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Australian Govt Re-Kindles Office File Format War

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the list-of-reasons dept.

Australia 119

An anonymous reader writes "The Australian Government's peak IT strategy group has issued a cautious updated appraisal of currently available office productivity suite file formats, in what appears to be an attempt to more fully explain its thinking about the merits of open standards such as OpenDocument versus more proprietary file formats promulgated by vendors like Microsoft."

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119 comments

Vendor Lock-in (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39144935)

How about the merit of even being able to re-evaluate their choice of file format because they aren't being locked in by their vendor?

Re:Vendor Lock-in (4, Informative)

crafty.munchkin (1220528) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145725)

Regardless of vendor lock-in, they're missing a crucial element - the employees of the Australian Public Service are terrible and impossible to retrain.

Re:Vendor Lock-in (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150095)

Don't you really mean: ... the employees of the Australian Public Service are terrible and impossible.

Re:Vendor Lock-in (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150367)

Bad governmental employees are not unique to Australia.

True, however... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39153537)

They are Australian as well :P

TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (5, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144975)

The message of the central article is, basically, the same as the old mantra. Microsoft has the widest office platform with Sharepoint and Exchange, therefore it is the right answer.

What isn't being questioned is whether the question being asked is the right one. Despite the huge investment in "office" technologies, have they really increased productivity or effectiveness?

For the opposite case, look at IDEs. In only 20 years, software development has gone from something where you trod a minefield of minor issues and only the highly skilled could safely write business logic, to something where an invisible, benevolent being holds your hand at every step, autocompleting, identifying deprecations, and allowing you simply to concentrate on getting the job done. As a result, programmers are more productive. It is interesting watching new graduates and realising that they have simply never experienced a world in which you type, compile, fix, type, compile, fix....with most of fix being minor problems that the compiler complains about, and then start actually to debug. In those same 20 years, has office technology got more efficient to the same degree in terms of actual work done? No. Exactly like the medieval monks, the basic task of transcribing the Bible has barely improved (spelling and grammar checkers? Look at the frequent homophones nowadays - car breaks, loose for lose, and the rest of them) and all the effort has gone into illuminating the title page and margins. Office 2010 is basically an illuminated manuscript generator, absorbing vast amounts of effort in decorating a piece of paper or a screen to conceal the fact that the actual content is mundane and boring.

The really interesting and exciting stuff is happening in CMS-based websites where people post simple marked up text that stands or fails on the quality of its content, not whether it complies with the corporate standard for margin width and precise positioning of the logo.

The new paradigm that is increasingly expected by younger people is a refocussing on the text. Viewed on small screens, decoration isn't much use. More important is immediacy and filing, and email, IM, BBM, even Facebook and twitter, are much better at these. The Australian Government should surely be looking at, for instance, how much of the decoration and formatting, how much of the Powerpoint, are actually wasted effort.

The question isn't whether Microsoft blobXML or ODF is better; it is how many employed people actually really need to be using them at all.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (2)

sidthegeek (626567) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145003)

This is exactly why I think simple plain text files are superior in many cases. I've seen people create Word documents just to store individual links. While a bookmark system would have been ideal, plain text would have been a much better solution. Like you said, marked-up plaintext is what powers CMSes and wikis. If the user really needs formatting, they can always use something like (La)TeX, and if they need something more than that, they can use Scribus or InDesign.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39145055)

Simple text files are never superior. Please stop being so damn backwards about this. And I know /. will probably even mod this funny, but I'm completely serious.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (5, Insightful)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145241)

I would like to know where do you find any word processor, such as Microsoft Word or even Libre Office Writer, to be superior to LaTeX in any aspect. It obviously isn't on the support for math notation, and it isn't on reference management, on colaborative work, on revision control, or on system requirements. It is also not in productivity, both by "advanced" users and specially in newbies.

The only aspect where I see that word processors may appear to be superior is in table formatting and in managing figures. Yet, that apparent superiority doesn't go beyond the discovery that pictures can be dragged and dropped to a document. Once the user is forced to format those objects then all hell breaks loose.

So, exactly where do you see word processors as being always superior to writing LaTeX documents through a text editor?

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39145317)

Well, normal people can use a word processor ?

Come on, surely you can see the problem.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (4, Interesting)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145351)

I don't see why normal people wouldn't be able to write a LaTeX document. Setting up a new document may be tricky for a absolute newbie, but that's nothing that can't be taken care by a template with a half dozen lines, and learned in a couple of minutes. From there, basically the only thing a user needs to know is to use commands such as \chapter, \section, \subsection and the like, and know how to write. How is that hard?

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (2)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145373)

...and floats, and tables, and formatting of said tables, and different kinds of list styles, and,....

I've written several papers using Lyx, which fortunately manages to hide most of the annoying things of Latex. But it's *not* friendly. And don't even get started on Bibtex..Not that MS Word's XML-based system is any better, but at least I don't have to worry about mystical compliation errors due to an extra comma.

The only problem with MS Word is that unless explicitly configured to enforce usage of styles (and not just directly choosing fonts), you'll end up with bunch of documents that are pain to maintain.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145589)

I think the thing that you're missing is that most normal people can't do these things in Word either. Let's take the cross referencing example. I recently proofread a masters dissertation for a friend who is not a native speaker. She was using Word, and used Word in her day job. Yet all of the references to figures were done by explicitly typing 'See Figure 12'. When I suggested that she might want to add a figure, she said that she didn't want to because she'd have to renumber everything. I was pretty shocked by this, since that's exactly the sort of thing that computers are supposed to do - the boring and repetitive tasks. Surely, I said, Word can do this? Yes, it can, and actually Word's cross-referencing tool is more powerful than LaTeX's one (which is pretty primitive, although there are a few packages that improve it).

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146167)

I have gone to some effort during my Ph. D to educate people on Word's cross-referencing power.

The sad thing is, even lecturer's and academics are frequently unaware of it and go on to teach poor, manual techniques to students.

Regarding Lyx: I want to love LaTeX, I really do, but when I first started up Lyx I discovered that subscripts and superscripts were not in fact a standardized upon feature (that's since changed - still though). But looking down the barrel of a chemistry thesis, that was an immediate deal-breaker.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146199)

Subscripts and superscripts in TeX work fine in math mode. _{this is subscript} and ^{this is superscript}. For chemistry, you probably want to be typesetting all chemical formulae in math mode, e.g.

