Friday, September 25, 2009

OpenOffice frustration

Subtitle: Why OpenSource continues to fail in many sectors.

Now. this is going to be a negative post full of criticism. Beware and decide if you want to stop reading. A rant.

A premise: I have mainly two uses of Open Source: the first is personal. That means I do stuff for myself. Or maybe I use it with my development of Open Source. That means I use it within a clean environment. Mostly I use developer tools but also Office and Graphics tool. But it is easy, I send material to a colleague that means he is most probably using the same thing.

The real problem is the second use: real business. Here things immediately take another turn. There are no excuses. My main rant is against OpenOffice and MS Office incompatibility. There are no excuses possible!

The new shiny 3.1.1 is out there and once again I give it a try. It is so appealing to have an alternative. An alternative which I can also use on Linux, on BSD or on Solaris. And on Windows of course. I notice many improvements, the applications on Windows XP looks good. I am pleased that OO did not yet follow the terrible "new MS style without menu bars and big fancy icons". I know it will happen, but for now it is fine.

But what is the real world task I need to solve? Take a file from a colleague, work on it, give it back. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

I take a power point file, modify it, give it back.

The file is ruined, the graphic images are broken. Things gets misplaced, connectors are broken...

The verdict is just one: OpenOffice is unusable in the real world. So sorry to say that. 

I reported a similar bug in Word documents about a year ago. The comments were more or less useless. Like "duplicate" or "we are different". Now indeed, there are a lot of bugs about similar problems posted. With that philosophy you can't go far with applications that need to inter-operate.

Also, I may note, that OpenOffice clearly dips into MS Office footsteps. It is not a "different" office suite. It is a suite that wants to appeal the MS user. You see it in almost every detail of the user interface. Also, the compatibility is actually high, but not enough. There are no excuses.

Heck, OpenOffice has that small office assistant even! But corrupts diagrams? 

Yet some of the compatibility bugs are there since months, years even. I do not care in this case on how much I can do "within" OpenOffice itself: I am not making a slide presentation for FOSDEM, I am making one for someone else, that someone else will be using MS Office or, in any case, expects that as an exchange format.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Neos: make-up for GNUstep

I released today a first version of Neos, a new theme for GNUstep. It is not yet a definitive release, but perfectly usable. More subtle, with less contrast. Yet I intend to retain the NeXT spirit to the maximum.

I will try to make minor releases which each change I implement, up to a first official release.

The theme is done inside Thematic and also illustrates the progress done on that front, the current Neos version is code-less and consists only in new pixmaps and other point-and-click configurations.

The Neos theme is part of the GAP project and there I created an extra section to collect themes, wallpapers, color schemes to offer an easy way to adapt and customize the GNUstep interface, something which gets often criticized.

In the screenshot, the Gorm document and palette with the new theme.