If Office Suites Are Not Broken, Why Change Them?

Bruce Byfield reflects on the office suite:
“Should a modern office suite continue to resemble one from two decades ago? Or has the expectations and experience of users changed so much that we need to re-examine the assumptions we have lived with for so long?”
see Rethinking the office suite – Linux Magazine Online.

He has some reasonable observations but IMHO office suites work well. They are more or less perfected. There’s no reason at all for restructuring or slapping on rafts of new features. That’s M$’s business-plan to force constant updates/new licence-sales. We don’t need that with LibreOffice. Improving its efficiency, fixing bugs and making small changes to UI/features make sense. Rethinking to the extent of adding “the ribbon” or linking to clouds is not needed and not useful. We can run an office suite as a thin client already. What more do we need?

If I wanted a few more frills for LibreOffice it would be tiny changes like setting styles for charts (I don’t like the default fonts. They are too small for my eyes.). I should be able to set those once and forget them without rebuilding from source. LibreOffice was great on its first release and new features are fringes on a saddle.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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9 Responses to If Office Suites Are Not Broken, Why Change Them?

  1. Der Balrog says:

    Things could be a lot better than they are now, and probably would be if a monopoly hadn’t bought it’s way to a stagnant dominant position.

    What the heck are you going on about?

    Users are still forced into the manual drudgery of layout and formatting for example. There’s so much more a computer could be doing for us than cut and paste, and spell checking.

    So Microsoft’s so-called “monopoly” forced others to not create better word processors? What a bunch of bull. Did Microsoft create some sort of thought police? Others failed to come up with better paradigms. That has nothing to do with Microsoft, except for the fact that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    Even Pogson’s posterboys from Google follow the same old paradigms when it comes to Google Docs, mainly to drive home the claim that web apps are good for every kind of application.

    Besides, there’s always LaTeX (together with LyX) if you so despise “the manual drudgery”.

  2. notzed says:

    “Should a modern office suite continue to resemble one from two decades ago?”

    Word-processing hasn’t changed much in more like 30 years. And it isn’t a whole lot more than a typewriter in many respects. Users are still forced into the manual drudgery of layout and formatting for example. There’s so much more a computer could be doing for us than cut and paste, and spell checking.

    Things could be a lot better than they are now, and probably would be if a monopoly hadn’t bought it’s way to a stagnant dominant position.

    However, a few cosmetic changes to the menu bar style aren’t improvements, just change for change sake.

    PS if microsoft can’t interoperate with other software or even itself, why is that the other software’s fault?

  3. oiaohm says:

    DrLoser you are right there are about 30 core dialogs most people would think they are seeing but most users are blind to what dialog code is.

    Problem is right click menu Libreoffice writer is 6 dialogs. Yes popup menus are still a form of dialogs. All the apply that to the menu bars of all programs and you have quite a few. Now every toolbar popups and every toolbar add another dialog block of code if it cannot be shared for each of them.

    In Libreoffice and hello there is a lot looking straight at you. Lot more than 30. I have not got into the setting windows with how many are hiding there.

    Remember each time you change one of those dialogs you have to validate they still work as they should.

    In a minor complex program it really does not take long to get to 100 dialog code blocks.

    If you want to see over 50 in one hit. Libreoffice tools/options in Libreoffice writer there is only 50 dialog code blocks making up that window over all with all the dialogs for all the different parts of Libreoffice options that window is about 100 alone. Its a item you would have only counted as one or possible 6 DrLoser.

    I guess you foolishly believed dialog equal window with boarder. When you get into code this is not the case.

    Really this is good for people to go use gimp to get idea of what a dialog is since it allowed menus and other items to be ripped apart and turn into bordered windows so people can really see how many dialogs there are in the applications in front of them.

    DrLoser even without the web version of libreoffice I can still use libreoffice on the web. VDI works quite well over web.

    Using MS Office 365 places your documents in USA storage. So using MS Office 365 comes down to what you call usable. With MS charges for per user/per device and the red tape that is for local. It can be simpler to use libreoffice for remote provides.

    Main reason for the html5 version of Libreoffice been so important is not cloud provide like MS Office 365 but direct integration into items like alfresco.

    Html5 version of libreoffice basically will provide a feature MS Office does not offer.

    You said any web based Office suite. If that include any cloud based VDI provider what there are a few and you can set one up yourself Web and Desktop with Libreoffice can be exactly the same application right now provided by cloud or by local. Nicely cures documentation conversion problems.

    Your comment about actually works is grey. Libreoffice actually works now without licensing headaches for those requiring data privacy.

  4. DrLoser says:

    Libreoffice has under 400 dialogs to go before its own html version.

    And while we wait for those 400 dialogs (which would presumably require quite a lot of code behind them to make them function), would it be all right by you if we use an office suite that actually works?

    Even if you count the file-system things that pop up on save/save-as etc, I’m struggling to get beyond about thirty dialogs. (Hint: most of this stuff can be done via a right click, either on Linux or on Windows.)