Poor old Joe, he's dead and gone\\
His face you'll see no more\\
For what he thought was $H_2O$\\
Was $H_2SO_4$.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (4, Insightful)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145957)

It really depends on what's your definition of "friendly". For example, I see BibTeX as the friendliest bibliography system there is, mainly due to the fact that when you use it you don't even need to be aware you are using it. You just pick your bibliography file and simply reference what you wish to reference. What's unfriendly about the following command?

\cite{some_book}

Managing a BibTeX bibliography is also quite simple and straight-forward. A user only needs to open a text file with a text editor and add an entry to a book. What's unfriendly about the following entry?

@Book{some_book,
                AUTHOR = {The author's name},
                TITLE = {the title of the book},
                PUBLISHER = {The publisher's name},
                YEAR = {some year},
                isbn = {a ISBN reference},
}

If we compare using BibTeX with the god-awful way Microsoft Word handles bibliographies we lose any reason to claim that word processors are somehow better at its job than LaTeX. So, why do some people keep parrotting that word processors such as Microsoft Word are somehow better at producing documents than LaTeX? This sort of claim simply goes against reality.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (1, Informative)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146143)

What's unfriendly about the following command?

\cite{some_book}

The fact that if I typo it to \cite{some_booky} it doesn't compile. And unless I rigorously recompile after every edit, I might not even catch that. Worse if the brace is missing.

What's unfriendly about the following entry?

It's in a separate file, for starters.

Also, you need to run Latex *twice* to get it working properly (the first time generates the .aux and then you can do it again). Oh right, creating a makefile is apparently easy for everyone.

And like I said, if you forget a comma at the end of the line, it doesn't work.

Oh, I guess I could just use readily-made citations that I can copypaste in from ieeexplore and the like? Well, guess what, the readily available bibtex exports are crap. For example, the bibtex containing all RFC:s (http://tm.uka.de/~bless/bibrfcindex.html) have all sorts of stuff in them that shouldn't be included (including standardization status and what RFC's it obsoletes). When I wrote my latest paper to Elsevier that included lots of RFC references, I basically had to run that .bib through a bunch of perl scripts with lots of regexps to get rid of all the cruft. Same has happened with most other readily made citations. At least the Word's XML has enough of the damn fields that you can pick'n'choose what to include in the reference. With bibtex, I have basically resorted to turning everything into @MISC.

So easy....not.

Only problem I have with Word's citation mechanism is that there isn't an easy way to get citations directly that format, but I have been using Bibutils (from http://sourceforge.net/p/bibutils/home/Bibutils/ [sourceforge.net] ) to get back'n'forth between various formats.

I'll give Latex that it produces the most neatest documents there are, but to get that far you end up fighting all sorts of indicate details far too much. Don't even get started on how to create a new document class - if your text doesn't quite work with any of the provided classes and you'd like to create your own styles, good luck.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 2 years ago | (#39148913)

Oh come on, get an IDE*. Typo in BibTeX key? It will jump to the offending line and highlight the error. Multiple passes? It manages the compilation process for you.

* Perhaps should be called IAE -- intergrated authoring environment. Personally I use vim-latex but please don't burn me for not using Emacs.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (1)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 2 years ago | (#39149471)

Like I said in grandparent, I have been able to make using Latex tolerable by using Lyx. Only problem is that if there's some newfangled class that doesn't have a corresponding Lyx layout I have to somehow try to make one...and that's not really all that easy.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146183)

Because I find that system inferior to Zotero (which is pretty much the endgame IMO) - I can simply browse to the reference I want online, push one button and have it fully downloaded and synced to my system, with a useful interface for sorting and organizing.

My database has hundreds of references - will probably have thousands by the time I'm done, and I don't necessarily know which ones will be appropriately relevant when I'm actually writing up.

Word may not implement the necessary functionality itself, but neither does anyone else really and LaTeX has a hell of a learning curve still.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146815)

Getting a latex file to compile is much like getting a C program to compile, only its harder to debug the syntax errors.

I once accidentally put a backslash inside \label{...} which caused an invalid aux to be produced. Twenty minutes after correcting my original mistake, I still could not work out why the document would not compile. Eventually I found the syntax error in the aux file. Deleting the aux file fixed the problem.

With a word processor you don't need to go through an edit-compile-debug cycle, which makes it much better than latex for "normal people".

Normal people CAN'T use a word processor (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39145713)

They can do some of it, but when the WP decides that the figure goes on the next page, they won't be able to find out how to tell it not to. When they want a paragraph starting on the next page, not split over two, they'll use returns to add blank lines. When the font used gets changed, they'll be adding another font tag inside a now unused font tag. When they need a contents or index, they'll either type it all out by hand or try the wizard and get an answer they don't like (and therefore go and make one by hand again) because how to get it to do what they WANTED, not what they were given, is not possible for them.

In fact, in all the ways they know how to use Word, they know how to use Tex. And in all the ways they don't know how to use Tex, they don't know how to use Word.

Re:Normal people CAN'T use a word processor (1)

noh8rz2 (2538714) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147121)

Jebus you thnk people are real idiots, don't you? I can't imagine being married to you. Everybody in my work group uses office for some seriously tricked out documents and spreadsheets, and we all get by jut fine. 95% of time is spent on content creation, and we can share and edit group docs with no problem. We're not all fucking retards just because we prefer a GUI to a command line.

Re:Normal people CAN'T use a word processor (2)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150421)

Jebus you [think] people are real idiots, don't you? I can't imagine being married to you. Everybody in my work group uses office for some seriously tricked out documents and spreadsheets, and we all get by [just] fine. 95% of [the] time is spent on content creation, and we can share and edit group docs with no problem. We're not all fucking retards just because we prefer a GUI to a command line.

Not all of you, no. As for "getting by jut fine", I beg to differ. I dare you to hand off one of your "jut fine" docs to me. No, just because this is a throwaway post on /. doesn't get you a pass. For some of us, correct composition always matters. We care about those who're going to read it because exact comprehension often matters.

I've seen very competent IT people create files that were a simple, single list of lines, in a spreadsheet program (Excel)! They can't even choose the correct tool to use within the GUI suite.

I'd much prefer everyone to use a simple text editor to write up their content, then hand it to a specialist who knows how to use a GUI word processor/DTP program "to make it pretty."

Unfortunately, welcome to the 21st Century.

