Office Suites, User Interfaces, and File Formats

Wednesday, 2006-December-20 at 14:00

Anil Dash believes that the MS Office 2007 user interface is so revolutionary that it will make users of the traditional interface quickly want to change.

They killed the File menu, along with all the other menus. They added a giant, weird circular target up in the corner. They actually use part of the title bar as a menu sometimes. They even changed the default font in all the apps. What’s amazing is not just that it works, but that it works so well.

From the perspective of someone who gets paid to support users, this means support headaches.  Users do not like change.  They want to keep the same functions in the same places (whether keystroke commands or mouse clicks).  I am assuming, since I have never actually seen or used the software (ah the trials of being a "minor league" blogger), that it will actually make users more productive after their six to eighteen month shakedown period.  Yes, that is what I said, it will take six to eighteen months before most users are fully productive with the software.  During that time, technical support and training resources within corporations and government agencies will be overstressed with all of the calls for help coming in.
ThinkFree Office Online is still struggling with the fact that their current imitation of the MS Office interface is confusing.

The original intention was to minimize the learning curve when switching from Microsoft Office. However, we are beginning to realize that there is a point in which you may go to far. We are in the process of evaluating what kind of user interface makes sense going forward.

ThinkFree says that their Java-based application has better MS Office file compatibility than Google Docs or any other online office applications.  However, ThinkFree does not support ODF, and so, I will not be using them until they do.
Another office suite that is only half-heartedly supporting ODF is WordPerfect.  I used WP Office 7, which is still a better, more useful product than currently-available versions of MS Office.  Over the years, I have bought WP again and again.  I would buy them again, if and only if they had full support for ODF as save and open formats.  The standard is openly available, and WP helped design it, so it is not a matter of not knowing how to do it, it is a matter of having the will to do it.  Another consideration is that they need to have a version of their product for the Mac, and they need to have a version of their product that is available for Linux.
In my home office, we are moving from Windows to Linux, FreeBSD (most likely as the PC-BSD distribution), and Macintosh OS X on Intel.  If we purchase software for up to 15 computers, we want it to work on all of them.  We want to save documents in one common format, whatever suite(s) we may use on those computers.  We want to be able to seamlessly access that data regardless of what computer or office suite is in use.  The only way to do all of this is to standardize on OpenDocument Formats.  If Corel/WP still does not get that, then they will get no more funds from me until they wake up.

Entry filed under: Computers, Software.

Tip O’ The Fedora IDABC, ThinkFree On ODF

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