23 November 2007

KOffice Made Simpler

The high-profile nature of OpenOffice.org means that KOffice tends not to get the respect it deserves. Maybe the latest iteration will change that, because it offers an interesting addition:

Over two years ago, Inge Wallin proposed a simplified word processor to be used in school for kids. Thomas Zander, the KWord lead developer, made a proof of concept of this using the infrastructure of KOffice 2. This proved simpler than even Thomas would have believed, and KOffice 2.0 Alpha 5 now contains a first version of the KOffice for kids. Note that only the GUI is simplified, and that it still contains the full power of KOffice. This means that it can save and load the OpenDocment Format, which will make it easy to interact with other users of OpenOffice.org or the full KOffice suite.

These are precisely the kind of innovations that free software makes so easy: hacking together a quick prototype and then polishing it. Let's hope that other simplified versions follow, since an "Easy" Office would be useful far beyond its original target market, education.

It would also be a nice riposte to never-ending complexification of Microsoft's own products, which are forced to add more and more obscure features - whether or not users what them - in a desperate attempt to justify yet another paid-for upgrade. Free software is under no such pressure, and can therefore downgrade applications when that might appropriate, as here. Microsoft, by contrast, is trapped by its ratchet-based business model.

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