Re:Normal people CAN'T use a word processor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150683)

first off, go fuck yourself, i don't owe you anything. second off, your "proof" that a "very competent IT people" can't use excel hardly proves your point that all people are idiots (also, stop looking in a mirror and you're actually not that competent). third off, go fuck yourself again, just because you're a neckbeard basement dweller doesn't mean you get to judge me.

I'd much prefer everyone to use a simple text editor to write up their content, then hand it to a specialist who knows how to use a GUI word processor/DTP program "to make it pretty."

what the fuck do you care what everybody does? sounds like you just like making work for "specialists" who don't add any actual value and don't contribute to the bottom line. again, stop looking in a mirror. and yeah, I'm posting this AC so you can't mod me down, so once again go fuck yourself.

Re:Normal people CAN'T use a word processor (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150865)

second off, your "proof" that a "very competent IT people" can't use excel hardly proves your point that all people are idiots ...

That was hardly what I was attempting to prove. Now I know why so many of your whizbang docs are "jut fine." Your reading comprehension skills appear to be just as lacking.

I'm posting this AC so you can't mod me down ...

I wouldn't dream of it, especially seeing as you just did that to yourself. Try hitting the "Preview" button every once in a while, just to see what your posts actually look like.

Re:Normal people CAN'T use a word processor (1)

noh8rz2 (2538714) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150973)

[Your} reading comprehension skills [appear] to be just as lacking.

way to go ad hominem, fucker. I see you're acceding to my arguments, since you no longer try to refute them.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39145347)

Have you used Word 2007/2010's math editor? It is far more approachable than, with practise significantly quicker than, and just (with a few notable exceptions) as capable as LaTeX.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145603)

I quite like the StarOffice / OpenOffice one. It has both a point-and-click interface and a LaTeX-like one that uses the same AMS mnemonics as LaTeX, just with a different escape character. If you know the mnemonics, the command line interface is much faster. If you don't, then the point-and-click one is much faster than looking up the symbol / arrangement in a LaTeX manual. And you can combine the two approaches: create a complex structure with the GUI and then enter the simple parts of the formula in the text window.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (3, Insightful)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145895)

The last time I used Microsoft Word 2007 to input equations was a couple of months ago, and although it is able to represent simple equations, like the ones involving index notation, fractions and other basic notation elements, the only way it was possible to enumerate them was if the user relied on a couple of obscure nasty hacks which fail to be even adequate.

And even then, equations in Microsoft Word 2007 are still represented in a crude and unpretty way when compared to the much simpler and straight-forward TeX way of doing things.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145705)

there are more "simple" text files in the world than microsoft word documents. try writing any sort of programming in Microsoft Word... good luck! most programming is stored as simple text. so are web pages, css, js, linux configuration files, xml, and even pdf to some extent. Microsoft Word and FrontPage are both shit for web page authoring. word/excel/etc has all sorts of "advanced" features... that are completely useless bloat for majority of users, and the remaining users that use them could/should be using something better (more specific) anyway.

ODF is gaining traction, and Mirosoft is clambering desperately to maintain their early stranglehold, but I look forward to when even plagiarism and bullying won't save Microsoft. ODF and LibreOffice will trudge silently past them... slow and steady. microsoft will of course launch all sorts of smear campaigns, FUD, accusations of patent and copyright violations, threats to key users, and when their bottom line begins to really take a plunge, will probably eventually become the next SCO

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 2 years ago | (#39148853)

For many purposes, simple text file is indeed superior due to, well you guess, textuality. Put it this way: you can't grep an ODF file, but you can grep in a text file with insane efficiency (most of the time).

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (2)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145063)

If the user really needs formatting, they can always use something like (La)TeX, and if they need something more than that, they can use Scribus or InDesign.

LaTex is awesome. It really and truly is. The trouble is that you're absolutely never going to get typical office workers to even read things like this [techscribe.co.uk] , let along actually use what you're recommending.

User training (2)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145367)

Of course not. 99% of office users might have gone on a course of a day or so, and then they learn from other people, getting shown by example. You may remember a year or so ago the US Federal Government looked at an agency that still used more or less a text based front end to a database, running SQL queries to get reports. It was suggested they would be more productive with an Excel front end. The study concluded that it was quite easy to train people to use the SQL-based front end, which did everything necessary, and the cost of conversion simply wasn't worthwhile.

This is all about office workers perceiving that being given a program with lots of visual bling implies a higher status than a text based program, e.g. pptx > ppt > xlsx > xls.

Tell them that LaTex is a secret tool of the Illuminati and only the Chosen are allowed to use it, and they would come.

Re:User training (2)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145407)

What I was hinting at, but didn't actually just come out and say before, is that the problem is bigger than this. Take your typical sales or marketing department at any given midsize to large company. Walk in and try any angle conceivable to convince the employees in that department that using something like LaTeX is worthwhile. You'll have a serious problem on your hands. So perhaps you try to go up one level and convince their management. That won't work out well, either. Perhaps you go up another level and talk to the VP of sales. You'll either get a deer in the headlights reaction, or he'll instantly switch to cost/benefit analysis questions, coupled with training requirements questions, coupled with competitive analysis from HR with regard to how other firms in the same industry are doing things compared to your recommendation, etc. It won't be pretty.

I want things to work the way you want. Sadly, they just don't, and they just won't. In fifteen years worth of working in a variety of industries, I've learned these lessons the hard way. The best I can do these days is push for adoption of shiny gizmos that at least utilize open standards at their cores. That sucks, but it's life.

Don't disagree (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145925)

The Sales and Marketing Department is where Office belongs. The content providers need InDesign or whatever. No argument at all. But most office workers do not work in Sales or Marketing ( which is one reason why business continues to function). Often what they actually need is Excel plus a simple, straightforward email client, and even this is really overkill.

Re:User training (0)

noh8rz2 (2538714) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147181)

e.g. pptx > ppt > xlsx > xls

This is a joke, right? Going for +1 funny? First off, from an objective perspective, office 2007 is tenfold better than 2003, and 2010 even more so. Second, comparing ppt to xls doesn't even make sense. So maybe you should get off your high horse and stop treating others like idiots.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39145431)

If the user really needs formatting, they can always use something like (La)TeX, and if they need something more than that, they can use Scribus or InDesign.

LaTex is awesome. It really and truly is. The trouble is that you're absolutely never going to get typical office workers to even read things like this [techscribe.co.uk] , let along actually use what you're recommending.

