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Peeking into Draw and Impress Development

May 31st, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Kai Ahrens posts Hot Topics for Draw/Impress on the GullFOSS blog.

It is great to get a view into the development process of the software, and to see the direction it’s evolving over time. This comes in especially handy when you’re waiting for new features or thinking about new workflows and capabilities you’d like to add to your skillset. You can use it to be either proactive or reactive in your work with the community.

Two particular issues are covered in this post. One is the importance of complete native SVG support in Draw and Impress. Based on community feedback, the developers have adjusted their roadmap to focus more intensely on this issue. Kai writes, “I’m now more convinced than ever, that we need a so called ‘native’ support of SVG ASAP. A solution that works most of the time under the hood and that enables OOo to treat SVG graphics like any other graphics format. In the end, SVG will then replace the WMF/EMF standard format used for vector graphics inside ODF documents.”

Kai also discusses a new project to beef up Impress with an extension delivering a set of new features. It’s called the “Professional Presentation Package” and will provide three main benefits:

  • “‘Presenter View’, a view that is only visible to the presenter of the presentation. As such, it relies on the dual monitor support, that we already implemented some months ago. The tool itself will give the presenter a detailed view of the current slide as well as the slides before and after the current slide. It will also show the slide notes and it will allow the presenter to easily navigate through his presentation. Work on this is already ongoing and first results are visible. I’m already very ‘impressed’ with it…

  • A tool called ‘Presentation Minimizer’, that allows to compact your presentation without losing the visible content at all. This tool mostly concentrates on optimizing the graphics and OLE objects used inside the presentation…

  • A bunch of additional ‘Goodies’ like a Multi document slide sorter to ease the creation of a presentation out of already existing presentation documents and many more.”

Can’t wait to see these new capabilities in action!

Beijing Redflag Joins Development Community

May 29th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The sizable Chinese software developer “Beijing Redflag Chinese 2000” announced its commitment of 50 engineers to the global OpenOffice development community.

Beijing Redflag Chinese 2000 also develops a distro of OpenOffice tailored for the Chinese market, called RedOffice. From the press release, Sun announces:

“We are glad to welcome Redflag Chinese 2000 to partner with us on, the world’s leading free productivity suite and community,” said Rich Green, executive vice president, Software, Sun Microsystems. “Redflag’s dedication and commitment to further strengthens the community and enhances the product with Chinese localization, quality assurance, and core productivity applications.”

Erwin Tenhumberg covers this development as another pinnacle in the continuing rapid growth of the ODF format in his recent post, “Why ODF is a Safe Bet.”

YAFM – “Yet Another FOSS Migration” Story

May 25th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Someday soon we’ll be bored with all these “company X is migrating to Linux” stories. But not yet!

Voicelink Communications, of South Carolina, has found Linux, OpenOffice, and Thunderbird to better suit their needs than their prior platform of all Microsoft applications. Without a formal dictum, they are nevertheless moving bit by bit to open source tools across the company. And it all started, essentially, by chance.

Peter Kaye of writes,

“Lee says that “most of the software adoptions came about due to problems we encountered.” Unable to deal with the deluge of email-borne malware designed to take advantage of Outlook, and due to Lakos’ increasing concern with security, Mozilla Thunderbird replaced Outlook as the company’s default mail client. Lee notes that “at the time, I did not recall any major security advisories for Thunderbird, whilst I could reel off half a dozen for Outlook and Outlook Express.” Problems with Windows Software Activation prompted a switch to Ubuntu-based desktop machines; staff members have said that their old machines seem a little snappier under the new OS. Finally, with the move to Linux desktops, the company began using as the default office suite. The company now enjoys the benefits of the OpenDocument Format (ODF) standard internally. Lee says that cross-platform support for ODF was a significant draw for Voicelink and that some of their new customers are also using for similar reasons.”

Lifehacker Recommends NeoOffice

May 23rd, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Lifehacker publishes Free your Mac of Microsoft Office with NeoOffice.

Any SolidOffice reader will already be familiar with NeoOffice, so only a short quote is necessary:

“NeoOffice is based on previously mentioned, but its design, integration, and even the installation are much more “Mac-like.” Like, NeoOffice can be a bit slow when it’s firing up, but in general it’s a really nice program.

What is really important is the strong drumbeat of support building for and NeoOffice on Mac OS X, of which this article is but one note. This beat is reaching a crescendo now, and I think OOo/Neo dominance on the Mac platform is close at hand.

Wikis at Work: The Project

May 22nd, 2007 Benjamin Horst

This is the second in my series “Wikis at Work.” (See the first, about Christian Einfeldt’s Digital Tipping Point Project, here.) launched its wiki in November 2005, and it has quickly become one of the world’s most-used wikis. (Number 16 on the top-57 wikis list. This is much higher than my Wikipages at the moment, but we are growing fast!)

