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C. Anthony Esposito II's profile photoRoland Taylor (RolandiXor)'s profile photoShannon VanWagner's profile photoDaniel P Bartolo's profile photo
24 comments
 
Never, ever underestimate the power of whiny employees.
 
I switch to Libre after Open office slipped to the dark side.
 
Sounds like somebody set OpenOffice up to fail.  What's the reason for using such an old outdated version?  OpenOffice is certainly easier to upgrade en masse than MS Office. 
 
Yeah, complex word or excel documents, cross shared and collaborated upon between MSO and LO still look like a bomb went off in the middle of them.  Although, LO has made some fairly impressive improvements in that area.  Still, not enough for complete trust and use in the Enterprise, or most of it anyway.
 
One thing about LO that's strange is that there is no way to get automatic updates and people have to go to the website to get the newest version. Seems like an obvious must-have feature.
 
Sounds like Ballmer has been to Germany, throwing chairs and giving backhanders.
 
The main problem was that there are rather old IT solutions that depend heavily on MS Office. Unfortunately, these applications (which were hacked together with Office Macros, Visual Basic and whatnot) are mission critical for running the city administration.
 
Apparently they use a outdated version of OOo.
 
"the city noticed that it has been far from ideal to use only OpenOffice for digital correspondence. Microsoft Office for instance is the standard for external communication, the council said."

Then they are morons. You shouldn't be sending correspondence in Word. Anyone who sends correspondence in Word, OpenDocument, or any other similar format is Too Stupid To Use A Computer (TM).

They should be using PDF for that.
 
What was wrong with migrating to Libre Office ?
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+Andrew Wyatt 
For multi-author collaboration
there are Google offerings that work just fine.
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I'm currently working in an office where there's a mixture of Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 being used and believe me there are plenty of collaboration problems between those tools.
 
Or, +Andrew Wyatt as a Government agency, they really do have the power to insist that outside agencies (who are, pretty much by definition, contractors) exchange documents with them in the International cross-platform standard Opendocument format. They could even put a rule in their email server that rejects documents sent to them in .doc format with an explanation/reminder.

They have the power to make this work if they really want. The fact that they haven't suggests incompetence or corruption is at play.
 
+Andrew Wyatt most companies don't have the power (or the will) to risk "alienating" partners in the way you suggest, but Government agencies do. They have companies queuing up to be suppliers to them. If they make Opendocument format exchange a compulsory part of any supplier's contract (I have seen worse compulsory clauses), the suppliers will soon adapt or risk losing business.

Any company that decides to miss out on a Government contract (which are usually pretty nice to have) because they refuse to use Opendocument will soon be replaced by someone who will.

And that's how you start to spread the use of the open standard over the proprietary ones. If they really believed in open standards, that's what they would have done.

The fact is, as a Government agency, they CAN dictate terms like that!
 
But the root cause of the problem was incompatibility with a format which is

a) undesirable from a Government point of view because it is closed and proprietary (and most Governments claim to promote openness and easy access),

b) expensive to implement, and

c) is known to have significant incompatibility problems even when using different versions of the MS Office suite.

The obvious solution is to change the format to one which has none of these problems. This is absolutely in the Government depts power and mandate, and it's absolutely what they should be doing. Trying to paper over the cracks or reverting to a broken system to avoid the problem is the dumb approach.

If they selected OpenOffice  because they thought it would be 100% compatible with MS Office, but cheaper, then they were fundamentally choosing it for the wrong reason.

There are right reasons for choosing it, and pushing open standard formats is a key one and definitely part of the mandate of most western Governments. Mandating change is what Governments do, and it doesn't require "pressure", just some common sense and follow-through on a strategy.
 
I disagree. They had incompatibilities. The article stated that. The root cause of these incompatibilities is they were trying to use formats which are deliberately designed to be closed (and, therefore, incompatible) on an alien system. That was asking for trouble. Using an old version of OpenOffice didn't help, but it wouldn't have been an issue at all if they had required the use of Opendocument.

Not using Opendocument is the root cause of their problems.

If they wanted to use Open standards, and wanted to use OpenOffice, the only sensible solution is to mandate that all future document exchanges were done in an open format; it's a natural extension of an Open Source strategy.

Of course there is likely to be a huge internal resource in old formats, but that was ever the case and is no excuse to not move forward. In my experience (in some very large companies), the impact of these old documents is not as big a problem as many would like to make out: obsolete stuff can stay in the old format or converted to PDF and archived. As time goes one more and more will appear in Opendocument and the old formats become redundant.

These days the real-world cases where documents use macros or VBScript are so low as to be negligible (probably under 0.001% of documents), and the vanishingly small number that do exist, and that are important, could be easily and cheaply converted (or redeveloped in something more appropriate).
 
I don't think that the city council handled this well--please correct me if I am wrong!
 
Sorry +Andrew Wyatt but I didn't realise you had specific involvement/knowledge in that project.

Because I have thought it through further, and I'm even more convinced you are wrong in the general case. It must have been very specific conditions, like the unusually high number of VBScript encumbered documents, that prevented them moving to Opendocument in this case.

In my view the strategy was flawed from the start. Anyone who has spent any time working with OO/LO knows that it is NOT 100% compatible with all of the versions of Word out there. The compatibility is excellent, but there are occasional formatting problems. I can cope with them, but for most people can be highly disruptive. It's simply not a sensible strategy to try to use OO/LO to provide a format compatible replacement for MS Office across a large organisation on an ongoing basis. It would be a massive logistical nightmare (and, it seems, that was the case).

And as for Opendocument, what's the point if no-one is going to use it? We may as well drop it as a format and concentrate efforts with OO/LO in making it as compatible a MS Office clone as we can.

The fact is the only way Opendocument is going to make it as a format is if people use it. Most people are lazy and don't see the benefit. Companies are parochial and risk-averse and it would alienate their customers. Governments are the only way Opendocument stands any chance of adoption: they don't have any direct business customers to piss off and it (usually) fits their goals and mandate.

And, I would suggest, getting their suppliers to switch and dealing with a change in document formats is a far smaller logistical problem than you think. It's certainly a far smaller logistical problem than getting users to manage regular incompatibilities on an ongoing basis as we have seen.

I will point out I have seen a few major transitions of document format in my life (from Wordstar to Wordperfect, and then to Word. Ditto for Lotus 123 to Excel) whilst working for substantial organisations, and I have also experienced large companies completely change out their desktop computer environment (PC to Mac and back again) or email system (Lotus Notes to Exchange/Outlook). There is always some short term pain, but if the strategy is correct and complete, and if it is followed through then it quickly settles and people get used to the new status quo. A major, short-lived change is far less disruptive than sustained management of a problem.
 
WHAT!!?? Incredibly crazy! There's Libreoffice, "Gnome office", Calligra, whatever before going back to "that"  O_o

PS: "Numerous statements concerning LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice are incorrect or outdated," they said in the letter, adding that the support of LibreOffice and OpenOffice is at a professional level these days. "The assessment of the evaluation that compatibility to Microsoft Office cannot be reached in the next few years, is also wrong," ACHTUNG!
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