Its output is pretty but the language is a complete mess. Packages are designed without much forethought and are sometimes incompatible with each other. It is really difficult to achieve fine control over the formatting unless you are a latex guru. Error messages are incomprehensible. Basic things like the occasional overlong lines are hard to fix. It's definitely not awesome, at best it's a necessary evil if you want high-quality papers.

Lyx makes latex a bit more bearable, but if you want fine control you need to go down to the latex level anyway.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (2)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145549)

Mod parent +<a lot>: He has got it in one.

I have learned LaTeX at least 3 times in the last 20 years, and forgot it immediately afterwards. Arcane does not even begin to describe it, and there is no way any of that effort is needed if its not going to a learned publication I could probably do the job faster setting lead type on a letter press, if you include the learning overhead and the hacking of the various scripts. .

Government departments need to learn to use plain text if they don't want to have the public demanding their pay cut for profligacy.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145615)

The problem is not the packages, it is that TeX is a case study in how not to design a programming language. It is evidence that you should only listen to Knuth when he talks about theory, not about implementation. The language has no concept of scope! Creating a programming language that has no support for structured programming is simply inexcusable. The other problem with LaTeX is that there is no separation of content and presentation. The input file is just a turing machine tape.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147805)

My main editor is notepad++ :-)

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (2)

vAltyR (1783466) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145249)

The Australian Government should surely be looking at, for instance, how much of the decoration and formatting, how much of the Powerpoint, are actually wasted effort.

Almost all of it. The entire purpose of typesetting systems such as (La)TeX is to make it so the users didn't have to worry about such things.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145471)

I work in a large EPCM (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction Management) company, which builds mainly iron ore mines, and Excel is absolutely vital.
Of course we have strictly templated work documents, we give presentations, we do visio diagrams, (and we have an intranet, and a software dev team), and they're all important, but they don't come close to Excel.

For all its flaws, and the inevitable difficulties when it comes time to scale spreadsheets up into database driven software, the business would be massively less productive without Excel, and it has improved a lot in the last 20 years (and that's just the most important) so you just can't say that people don't need an Office suite.

Did I say otherwise? (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145973)

I am amazed at the number of people who post on Slashdot and assume that because their niche works like so-and-so, so does everybody else's.

Excel is fine where it's needed. So is Word. Someone has actually probably found a use for Powerpoint other that as an insomnia cure in meetings. But most Government workers are not technical specialists, and that was rather my point. That, and the tendency of people to do too much decoration.

Re:Did I say otherwise? (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146573)

Excel is my Go To program as well. Besides "Sales and Marketing", it runs a lot of Finance stuff. I have promoted the use of Excel over Word in a lot of cases in my company because Word is starting to really tick me off with its aggressive Paragraphing & Listing defaults. I'm no newbie but I burn fifteen minutes a whack trying to get someone's Word letterhead template to quit trying to send 8.76 X 11.02 invalid paper sizes to the printers, (which then hoses the print queue in the middle of the print run for the Boss). Etc Etc Etc.

Except for the Format-Obsessed types, I solve 70% of our silly one-shot problems with a 2 column Excel page with an extra "slidable margin" column or something. EndUser goes away happy, having solved The Crisis Of The Hour, and I go back to doing my other stuff.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145569)

Dude are you stoned? And are the mods smoking the good stuff too? Geez these kids today don't remember their history! For those that obviously have forgotten THIS [sfwriter.com] is the kind of crap we USED to have. notice how its got 50 damned keyboard commands? Well guess what? they were ALL different on EVERY program! We used to have fricking cheat sheets taped up all over the damned place just to keep up with the crap!

You may not like MS Office, hell i personally hate that damned ribbon and kill that thing right off the bat, but whether you like them or not they have come a loooong way from the old days dude. Oh and while we old farts hate that damned ribbon my oldest started college and for the first time had to really use office with the school provided 2K10 and frankly he kicks a hell of a lot more ass on that thing than I do with the menus. for someone who has never used Office before that thing is uberfast and intuitive, we old farts just learned the positions. But while my docs are boring Times New Roman blandness he and his friends make docs that look as nice as books in the same time it takes me to remember where the sub menu I want is.

And? (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146023)

Yes those old programs were difficult. I'm relieved I don't have to use vi any more, and I actually remember people trying to write Fortran in, ffs, Edlin. But the truth is that most office workers probably need no more than Wordpad and basic spreadsheets. Which are not open to your objections.

You give yourself away by referring to "Times New Roman blandness". TNR is designed to be legible - i.e. easy to read. Conventional formatting is better for understanding large amounts of text. That's why books that people read look the way they do. Jazzy layouts often look pretty but they are actually very hard to understand properly - often the association between text and images or charts isn't clear, the actual content is dubious, the typefaces are wrong for the use case. Word and PPT makes it easy to make stuff that looks creative, but it still requires a great deal of knowledge to make stuff that is good. Electronic composition is not a substitute for understanding composition.

I can actually claim to know something about this. I know a couple of really skilled compositors/designers, and unless your kids have relevant degrees and significant postgraduate experience working alongside older and more experienced people, they simply are not going to be working at anything like that level. If you think that your kids can do "nice as books", I really sincerely doubt that you understand the skills that go into book design, or the difference between good and superficially good.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (3, Insightful)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145787)

For the opposite case, look at IDEs. In only 20 years ...

20 years ago I was using Borland C. Nothing since has ever touched the beautiful integration of editing, compiling and debugging that BC had. The write-compile-test cycle was breathtakingly fast and convenient.

I'm not saying we haven't made progress. The editor I use now creams it, and I'm not looking to go back. But from a pure IDE standpoint, no, things pretty much peaked in the early to mid '90s.

Borland was pretty good (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146049)

Yes, in fact up till 12 years ago so was I.

The simple fact, looking at my current project hierarchy, dependencies, third party libraries, product forks and the rest is that Borland could not have handled it and presented it all as a neat, easy to understand structure through which I can navigate easily. To be more provocative, a good developer today can handle a project, or set of projects, that would have required a team in 1982. That's possible largely because of the tools.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146771)

20 years ago I was using Borland C. Nothing since has ever touched the beautiful integration of editing, compiling and debugging that BC had. The write-compile-test cycle was breathtakingly fast and convenient.