I recently added a page for Quick and Easy Marketing Additions to help new users find things they can do to help right away. This is an example of how fast and loose editing, wiki-style, can invigorate online projects, and in the case of OOo, it certainly is helping to bring many new, informal collaborators to the project.

In fact, many FOSS projects have come to the same realization, and you’ll find wikis for Apache, Debian, Ubuntu, OpenSuse, Java, and many more projects on that list.

ODF-Capable Apps: Thoughtslinger

May 21st, 2007 Benjamin Horst

As the OpenDocument Format keeps growing in importance and usage-share around the world, and because of its well-written, simple spec for developers to work from, it is providing the data storage foundation for many new and innovative software programs.

Just as ODF supporters have long been predicting, a new wave of innovation is being unleashed before our eyes.

Rick Walker, of Thoughtslinger Corp, got in touch to introduce his new ODF-capable application:

“We’re a small startup and we’ve built a new simultaneous group editor that heavily uses the .odt format. Everyone in a team works on the same document at the same time, and everyone sees what everyone else is doing as they do it.We’re here:

We believe Thoughtslinger is complementary to Writer. A team would collaboratively edit an odt file in Thoughtslinger, then use Writer for final formatting, headers, footers etc. We embraced odt’s because the specification is open and very clean.

We went live with a beta about a week ago. We built it in Java – our first release is a Windows build and we don’t rule out future Mac and Linux builds. If you’re interested, please give me a call and I’ll give you a quick tour.

Rick Walker

It looks like a great tool, so check it out! I suggested to Rick that he add it to the Wikipedia page on ODF software, to help others find it too.


May 18th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The Free Software Foundation is launching a new campaign to promote the OGG free media format (especially for Mac and Windows users).

The FSF suggests using VLC for Mac and Windows users to playback OGG on their machines. I would actually suggest Democracy Player, which incorporates VLC code, so it can play back all the same files, but adds some great additional features on top of it. (These include tools for subscribing to and managing video podcasts, managing your local library of video files, and both finding and sharing media content across the net. It’s also a BitTorrent client, and a YouTube browsing and downloading tool.)

OGG’s importance lies in its freedom from patent and license fee encumbrances. FSF explains:

“The use of MP3 is restricted by patents, while OGG is not. Unlike MP3, there are never any licensing costs for using OGG, and you do not have to worry about anyone suing you for using it without a license. You might have heard about Microsoft’s recent loss in a $1.5 billion suit over their use of MP3.

“These patent lawsuits might never affect you directly, but they create a culture where creative and skilled individuals cannot develop multimedia software without fear of being legally attacked. Using OGG is one way to support them in their efforts and to encourage a better culture.”

To help spread the message, you can download or link to campaign buttons, which look like this:


StarOffice Built-in on Singapore Airlines

May 17th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

A quick screenshot gives a good example of the flexibility that FOSS software (and its derivatives) can provide. While I might be slightly more excited if the following link were for OpenOffice itself, StarOffice is a cool application and an important “distro” of the core OOo code.

See Chhandomay’s StarOffice 8 in Singapore Airlines.

DeWitt Public Schools (Michigan) Moving to OpenOffice

May 16th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The Lansing State Journal writes, District set to use free productivity software.

Moving to will save the DeWitt Public Schools over $48,000 in software licensing fees next year:

“Microsoft Office┬« licenses for next year, if purchased, would cost the district almost double the current $24,000 price tag! This hefty annual fee has caused DeWitt, similar to others in the county, state and even nationally, to look for other options. One option is the OpenOffice software suite offered by the Project.”

Even more important than saving money, is offering the students the best possible education:

“Our students will be expected to be versatile in a variety of technology tools upon their graduation, not just the one application promoted in the states. is available in 65 languages and is quickly becoming the global standard for colleges, corporations, international communications and world markets as the number one productivity suite. In fact, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), a global standards development body has selected the open document format used in OpenOffice as the basis for interoperability among office software packages worldwide. We owe it to the children’s future to provide them with an understanding of software that fully embraces such global standards.”

What a forward-looking district, and what a boon this move will provide to students being educated there!

ODF for Norway

May 15th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Another forward-thinking country is moving toward mandatory government use of the open format ODF: Norway!

The Standards Blog has the full report here.

“Norway is the latest European country to move closer to mandatory government use of ODF (and PDF). According to a press release provided in translation to me by an authoritative source, Norway now joins Belgium, Finland, and France (among other nations) in moving towards a final decision to require such use…

“The Norwegian recommendation was revealed by Minister of Renewal Heidi Grande Roys, on behalf of the Cabinet-appointed Norwegian Standards Council. If adopted, it would require all government agencies and services to use these two formats, and would permit other formats (such as OOXML) to be used only in a redundant capacity.”