019)

    Nearly every paragraph in the "article" begins with a disclaimer that the data (and/or the analysis) are flawed/biased/incomplete/not useful/meaningless!

    Honestly, that's usually a plus to me. It means the author actually understands what good data is, and how one extracts meaning from data. 98% of humanity would have run reports like that, called it definitive, and you probably would have never noticed the difference.

    Never confuse confidence with competence, or frankness with weakness. Imperfect data, honestly presented, is much better than no data.

    As rough as his numbers are, they are reasonable support to his conclusions. If somebody disagrees with his conclusions, the burden is now on them to come up with better numbers, and Meeks has even shown them several opportunities to do that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28, 2008 @03:11PM (#26251043)

    You say that as if GPLv3 is a good thing....

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @03:11PM (#26251047) Journal

    Novells private fork (which has problems so big that the official OOo inconveniences are just laughable)

    Can you give some specific examples? I'm not trolling, I just want to know because I've been using the Novell fork for a while now, and recommending it to different people over the stock OO.org implementation, mostly because of slightly better MSOffice compatibility... is there something I'm missing? In terms of features and bugs and other technical problems, anyway, not some "embrace & extend" FUD.

  • by Haeleth ( 414428 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @03:12PM (#26251057) Journal

    I'm sure glad Microsoft wanted to make the less-used options more visible, but at the same time they made the most-used options less visible. Atleast IMHO.

    YHO is worthless compared to the resources Microsoft poured into actual tests with a wide variety of real users. They found that the most-used option was "Paste". Guess what the first and biggest button on the default ribbon is?

    Printing is by no means a universal action, now that documents are increasingly transferred electronically and read on screen; and even where a document is printed, it's usually printed once when the document is finished, whereas pretty much all other commands are used repeatedly while the document is being composed.

    I can't believe I'm defending the interface to a program I despise and refuse to use, but there you are. For the people it's aimed at, Word 2007 is actually quite well designed. Don't like change? Deal with it. Change happens, and you can keep up or you can be left behind.

  • Re:It's 2009 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by westlake ( 615356 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @04:14PM (#26251547)
    How can Sun control an open source project?

    Sun is Big Daddy Warbucks, your prime source for funding.

    Full-time management. Full-time development.

    The geek - the volunteer developer - sees everything as code.

    If the problem is not in the code he is fucked.

    Microsoft can afford to employ experts in office management, workflow and training, psychologists, physicians...

    Experts in layout and design.


    If his GUI is - to the uninitiated - as unintelligible and crippled as The GIMP is alleged to be, the problem can't be fixed.

  • by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @04:15PM (#26251555)

    I couldn't have worded that better myself.

    Certainly there has to be SOME control over what features are added, since one person's feature is another's bloat. But who is to decide which is which? qa.openoffice.org is the only real way that users can provide feedback on bugs, issues, problems, and feature requests. If numerous users make a valid case for why something should be included and it gets lots of votes, but is shot down for no apparent reason, it tends to sour the whole process.

    Another example- I requested that the spell checker detect double words: "I would like like to go to the store". Many others requested it also. The OO spell checker ALREADY checks punctuation and initial caps, so this is not a stretch; besides, it is even easy to implement. WordPerfect has had double word detection for eons. Yet, the OO team decided to close the issue and say that double word detection should be in some theoretical language checker add-on rather than in OO!

  • by peraspera ( 555081 ) on Sunday December 28, 2008 @07:38PM (#26253049)
    I had a similar experience. I wanted to fix the scanner dialog in swriter. I couldn't set the dpi value for my scanner. I fixed it and set an email to the most appropriate core developers listed on the OO developers site. I received an answer a month later or so, asking me to sign an agreement with SUN. At the same time I received an email from a developer who encouraged me to continue. I sent by fax the agreement and fixed several other things. The guy contacted me several times asking if I had received a response from SUN. I think I received it three months later. Meanwhile I had tried to scan directly from the dialog (which can only configure the scanner, scanning is started from another entry in the Insert image menu). The dialog doesn't return a value. How can I change it? It is impossible, the function prototypes are kept in a jar file. How long does it take to raise the interest of a core developer on this issue I don't know, but I think 6 months at least. Then OO 3.0 was out and I had to start it all over. But the code is really a mess: there are sections with comments in German tagged with: **********Better left alone******** and the like.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28, 2008 @07:46PM (#26253107)

    Novells private fork (which has problems so big that the official OOo inconveniences are just laughable)

    Can you give some specific examples?

    To be honest: No, because I wouldnt be anonymous anymore ;-).
    Sun provides the QA and RelEng for the OOo releases. QA is quite picky, which can be frustrating for devs. However, they keep the worst out of office. Novells Cowboy Coders might be successful in hacking minor features on the OOo codebase. However:

    • they add instabilities and bugs because these "small hacks" arent sufficiently designed, documented and tested
    • having this kind of development in the core elements of OOo would render the codebase unusable in a few years (yes, the current code quality is bad - so everything possible should be done to raise to quality, and rotting the code further should be avoided)

    And yes, there are subtile and interesting bugs in the Novellbuilds that arent there in the official build. Yes, they where communicated to the Novell guys. I cant go into specifics, because I wouldnt be anon in the OOo microcosmos anymore.

  • by zooblethorpe ( 686757 ) on Monday December 29, 2008 @12:58AM (#26254867)

    I'm of no relation to the OP, but simply from my own frustrating experience of trying to slog through their API documentation, I'd have to agree with the overall point that Sun has done no one any favours when it comes to clarity.