I was about to say the same thing about Adobe FrameMaker on an Sun 4 pizza box. Why they abandoned their Linux port, I'll never know. World's only WYSIWIG cross-platform desktop publishing system. At one time, I could guarantee a document would look the same on every platform, right down to font kerning. Whether in hardcopy, or on an author's Sun, SGI, Mac, or PC. SGML under the hood, style usage mandatory, easier to use than Word and infinitely more scalable.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146115)

Hear, hear! Well spoken Bruce.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (1)

RoboJ1M (992925) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146125)

Agreed.

I work in an office where all the management and non-technical people live in a world of Word, Excel and Outlook.
They store all of their plans, designs, proposals and, well, everything in those formats.
We have staff members who's entire job is manually shuffling identical data between Word documents in various managers personal style preferences.
We have screens that display information that has to be manually copied and updated from other word documents.
Most people use email as an information filling system ("Can you resend me that email from two years ago that explains such and such?")
We could probably replace the entire system with a wiki, a small database, a data entry website and some XSLT for formatting output.
I refer to the word docs as "dead" documents.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146155)

Collaborative systems like Google Docs does improve productivity. Instead of iterations, work is done in parallel, in real time.
This helps tremendously when planning and building ideas.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146163)

... to something where an invisible, benevolent being holds your hand at every step, autocompleting, identifying deprecations, and allowing you simply to concentrate on getting the job done. As a result, programmers are more productive....

More productive at WHAT?

Ironic that this article is on the same front page as the 1995 "buy a computer with 8 MB of RAM" article. Now my workstation has 8 GB of RAM. Am I running code that is 1024x better than it was in 1995, courtesy of more productive programmers? Or, did a handful of chimps take their IDEs and create such bloated crap that I need 8GB of RAM to run it?

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146311)

I think people who think going to the Open Document Format is a good idea must realize a BIG problem: Word files are so widely used that it has become a "de facto" standard anyway, and you need a program that can at least READ Word files.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39148049)

The question is I want to use office, something I know, and not some other half working bug fucked suite that isn't compatable with what everyone else is using.

Re:TFA: Nobody fired for buying IBM (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#39148271)

Ahh, those were the days - a line to use the keypunch, then two day turnaround to find out you put a comma instead of a period. Then, find the card among 400 others, repunch the card, and wait two more days. That was how it worked at my school at crunch time. The machine had a 1 megabyte hard drive with a mean seek time of 1 second, 16K of 16-bit core, and a 1MHz clock, and a 15 minute max time before the job got dumped automatically. If you used nested macros in your assembly program it might well take 15 minutes just to assemble the program, much less actually run it!

Then I finagled access to a teletype running on a 9600 baud line to the CDC 3300, running ALGOL 68 at another university. That was much better. :)

What about ODF? (1)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144999)

What's really stopping adoption of things like Open Document Format [wikipedia.org] ? I understand the limitations regarding change tracking, but this seems like something better handled by revision control [wikipedia.org] systems anyhow. In my view, a document should be treated as a token, and modifications to that token should be handled by external systems. Maybe I'm approaching it from a perspective that's too "UNIXy" for some purposes; can someone help me out here?

Re:What about ODF? (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145217)

What's really stopping adoption of things like Open Document Format [wikipedia.org] ? I understand the limitations regarding change tracking, but this seems like something better handled by revision control [wikipedia.org] systems anyhow.

It is, especially, if you're a government, or even a big corporation, and don't want your PR department to inadvertently issue press releases along with their edit history (as even Microsoft has done in the past).

In my view, a document should be treated as a token, and modifications to that token should be handled by external systems.

That's all well and good for technically-inclined users, but if you want non-technical users to be adopting revision control systems (which are not hosted on some cloud, the less paranoid non-technical users will have gone to the cloud already), you'll probably want to make such a revision control system self-contained and easy to transmit to others as if it was transparently part of the document itself.

That being said, may be we don't need to repeat Microsoft's mistake by duplicating everything they did, and we should just change the extension of that document (and therefore its icon) as soon as it starts storing any kind of edit history.

That would have made all those documents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146475)

That would have made all those documents that have shown past misdeeds by government and corporations unreadable.

Given all the fire and fury about the leaked emails and demands to hand over everything done by all climate scientists, I find it amusing that the same people are the ones pushing all this auto-deletion and fully-drm'd documentation push by Microsoft. I find it disasterous that the moronic bleating crowd have ignored the double standard and are joining in, unaware of it.

Re:What about ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39148127)

Those that issue read-write documents for public consumption deserve what they get.

Re:What about ODF? (3, Informative)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145233)

Yes change tracking is most definitely better served by revision control systems... Many organisations have had the change tracking systems in programs like word come to bite them in the ass pretty badly as comments they thought had been removed were still visible...

What's really stopping ODF tho, is MS... They technically support it, but their support is of an older version, is generally poor and they have made bad faith moves by exploiting loopholes in the spec to intentionally create incompatibilities.

Re:What about ODF? (2)

nxtw (866177) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145451)

Yes change tracking is most definitely better served by revision control systems... Many organisations have had the change tracking systems in programs like word come to bite them in the ass pretty badly as comments they thought had been removed were still visible...

Sometimes people want to easily communicate changes and comments with others. Accidental use of change tracking features is not a valid reason to prescribe the use of external RCS instead.

Strawman detected (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147381)

> Accidental use of change tracking features is not a valid reason to prescribe the use of external RCS instead.

No, it's not; the external RCS being *strictly better* at management of changes is the valid reason. Not exposing yourself to risks is a bonus.

Until you can branch and merge, you're not really managing changes.

Re:Strawman detected (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 2 years ago | (#39149587)

No, it's not; the external RCS being *strictly better* at management of changes is the valid reason.

As I explained in my other comments, traditional RCS doesn't do the the same thing as change tracking. RCS will only manage .

Not exposing yourself to risks is a bonus.

It's a similar risk to using white-out on paper.

Re:What about ODF? (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146833)

The problem in fighting the Microsoft machine is that they've made this all so seemless that an external program simply adds needless layers of complexity.

Yes change tracking in word by itself sucks. But then from within word you can access the sharepoint resources, preview previous versions of documents, view changes side by side, etc.

Compared to the way things were done at my old company which was a marriage of a third party document control system with a web interface which broke down if people didn't follow policy when making changes to documents (and broke down more so when approvers blanket approve documents which they didn't understand what changed) it's an absolute godsend.

I'm not saying it can't be done better, but Sharepoint as a document management system married with Office 2010 is quite an attractive, capable and customisable all in one solution.

Re:What about ODF? (2)

nxtw (866177) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145415)

but this seems like something better handled by revision control systems anyhow.

