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 An Interview with Louis Suarez-Potts of OpenOffice

OrangeCrate.com is pleased to announce an interview with Louis Suarez-Potts, Community Manager of OpenOffice.org. Louis was kind enough to take a few moments to discuss upcoming OpenOffice improvements

 (Submitted by Chuck Talk Sun Jun 13, 2004 )

  Chuck Talk: Open Office is perhaps the largest distribution of Office Suite software on the planet, and I use it everyday. What plans do you have for future development?

Louis Suarez-Potts: The largest distribution of an office suite on the planet? I don't know about that. I'd rather guess that pirated versions of Microsoft Office can lay claim to that honor.

But the OOo file format, which is poised to be the open standard approved by the OASIS group, probably *will* be the largest such distribution--and within a few years. Note: I said, "file format." OOo is weakly productized, and that's a strength, for it allows others to rebrand it with trivial effort. As long as the source is free and enhancements are contributed back to the main repository, we are happy.

But the cool thing about focusing on a file format and making it an open standard is that it eliminates the fact and possibility of vendor lock-in. That's what Microsoft has now: vendor lock-in. It's like drugs. I'm serious.

Once a user creates a bunch of files using MSFT Office it was, at least until we came along, nearly impossible to move away; you were hooked. It's a classic marketing strategy, to use addictive elements to create a perpetually dependent clientele. You then jack up the prices--and that is what Microsoft has done and, until this year, has been able to do. For what choice did people have?

But they have a choice now. And with no vendor lock-in, they will be able to choose any number of vendors, depending on the gee-whiz elements they offer, forever. Because of open standards, interoperability will be guaranteed; because of open source, developmental enhancements will benefit all; and because of our licenses, vendors will and do sell OOo derived products enhanced with proprietary doo-dads, if they please.

Chuck Talk: What is the biggest hurdle for continuing Open Office development?

Louis Suarez-Potts: Well, we always need core developers. OOo is difficult to learn. But it is worth it, for it has a real future. And that future is not dependent on any one company but on the open-source community, which includes not just developers but, implicitly, many regular users who wish to contribute their efforts back to the project.

Chuck Talk: I know that Open Office is licensed under the GPL, so how do you actually obtain funding for Open Office.org?

Louis Suarez-Potts: Actually, OpenOffice.org (btw, we must refer to it for trademark reasons as OpenOffice.org) is dual-licensed, LGPL and SISSL. See our license page for more information.

In our About Us page, we describe where we get funding: Sun Microsystems funds core development and pays for CollabNet's hosting of the project and its manager (me). The open-source community contributes millions in time, effort, code, support, mirror space; and other large corporations, such as RedHat, Novell, have assigned dedicated OOo developers to work on the code and contribute back to the repository.

Chuck Talk: Will Open Office add new functionality that goes beyond what is standard functions of an office suite?

Louis Suarez-Potts: By standard you mean that which Microsoft has produced? Yes, of course; we already have that. One can save documents as PDF or, if appropriate, as Shockwave flash files. More important, because we are an open-source project, and not bound by the paucity of imagination MSFT trades in, we are able to include excellent suggestions, provided people want to work on them. The caveat: we must always make sure to produce an application that any user can pick up and use within minutes.

Chuck Talk: One of the file formats I am curious about is the Shockwave Flash format that is handled through OpenSWF. Will Open Office consider adding in new capabilities such as being able to build files with built-in compressed *.swf notes?

Louis Suarez-Potts: That sounds like a good idea. Why don't you propose it?

But let your imagination soar. Imagine working with other OSS projects, such as Helix, Mozilla, etc., to more fully integrate things. XML , our basic file format, gives us the world.

Chuck Talk: Another item that I have been asked by many colleagues is whether Open Office will build in extensibility to MySQL or PostgreSQL, allowing users to draw data from online databases?

Louis Suarez-Potts: OOo already works well with MySQL and PostgreSQL. I can send you to the PostgreSQL person, if you like, for more information. But, our product pages describe how to include the databases We are working on making the process even easier, so that users of Access, for instance, can easily switch over.

Chuck Talk: In addition, I am being asked if there will be any extensibility for Open Office and Calc, so that data can be queried and updated over the Internet into Calc?

Louis Suarez-Potts: Well, the short answer to questions of this sort is to check out what we are working on for 2.0:

OpenOffice 2.0

Calc will indeed be improved. If it does not match your desire, then go ahead and ask for it :)

Chuck Talk: Are there any plans to add prototyping tools into the Open Office HTML suite, such as being able to add elements into a design on the fly? One of my interests is in actually building rapid prototypes for web services and I was wondering if Open Office will extend the suite in that direction.

Louis Suarez-Potts: That's an interesting point. Because 2.0 will be improving its overall deployment and usage of tags and integration with plugins, the short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it really depends on the actual work you want to do.

Chuck Talk: Is there anything you would like to say to my readers about Open Office, or your future plans?

Louis Suarez-Potts: Yes: Download the early versions of 2.0, 680, and help us QA it. We need to move quickly. 2.0 will be much more compatible with MSFT Office and is thus intensely desired (OOo is already quite compatible with most Office files but there are niggling annoyances). So, download it, use it, test it, file issues.

You can download it here:



Chuck Talk: Thank you Louis, the work of OpenOffice.org is very much appreciated. I have been using OpenOffice.org product for some time now, and people never notice the difference. The tools do what I need them to do, and I think I will take you up on some of those ideas. I appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to answer my questions. I too, encourage my readers to download and test the latest version of OpenOffice.

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