    But I applaud your sincere efforts to fill in the other 370.

    You are helping out with the other 370, aren’t you?

  5. oiaohm says:

    DrLoser really cmis interface to alfresco cloud end from libreoffice works perfectly.

    Libreoffice 4.0 with the cmis integrated is really nice.

    Doing what you are talking about is dead simple with LibreOffice 4.0 and alfresco combination. Of course you were thinking the advantage of sharepoint right Dr loser. That is gone with the release of LibreOffice 4.0. In fact LibreOffice 4.0 can push and pull to share-point.

    DrLoser 30 megs is a 15 percent reduction in-size even that features have increased.

    DrLoser I do recommend you download libreoffice 4.0 and run the installer carefully. Take particular note of the install to network share options.

    So even with windows its possible to install just 1 instance that ever user is using. This completely kills the issue of one version of Office updated ahead of the rest.

    Libreoffice has some unique features that are huge advantages.

    Yes Dr Loser it is possible due to CMIS support to use LibreOffice 4.0 in combination with MS Office 365. In fact this is more dependable than using MS Office 2007 or before with MS Office 365. So any MS Office under 2010 you most likely should nuke and replace with Libreoffice.

    Libreoffice has under 400 dialogs to go before its own html version.

    Things have changed with the latest LibreOffice release Dr Loser another set of arguments are gone.

    The problem is when the html version lands that will be about you last arguement screwed.

  6. DrLoser says:

    30 megs? That and a quarter will buy you a cup of, ahem, Java, Oiaohm.

    And,, Robert, I didn’t ask for a review of OpenOffice or LibreOffice in the clouds. I’m actually genuinely interested, and you seem open to this sort of experiment.

    Go on, try typing up your next column on LibreOffice via your local machine, and then try doing the same on Google Docs (or cloud system of your choice). To make it meaningful, I would suggest pretty much the content in my original post: a graph, a table, a bunch of bullet points. But I’ll rely on you for the specs.

    I think you’ll find that the cloud experience is, shall we say, underwhelming.

  7. oiaohm says:

    DrLoser “Take a medium-sized job, say writing a report with a graph and a table and a few headers and some bullet-points and a couple of changes of fonts.”

    Share it around office and wait until someone crosses version of MS Office with MS Office and watch the document develop more evil errors than you have even seen.

    There is an advantage to LibreOffice and OpenOffice. The well documented format prevents a lot of version to version explosions. You don’t have with Libreoffice on Mac producing a document that Libreoffice on Windows cannot open correctly on vice verse. Heck you can use NeoOffice on Mac and be issue less.

    Complex tables where you have merged cells vertically are unreliable under MS Office.

    MS Office and Libreoffice both have hickups. The difference here is once you have a document produced by Libreoffice you don’t open it the next day on another machine and find it completely destroyed or multifunctional in a strange way.

    Yes I first found out able that table one when I exported from Libreoffice back for a MS Office 2003 to open. MS Office 2007 and MS Office 2010 also can get very upset at times if you have done vertical merging of cells in tables. All three MS office 2003, 2007 and 2010 can also get upset if you have inserted 1 too many images into a word document. Yes you find a lot doing reports in Publisher to avoid this then lose portability.

    Reality here Dr Loser you don’t know where MS Office stinks.

    Libreoffice 4.0 has reduced in size by over 30 megs. This has also resulting in quite a nice performance boost and less bugs. Reason for such a high number of bugs in OpenOffice is having 6 containers objects to store text and having to perform conversions between them. Yes this stupidity costs ram and performance as well pushing bug count way up. Of course Libreoffice code cleaning is not complete result now code cannot be straight migrated between OpenOffice and Libreoffice because Libreoffice is too clean to take OpenOffice dirty design code.

    Yes I guess DR Loser you have only tried OpenOffice not Libreoffice to notice the major drop in hickups.

    The other major drop in hickups in Libreoffice is less java so less java bugs as well.

  8. I have used LibreOffice and Google Docs. Usability is good for both. I have the fastest ISP in Canada without being downtown. We even asked them to reduce our bandwidth in favour of other services. I am streaming audio and the wife is browsing and Speedtest.net showed 19MBits/s download speed… With a good network remoteness is scarcely a factor within reason. I have run OpenOffice and LibreOffice as thin clients routinel and except for a barely visible typing delay, there is no difference in usability. Most users see the thin clients as faster because the software is always in RAM on the server.

  9. DrLoser says:

    A suggestion, Robert.

    Take a medium-sized job, say writing a report with a graph and a table and a few headers and some bullet-points and a couple of changes of fonts.

    Try that on Libre/OpenOffice. It will work, although personally I would probably not enjoy the hiccoughs along the way.

    Now try it on Google Docs (or preferred alternative) in the Cloud.

    I suspect you will notice the marked difference in usability. And if not, I’d be interested in the report of your experiences.

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