Integrated change tracking is a form of revision control system, embedded into some document formats and applications. It serves a different purpose than a traditional revision control system, and is useful in combination with a traditional RCS or a document management system with its own file-level revision tracking and approval systems (such as SharePoint or Alfresco).

Change tracking systems log a sequence of actions that led to the new state, store time and user metadata inline with these changes, and allow out-of-band content (comments) . The current state of a document with change tracking is (approved content + not yet approved changes + comments). In a traditional RCS, the current state of the document is just the approved content, as there's no approve/deny mechanism for individual changed sections and no metadata at the section level. ("section" here is the unit the RCS uses when differencing files - usually lines in a RCS used to manage source code changes, but in document change tracking, this is often just the part that was changed - could be a single character, could be an entire page of content, could be the metadata for a sentence, etc.)

In my view, a document should be treated as a token, and modifications to that token should be handled by external systems.

Changes should be tracked as they are made by the user. A traditional RCS tracks the differences in an entire file between the last change and the next commit, so it can't... unless every single change results in a separate (local) commit, and saving results in those commits being pushed to a new branch. But doing this requires the application to have support for change tracking, just with the backend being a RCS instead of inline metadata in the file. And then the individual changes can only be obtained and displayed to the user by getting all of the commits in the branch and replaying them, starting with the original state in-memory.
Using RCS in this way still doesn't solve the approve/reject feature of change tracking, it doesn't solve comments, and it makes showing individual changes a lot more difficult than just storing the changes with inline metadata.

Traditional RCS doesn't know how a change was made; the application does. Changing "this is GREAT" to "that is great" could be a single change (overwrite using paste from clipboard) or many changes in the order they were performed (change "this" to "that", change "GREAT" to "great", adding bold formatting to "great"). The application knows, and it can save this data.

Traditional RCS can be used to atomically track the file-level changes to a document, but it doesn't provide anywhere near the level of detail as change tracking. I don't use MS Office, but I believe it supports both embedded (in-file) change tracking and versioning at the document level (using SharePoint or something that can pretend to be close enough, which I think Alfresco might be able to do).

Re:What about ODF? (1)

Apps (21158) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145445)

I recently installed MS Office 2010 on my fathers laptop

It gave me the choice of using ODF as the default format for saved files!!!
(I didn't use it because he needs to send files to others who may have old versions of Word for his business)

Re:What about ODF? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153311)

It's been there since 2007 SP1. But it's not perfectly compatible with OpenOffice/LibreOffice, especially in spreadsheet department, where formulas do not roundtrip.

Re:What about ODF? (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145481)

In my view, a document should be treated as a token, and modifications to that token should be handled by external systems.

Involving an external central repository is a lot more complex than storing changes inside a document, which can be easily copied, sent via email, etc. And as described in my earlier comment, RCS doesn't provide anywhere near the level of change detail and metadata-dependent approve/deny/comment abilities as integrated change tracking.

Inline change tracking allows me to write a document, enable change tracking, save it, give the document to someone else, and have them change the document and save it. This file could be sent via email, saved to a system that provides simple history functionality (like Dropbox), or even commited to a traditional RCS. If changes were exclusively tracked by an external system, this process would be a lot more difficult.

Re:What about ODF? (1)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145527)

I certainly respect your views on this topic, but I have to say that I just cannot agree with most of your points. I've worked with systems built upon traditional RCS components that enabled every feature you've described to be applied to any document, regardless of source format, extremely easily. These were internal systems, but they do exist. Given this, I'm afraid I have to stand by my view that everything you've described belongs in properly designed document management systems, and does not belong in individual documents.

Re:What about ODF? (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150223)

I've worked with systems built upon traditional RCS components that enabled every feature you've described to be applied to any document, regardless of source format, extremely easily. These were internal systems, but they do exist.

I'm not sure if I can believe you. Such a system would have commercial value, and you should be able to refer us to the vendor.

Such a system would also need to have some awareness of the source format to approach the level of detail of change tracking in Office. For example, for ODF and OOXML, the RCS has to know at least to unzip the file and apply diff to the contents inside... and then there would have to be tools to do something with these diffs.
Assuming it can diff two documents, how does a RCS figure out the differences between these two short documents:

Today is Friday

today is the day Friday

These changes take less than a minute to make by a user, and without application-level support, a RCS will just have the state before the user opened the file and after they saved. But integrated change tracking will generate different sequences of events depending on how the user made the change. If they selected the entire line and pasted the new content:

  1. delete "Today is Friday" at position 0
  2. insert "today is the day Friday" at position 0

If they made each change individually, this will be reflected in the change history, and the changes will be logged in the order in which they were made, so this is only one of 24 possible sequences:

  1. delete "t" at position 0
  2. insert "t" at position 0
  3. insert "the day " at position 9
  4. apply italic formatting from position 17-19

A sophisticated RCS with differencing support that was aware of the file format could try to recreate a history like this (by assuming all changes were made from left to right), but can't actually determine the actual sequence and timing of the changes.

The difference seems trivial with a small sentence, but it is a lot more significant when editing a bigger paragraph.

Re:What about ODF? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145641)

The problem with storing these things in a revision control system is viewing the diffs. If I have source code, which is plain text, stored in a revision control system, then I can do svn diff (or whatever) and see what changes someone has made. More importantly, I can use tools like viewvc and have a side-by-side syntax-highlighted view of the before and after files.

Now what happens if you put a Word or ODF document into the revision control system? The diffs are not human readable. You need another tool to interpret them. With integrated change tracking, you can open the document in Writer or Word, turn on the 'view changes' option, and see each change and who made it.

Hmmm - some confusing logic here. (5, Insightful)

ancienthart (924862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145007)

I find it interesting that the author of the article states that he'd "... love to see some competition for Microsoft Office arise and challenge Redmond's dominance." yet recommends that the Australian Government "... would be silly to choose any other standard than one supported strongly by Microsoft." How does he expect the competition to occur if every government user (which is a MASSIVE userbase in Australia) doesn't have the option of using alternatives?

I'm finding the argument about:
"... licensing costs - which are not a factor with open source suites such as OpenOffice.org - are only 'a small proportion of overall ICT expenditure'. Any software change is likely to involve significant cost in installation, training and maintenance"

a little confusing considering the statement that several departments were:
"... signalled their intention to eventually migrate to Office 2010 as part of their next upgrade."

