The Renaissance of the Renaissance Project?

Forgive the title above; but these past days we started to receive more and more questions about the Renaissance Project and whether we would continue its works and implement its changes. I think this calls for some clarification. The LibreOffice Project led by the  Document Foundation is the successor of the only insofar as the project’s community (Oracle excepted) has decided to give itself a new and more promising beginning. It does not mean, however, that we have to bear with the legacy of the code base or technical legacy forever. We made clear recently that we would bring some radical changes not just to the code itself, but also to the way we had been working as a community of the project before. And the Renaissance Project stands right in the middle of this mix of continuity and changes; after all, not everything inside needs to be thrown away.

That’s why we need to make the right choice between what we can do at present, what we will do in the future. This calls for several initiatives that are in the process of being completed or needs to be achieved soon:

  • we need to form our own design team; Christoph Noack, a former member of the User Experience and Renaissance projects, has begun this task. Meanwhile, a specific design mailing list has been set up a few days ago.
  • we need to enable a flow of useful contributions on artwork and interface design. You will find plenty of candidates for the former with very diverse quality levels, but very few for the latter, as interface design is somewhat of a recent, yet much sought after skillset.
  • The user interface or design team needs to work together with the developers to define what changes and need to be implemented at first and when they need to be implemented. Developers need this kind of input, and expect it too.

All this to say that there’s a lot of work to be done ! But it does not specifically answer the question of whether LibreOffice will follow the Renaissance project’s ideas and guidelines. Let me answer to this question only for the foreseeable future, keeping in mind that it can only apply to our existing branch; any radical innovation happens elsewhere atht this stage.

  • there will be several, in fact plenty of small “atomic” changes in the user interface. Some of them will be more visible than others, especially on Impress.
  • there will not be a big bang change in the user interface as long as we stick to the legacy codebase (understand
  • we think the  Microsoft Office Ribbon -as implemented in the Redmond’s latest edition- is not something to disregard, many people like it, and the people who don’t are simply afraid of change some of the people who don’t like it are just afraid of change.  In fact, we should become innovative again: gaining users because we are conservative in our interface only lasts so long: we gained at least as many users when introduced the famous “export to PDF” button several years ago. It made an impression at that time, and didn’t really convey the notion that we would never change.
  • no, it does not mean we are going to introduce the Ribbon as an interface element. It means that we are very open-minded, and as we get more resources and experience, we will introduce bigger, even disruptive changes.

In a word, thus, the LibreOffice Project does not feel tied to the Renaissance project’s outcome and works. It might implement some of its ideas, but it will have its own design and user interface work going on for a long time.

Stay tuned!

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