    Say, for example, that you're trying to whip up a simple script to munge some text in a Writer document. After considerable reading around, you might discover that you need an object of type TextCursor to work with Writer text. So you dig into the API docs [openoffice.org] to try to find out what properties and methods a TextCursor object has.

    Please, read the TextCursor API page linked above, and then see if you can quickly understand what properties and methods a TextCursor object has.

    If the OOo source code and related documentation are at all similar to the API documentation, then I must say that I'm frankly flabbergasted that the project has made any progress at all.


  • by zooblethorpe ( 686757 ) on Monday December 29, 2008 @02:00PM (#26259699)

    So... what was it you were complaining about, again?

    More or less, exactly what you pointed out :) -- you have to jump around through several different pages, sometimes branching through whole trees, to find out the properties and methods of one single object type. This is not easily discoverable. Sure, it's possible to find things out, but it's certainly not terribly easy nor fast. From a source code point of view, I can understand the reasons for listing which interfaces are implemented, but from an API perspective, why not include also the methods and properties themselves, all on the one page? That's easy enough to do with proper referencing and no need to duplicate content on the server, and keeps the reader from having to jump through so many hoops.

    And, as you yourself note, in some cases the documentation doesn't even document things properly:

    ...there isn't actually any doc to describe the properties that are applicable to a TextCursor instance. 'course, the easiest answer is to hack up some test code to emit all the properties and see what's there, but that's certainly not ideal.

    So again, it's possible, but neither easy nor fast. When I'm trying to get myself up to speed with either an API or a bunch of source code, the last thing I want to be doing is wasting time and energy due to poor organization of the docs.

    In contrast to the maze of twisty passages that is the OOo documentation, let's look at Microsoft's documentation for the Selection object for MS Word [microsoft.com], roughly similar in some ways to Writer's TextCursor. Here, we have all properties and methods listed on one page, with no need to click and click just to find the names of what properties and methods a Selection object has. As much as I quite dislike MS for how they conduct business, their documentation puts just about any FOSS project, and certainly OOo, to shame.


  • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Monday December 29, 2008 @02:21PM (#26259935) Homepage

    More or less, exactly what you pointed out :) -- you have to jump around through several different pages, sometimes branching through whole trees, to find out the properties and methods of one single object type.

    So? That's why the the great Noodly one invented the Back button. :) Your question was "see if you can quickly understand what properties and methods a TextCursor object has.". The answer is, yes, I can, trivially. It requires a bit of a clicking around, but so what?

    'course, I might contend that the software itself seems overly complex (are all those Cursor interfaces really reused anywhere, or are they just over-engineering for the sake of it?). But the API docs seem sane enough.

    Here, we have all properties and methods listed on one page, with no need to click and click just to find the names of what properties and methods a Selection object has.

    So, ultimately, your complaint is you have to click around.

    Might I suggest you're just a little lazy and nitpicky? ;)

    Truthfully, I do see your point. But I really don't think the OO.o docs are nearly as bad as you make them out to be (trust me, I've seen *far* worse). And the OO.o docs do have one advantage: the methods and properties end up clustered based on the nature of their function. I almost prefer that to the neverending list of methods and properties present on that (and every other) MSDN page you cited.

    As much as I quite dislike MS for how they conduct business, their documentation puts just about any FOSS project, and certainly OOo, to shame.

    While I agree that's true in general, one should be fair and point out that many FOSS projects do have excellent documentation. Perl and Python, along with their attendant swarms of modules, are generally very well documented. And let's not forget the venerable Unix manpage system, which is awash with useful information (though in an admittedly primitive form, only somewhat obviated by the GNU info system).

    But I'll agree that many projects could do *far* better.

  • by zooblethorpe ( 686757 ) on Monday December 29, 2008 @02:45PM (#26260173)

    Fair enough. I suppose I'm showing some bias -- I'm one of those folks who get lost in dictionaries and encyclopedias, where cross-referencing leads me down a rabbit hole and fifteen minutes later I realize I've forgotten what I went to look up in the first place. :) Hence my preference for one-page object explanations -- I find everything I need in one place, and can read up and get back to whatever I was doing without wandering through a link tree and possibly getting sidetracked.

    And you're right about Perl and Python and the man pages. Meanwhile, on the flip side, we've got OOo, Compiere / Adempiere, Plone (at least, last time I looked at it)... where the docs are sparse, hard to read through (for me anyway), or just plain missing in places.

    Interesting, that -- languages and shells seem to have the best documentation, while platforms and big applications seem to have the worst. Do you see this trend too, or is it just my own limited experience?


  • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @10:40AM (#26267715) Homepage

    Interesting, that -- languages and shells seem to have the best documentation, while platforms and big applications seem to have the worst. Do you see this trend too, or is it just my own limited experience?

    That does seem to be a common phenomenon. 'course, it may simply be a function of project maturity. Python, Perl, and the Unix manpage system have been around for ages compared to OO or <insert latest web framework>. It's also the case that, generally speaking, large applications have less of a need for proper doc... ie, in the case of Python and Perl, the entire purpose is to provide a programmable API, and such an API *requires* good documentation in order for it to be used. The same isn't true of OO.o.

    Of course, that should argue that a project like Plone would have decent doc. Some of those problems may be related to culture (in contrast, in the Perl community, writing POD is strongly encouraged), or the way the project is managed (rapidly evolving projects mean developers are focused on solving nifty problems, instead of documenting their solutions). 'course, my own biases make me wonder if it's just that many of these projects start out as flash-in-the-pan, trendy, buzzword-compliant solutions, which, in the end, have no real long-term project vision, and the result is a mess of code and documentation... but that's probably unfair of me. :)

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