As a teacher in an Australian school currently being switched to 2010, I'd say that using Microsoft Office 2010 would involve a HIGHER retraining cost than LibreOffice or OpenOffice.

And I still can't understand why the government didn't decide "Microsoft Office 2010 is the preferred Office Suite AT PRESENT, but files must be saved in OpenDocument Formats."

Re:Hmmm - some confusing logic here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39145041)

I think at the present moment, much of what is coming out of the Australian Government bears any semblence to reality. Just look at the leadership nightmare they currently have

Which Microsoft format? XLS? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39145271)

I recently received an XLS sheet, it wouldn't open (I have Excel circa 2003). It's silly to call Microsoft's formatS one format just because of the extension.

After playing with the XLS, I discovered that it actually was their XML format in a zip archive. They seem to now be calling that XLS instead of XLSD (?). I found I could open it only in OpenOffice (I wasn't going to do a major expensive upgrade of MS Office just to open this one weird file), I renamed it XLSD and simply opened it.

And that was the end of my Excel use. Enough, I've just had enough of being forced to endlessly upgrade with a series of incompatible formats. He can say that the Australian govt should standardize on *a* Microsoft format, but if *Microsoft* can't standardize on one format, I'm certainly not paying to chase them everytime they change it.

Re:Which Microsoft format? XLS? (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145485)

The person who sent you that probably made a mistake when saving the file extension..

Re:Which Microsoft format? XLS? (2)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145535)

After playing with the XLS, I discovered that it actually was their XML format in a zip archive. They seem to now be calling that XLS instead of XLSD (?).

Then it had been misnamed by someone, because Microsoft use a variety of different extensions [wikipedia.org] for their new file format (depending on whether it contains macros), and XLS is not one of them.

You can get the compatibility pack [microsoft.com] for previous versions of office to allow you to open the new file format in your version of Office and a lot of the earlier ones (it is not listed, but the pack works back to at least Office 97). It works pretty well, and means that you are not forced to upgrade with "a series of endless incompatible formats". I only upgrade about once a decade, and even then it is only when I get given an upgrade for free. Also, the file formats only change once a decade too, so it is not too much of a problem (the last change prior to 2007 format was with Office 97).

Re:Which Microsoft format? XLS? (1)

MBC1977 (978793) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146597)

This seems like beating a dead horse, but I'll do it again...

Microsoft provides toolkit for Office 2003 to open MS 2007/2010 formatted files. (Without buying an upgrade).

Here is the link [microsoft.com] .

Re:Hmmm - some confusing logic here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39145279)

If you are a teacher in Qld., I hope you can use Office - all your new lesson materials are prepared using it...

Uh, yeah, right. (2)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145033)

...the Federal Government should stop worrying about this issue, and focus on other areas where platform choice can make a real difference. Allowing users to install their own web browser...

So the author of TFA suggest to stop worrying about such things as interoperability and longevity of Federal Documents and just go with MS Office, and instead worry about the real issues...like Webbrowsers...

'nuff said.

Compatibility problems shouldn't happen (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39145329)

Meanwhile outside of the MS Office environment people are still reading in data files unchanged from the 1980s because they were written to published and easily available standards. That's not in any sort of "commie" environment but something as capitalistic as the oil industry.
People already had answers for compatibility issues before Microsoft even existed. The main perpertators in the software world are Microsoft so it's surreal that their material is chosen "in the interests of compatibility".

Excel (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39145205)

Is the only reason. As soon as you get a OSS that can 100% reliably open an excel sheet then you will win. Such a vast amount of time and money is invested in these spreadsheets - because Excel really has no peer in the marked. You wouldn't believe how much it costs to redevelop and test the working sheets of even a modest company.

Re:Excel (1)

HyperQuantum (1032422) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145477)

Such a vast amount of time and money is invested in these spreadsheets - because Excel really has no peer in the marked.

So you're actually saying that lots of data is trapped into proprietary formats? That's exactly what governments should prevent from happening to their data. And companies as well, if they're smart enough to realize that. But unfortunately short-term thinking seems to be the norm.

Re:Excel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39145749)

Meanwhile, back in the real world...

When there is NO SUBSTITUTE for Excel, what pray tell do you plan to replace it with. We tried it, there is nothing that has anywhere near enough functionality for high end fiscal analysis.

Why not buy Microsoft? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39145353)

Hello,

I buy Microsoft. You too? Today?

I do not use OpenOffice because Microsoft is so good.

I can tell you more!

My email is ms24412@hotmail.com

Please contact me. I have always great news about Microsoft products for you.

Re:Why not buy Microsoft? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39145715)

That's a great idea! Let's buy Microsoft!
 
Okay, so Microsoft's market cap is 263.22 billion dollars at the moment, meaning that having a majority share holding (and thus being able to control the company) would require the purchase of roughly 131.62 billion dollars of stock. Now, /. has just over 2.5 million members and 131.26 billion divided by 2.5 million is $52, 648 per member.
 
$52, 648 is a bit steep, isn't it? Well that's alright because we can just get a little more creative:

  • - Slashdot is filled with MS shills - hundreds of thousands by some estimates. What do we know about shills? Well, they're all super-DUPER rich (because they're bad guys, duh) and they all have pet investments in their favourite companies. Knowing these two facts, we can assume there are approximately 200,000 MS share-holding shills on /. (this is a pretty conservative estimate if I may say so myself) who each have around $100, 000 invested in MSFT at this very second. Assuming that they can bend to the will of the almighty /., and are prepared to make FURTHER contributions to their MS share portfolios as they are required to do under this scheme, we can take 200, 000 by $100, 000 = $20 billion off that initial price of 131.62 billion dollars. So now each /.er only has to pay (131.62 billion - 20 billion)/2.5 million = $44, 504. That's still pretty hefty, though.

  • - Of course, asking shills to simply hand the voting rights on their current stock holdings over to the /. community isn't the best thing we can do with that $20 billion of stock. You guessed it folks, we hold a fire sale! $20 billion of stock from around 200, 000 share holders being dropped at once? The market will go into meltdown! But a shill is not so easily parted with their favourite company's stock; they need some MOTIVATION. What /. needs is to run a story which is CATASTROPHICALLY DAMAGING to Microsoft. Think Ballmer: "Zune is the future of computing" or something along those lines. Assuming we can get the market into overdrive, Microsoft might shed 30-40% of its market cap. So now we only need to buy out $78.966 billion of stock. That works out at a neat $31, 586 per /. user.

