We’re now on the 9 th of May and the final version of OOXML is still not be published either by the ISO or the Ecma as they had to do so. This ongoing scandal affects the industry as a whole and proves once again that OOXML has never been an open standard.
The OpenOffice.org project has just released the first « public » beta version of OpenOffice.org 3.0.This first beta version may not support all the expected features that will be included in the stable version but it does give a very good feeling of how the 3.0 will be like. You will find a more detailed list of features on this page. As you can see the 3.0 will sport a number of very interesting and useful features, such as the ability to import PDF documents, switching language inside one document, a new StartCenter, new icons, etc.I wanted to go a bit beyond the list of new features and tell you about the effect that OpenOffice.org 3.0 will have on its users and ultimately on the way we create content share it and stay happily productive in this always-on world.
Perhaps what matters the most with OpenOffice.org 3.0 will not so much be the flurry of new features; perhaps what will ultimately matter is the brand new architecture of OpenOffice.org that has been introduced with this new release. You already knew about the ability to use extensions in order to add features to OpenOffice.org. With the 3.0, OpenOffice.org becomes even more modular, allowing even more interested people to develop their own features on top of the 3.0 platform.In the long run, this completely revisited, rearchitected platform will play an essential part in extending the yield of OpenOffice.org .
The concept of office suite has kept evolving ever since its appearance in the eighties. At first, what mattered was the wordprocessor and the spreadsheet application. Then, Powerpoint came in and started to control our minds, becoming both a tool and a concept. We then learned about the concept of productivity suite, growing the office suite with all kinds of tools, from a PIM module to specific financial applications and elementary document management features.
Today, the paradigm has changed, but it does not necessarily involve the fattening of the whole suite. Rather, I believe that this new paradigm is about creating all sorts of content and sharing it freely. Sharing freely involves two perequisites: The easyness of sharing and the use of open formats, open standards that allow the users to master their own data and content and does not push them into vendor lock-in. This assumption also implies another, subtle point: the boundaries between applications are blurring and the applications themselves become easier to use.What this means leaves some room for interpretation and unveils new, different paths. Let’s see first what these new paths will not be, and second, let’s see what options there are and what are the options Openoffice.org chose.
The new paradigm in office suite rests on the following elements:
- Creation of open content through the use of open and free formats, ideally standards
- Freedom to share and distribute this content
- Ease of use, simplicity
These three elements ultimately make up for an interesting consequence; they don’t just liberate the content and the creativity of users, they also lower significantly the barriers of adoption for people who could never afford this before. In doing so, this paradigm puts forth the urge to enable participation. Ultimately, that’s what office suites should be nowadays: Participation Enablers.
One can understand now why I think MS Office 2007-2008 has already missed this shift of paradigm: The use of proprietary formats and spreading confusion around the concept of openness will not really help in the end. Yet, the latest versions of MS Office suffer from their excessive integration with MS SharePoint, the mother of all office technologies by Microsoft. This CMS/Groupware platform may be very easy to use, but it does create a fortress of formats and DRMs beyond which users are forbidden to go, and share. This centralized process is also very telling of a deprecated mentatlity even before being a compelling offer for certain types of organizations.
The truth here, tools such as SharePoints will fade away, as wikis take the lead. And precisely, OpenOffice.org allows you to export your content in certain wiki syntaxes while choosing directly the server that needs to be accessed. So much for command and control…But lets go back to our topic.
The appearance of online office suites such as Google Docs and Zoho shows a new path and illustrates the shift of paradigm in office suites. Online office suites make it easier to create and share content while making the issues of platforms and applications fall thanks to their online nature. The ability to import and export from and to multiple formats, some of whose being open standards (ODF, PDF) is also present. At the same time, online services such as Slideshare add value to traditional tools.
Nobody wants to have to deal with proprietary barriers of any kind. It is about creating and sharing freely, and ultimately, it is about enabling participation.OpenOffice.org is not an online office suite. But by enabling people to share and to communicate, OpenOffice.org works like a hub for content creation. Its features set covers the full range of functionalities expected by advanced users, and its inherently free nature (in beer and in speech) allows anybody to use it in order to create and share in the easiest way possible.Its extendability not only creates an ecosystem, it creates something more powerful: A community of users contributing to OpenOffice.org in order to serve their needs, and ultimately enriching the codebase.The modularity of OpenOffice.org (turning it into a set of modules running on top of a runtime environment, the URE) also make it possible to turn the overall platform into a RIA (Rich Internet Application) , thus addressing even more use cases.
In any case, OpenOffice.org is on its way to become the hub of your digital content, by enabling freedom; freedom to use, freedom to share, freedome to modify, and freedom to distribute.