Why MS Office 2007 is both a good and bad thing for OpenOffice.org

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OpenOffice.org (OOo) is, of course, the free software world's complete office suite.

It's not a bad program - it is certainly perfectly usable for a lot of standard productivity tasks. It sometimes is criticised, however, for various different things. Being bloated, being too much like Microsoft Office (related?), for not being enough like Microsoft Office, for not having good enough Word compatibility...

I like OpenOffice.org. I use it on my Linux desktop, and the NeoOffice port for Mac OS X as well.

Microsoft Office 2007 is upon us, however. With various new features and a few new additions to the suite, you would think it was just another incremental upgrade. Except that with the new version, Microsoft has introduced a new 'ribbon' UI to Office, banishing the old menubar and toolbar system.

Some people just love the new interface, citing improved productivity and clarity, while others aren't so keen on it and see it as a diversion from UI conventions that isn't so good.

For the ribbon haters who are currently using older versions of MS Office, this presents an interesting opportunity. They won't be keen to upgrade to the 2007 edition, but eventually, they will end up upgrading to something. OOo, obviously, doesn't have the ribbon, but it's likely it will keep up with new developments in the office suite space.

There's a nice potential here to convert the ribbon hater over to using OOo. Of course, it's not a guaranteed conversion - there are still transition issues that they may have and not all will be willing to give up something so familiar. But if they want to avoid the ribbon, switching to OOo may be an option - as not upgrading to MS Office won't be, in the long term. I can't see the ribbon going away any time soon (unless there is a massive consumer outroar).

On the other hand, the ribbon lover will see this as an area where MS Office clearly wins over OOo, and we may see less people willing to consider the move to OOo.

OOo will seem old and stuck in the past to these people. If OOo's interface doesn't impress them, they simply won't want to investigate further into making the move. We may even see OOo users going back to MS Office for the new UI and new features that the 2007 incarnation brings.

So what is the solution to this problem? It seems like the OOo team have a few options:

  • Continue as they are currently, with the old UI.
  • Try to emulate the MS Office 2007 UI for a new OOo release.
  • Innovate an even better interface than MS Office and push that out for an OOo release.
  • Do either of the two above, but offer the user a choice between old and new UIs.

Whatever happens, MS Office 2007 and people's reaction to it may prove crucial to the OpenOffice.org project. Or, maybe, things will just continue much how they are now. Who knows.

Avatar for peter Peter Upfold - http://peter.upfold.org.uk/

Peter Upfold is a technology enthusiast from the UK. Peter’s interest in Linux stems back to 2003, when curiosity got the better of him and he began using SUSE 9.0. Now he runs Linux Mint 9 on the desktop, runs a CentOS-based web server from home for his personal website and dabbles in all sorts of technology things across the Windows, Mac and open source worlds.

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Discussion: Why MS Office 2007 is both a good and bad thing for OpenOffice.org

  1. E@zyVG (guest)

    # Posted on 07 April 2007 at 11:59 AM

    I tried the beta of Office 2007 and though it pleases the eyes with all that candy stuff, for even simple things done i had to spent minutes to find basic features.

    I think that OOo shouldn't emulate the Office 07 interface, but can definitely come up with newer interface that is both better looking, better organized with some new radical approach which is better than that of Office 07, but with an option to go back to older style. OOo needs to host an extensive study i UI interaction and only then come up with something new.

    I have been using OOo for ages now and am planning to stick with it.

  2. Mike (guest)

    # Posted on 30 July 2007 at 01:35 PM

    I definitely hate the ribbon. Some have said that those of us who don't like it are afraid of change. That's not true. Personally, I think some changes can be very important. There are some new UI changes in Office 2007 that are very nice, like the ability to preview a formatting change before you actually apply it.

    But the ribbon is, in my opinion, useless, a waste of space, and even insulting because it is basically telling me that my way of working, which I find very efficient and productive, is no longer a good way, and instead I am treated like a child that has to be hand-held through working, and Microsoft decides which commands I want to use at any time.

    The dumbed-down interface is bad, and thankfully OpenOffice.org would not be allowed to implement the ribbon (because it's a competing product).

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