We can do it /.

Yes We Can

Commercial vs. technical appraisal (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39145409)

The problem with this sort of appraisal is, that it originates from people with little to zero competence in software design and programming. The evaluation of the competing standards, ODF vs. OpenXML, fails to take future development of IT systems into account.

The problem with Microsoft OpenXML is, that it depends heavily on Windows and on the way today's computer architectures work. Those architectures, especially Windows, are outdated from a software design point of view (even more consistent/elegant designs such as Unix or OS400 are partly outdated in their design or implementation).
The reason why we really need open standards is, that we MUST ensure, that the development of new technologies is not handicapped by dependencies of standards on outdated designs. Today's systems, especially the Windows platform, are prone to security leaks as well as all sorts of malfunctions.

With state-of-the-art design and implementation, it is possible to build computer systems that are orders of magnitude more secure and reliable - but those newer technologies will never find their way to customers, if broken standards like OpenXML make it impossible to port any application software to such new computer architectures.

So, in the end, the question is whether you plan to use Windows+Office+Symantec antivirus the next 200 years, running daily updates, breaking 500 of your 3000 desktop computers twice a year, and employing a 50-people software-repair shop to keep that PC stuff running; or whether you'd rather like to keep the door open for something new, that avoids 99% of the problems that today's mainstream systems have.

Submitter here (3, Informative)

wirelessduck (2581819) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146195)

The fact is that there are functions in the Microsoft formats that do not translate into the ODF formats. To the extent that these exist, and they are used by some subset of users, ODF does not provide full interoperability. We have also seen that other vendors develop support for OOXML over time.

I don't buy the reasons from John Sheridan for leaning towards OOXML. His main argument for going with OOXML over ODF appears to be that "ODF doesn't have 100% compatibility with legacy file formats". If they're going with Microsoft Office, can someone explain which features are not supported in ODF but are supported with OOXML? I find it hard to believe that a large percentage of people will use these "features" that don't exist in ODF.

And, without seekng to defend any vendors, I note that OOXML is an open standard recognised by ISO and IEC as ISO/IEC 29500.

Perhaps someone should enlighten him on the "committe stacking" and "bribery" allergations surrounding the OOXML standardisation process with ISO.

Any degree of lock in must be measured against the costs of changing, particularly if the change cannot be complete and two (or more) systems/applications need to be maintained.

Why would you need to maintain two systems? If you choose ODF, you can still use Microsoft Office. The only lock-in here would come from choosing OOXML.

Over time, it is possible, and IMHO likely, that other vendors will also be able to support OOXML – transitional or strict. We see this in the upgrading of OSS suites to handle newer formats (.docx over .doc for example).

Let me know when there's 100% compatibility on OOXML between Microsoft Office and LibreOffice. Also, transitional OOXML is the one that ISO rejected/deprecated for containing the "features" from legacy Microsoft file formats. I could also make the same claim here about Office 12 supposedly getting support for ODF1.2 (better late than never eh?), which would make ODF more widely supported than OOXML if it isn't already.

And from another commenter on TFA:

Right now I guess the two best reasons for OOXML are:
1) ISO 29500 Transitional has the best chance of faithfully representing all the legacy Office 97-2003 documents that are out there.
2) Microsoft Office has the larger install base by a country mile, giving it greater familiarity with users. This currently implies OOXML.

Not sure how the install base of Microsoft Office relates to requiring OOXML, since Microsoft Office supports ODF and OOXML.

If you want to make your voice heard on this issue, AIGMO are accepting comments on their blog posts here [govspace.gov.au] and here [govspace.gov.au] . Please note that this policy is for internal documents only. As John said in his comment on TFA, documents provided online for the general public to access are normally posted in both PDF and RTF formats and often HTML as well.

It's a Trap! (1)

Zamphatta (1760346) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146497)

The main reason they let things like this "leak out" into the public, is to put pressure on places like Microsoft to give the gov't a discount. It's happened before ...several times... and it'll happen again. Altho occasionally a gov't/company will actually end up going with open standards, it's rare.

website (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147115)

http://www.fitsa-group.com

If only they would drop formatting buttons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147729)

Life would be bearable without those dreadful Bold, Italics, List and Font buttons. On any Office product, only styles should be used. Now that would be almost like LaTeX, and that applies to LaTeX too. Once you learn that, you can concentrate on your work - writing the damn document.

However people still try to do layout themselves (concurrently). That always fails miserably, and it will continue to fail eternally. Why do they do that? Bad teachers, bad habits, bad selling points, bad documents, bad courses?

Perspective (1)

Phoenix666 (184391) | more than 2 years ago | (#39148691)

I love Australia. It's a great country. Sydney, Melbourne, the Blue Mountains, the Outback, Perth, Brisbane. The people are terrific.

In terms of population and influence, though, it is not able to rekindle any kind of debate on technology standards on its own. Not even close. The United States? Yes. The EU as a body? Yes. China? Perhaps. Australia? No.

The Australian Relativity Theorem is the inverse of the Chinese Relativity Theorem, which states, "Whatever the rest of the world thinks is a good idea, 1 Billion Chinese couldn't give a damn." In Australia, it's "Whatever 22 million Australians think is a good idea, the rest of the world couldn't give a damn."

It's not a value judgement, guys, because Australia as a country exceeds most others. But as a place with enough gravity to influence standards? No, no it isn't.

Re:Perspective (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39151577)

It's not a value judgement, guys, because Australia as a country exceeds most others. But as a place with enough gravity to influence standards? No, no it isn't.

Perhaps not alone it isn't. However, cumulatively along with the likes of Canada, Poland, Brazil & etc., it might begin to add up.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around that comment above about this merely being another iteration of the repeated exercise in beating MS over the head in order to get a discount.

Well, get off the treadmill, already!

Don't go with M$ incompatibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152517)

If the old system they are using is from microsoft, its incompatible. Or, I should say, its incompatible with every other word processor out there, and *also* incompatible with every future microsoft product, and every past microsoft product. It can read all documents made by previous microsoft products, but no previous microsoft product is compatible with it. They break compatibility intentionally so that people are forced to buy new stuff (and fill microsofts bank accounts to overflowing). Know that whenever they come out with a new product, they will fleece you of millions, whether you want to upgrade or not. Everyone knows what they do. Anyone who posts otherwise (and lord love a duck you find them here on /.), and they are sock/meat puppets. Paid astroturfers and shills who have already sold their children into slavery.

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