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FSF’s “Support ODF” Project

July 29th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

The Free Software Foundation has started a list called Who’s Supporting OpenDocument, to document the growth of ODF in government agencies around the world.

This is a part of the larger Support OpenDocument campaign:

The OpenDocument format (ODF) is a format for electronic office documents, such as spreadsheets, charts, presentations and word-processing documents. The OpenDocument format is supported by free software applications such as, AbiWord and KOffice.

KDE’s Social Desktop

July 5th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Slashdot pointed out the gradual arrival of the social desktop elements long-planned by the KDE project in Social Desktop Starts to Arrive in KDE.

The concept behind the Social Desktop is to bring the power of online communities and group collaboration to desktop applications and the desktop shell itself. One of the strongest assets of the Free Software community is its worldwide group of contributors and users who believe in free software and who work hard to bring the software and solutions to the mainstream. A core idea of the Social Desktop is connecting to your peers in the community, making the sharing and exchanging of knowledge (PDF) easier to integrate into applications and the desktop itself.

This ties in with the Dashboard Concept I’ve been working on as well. Integrating web with desktop applications is one important step, and then moving beyond that to integrate social software makes it yet more valuable to the community of users.

SourceForge Community Choice Awards

June 24th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Louis passes along the message that has been chosen as a finalist for the 2009 Community Choice Awards in the category of Best Project for Government.

Click the image below to visit the site and vote for! And be sure to check out all the other great projects while you’re there.

Project Renaissance Designs

June 10th, 2009 Benjamin Horst’s Project Renaissance continues to progress, with the announcement last week in Elizabeth Matthis’ post UI Design Proposals Wrap Up and a Look Forward that “17 proposals were submitted and reviewed by our brilliant and creative community members. They contain a total of 145 user interface design mockups. (Wow!) There were 80 comments or questions added by OOo-community reviewers.”

She highlights some of the proposals and includes several design mockups in the post to illustrate the participation levels already achieved.

What’s Next? The Renaissance team is determining which ideas (note: mixing and matching will happen here!) appear to implement the design directives* most successfully. Those that do will be used to create a handful of (wire frame) prototypes. Later, the concepts the Renaissance team is working on will be the basis for mid-fidelity prototypes that will be validated in tests: We need to confirm that the UI changes will be real improvements and will be well-accepted before we roll them out to our whole user base.

The team will publish further information as they go, so stay tuned! The excitement isn’t over yet.

Brazil’s Telecentro Program Expands

June 1st, 2009 Benjamin Horst

In a recent post, the North-by-South blog announces Brazil is aggressively expanding their Telecentro program, community free software workshops and technology education.

The Brazilian National Support Project for Telecentros (public computer labs with free, public Internet access) intends to support the deployment of 2 – 3,000 new Telecentros and towards achieving the goal of 10,000 active Telecentros by the year 2010. Almost all of the Telecentros are built using entirely free and open source software. Adding to the social benefit of the project, the rapid timetable will be met by training Brazilian youths on how to install Linux, configure the workstations and servers, and get the Telecentros online, up and running.

What an excellent national project that will pay future dividends as generations of Brazilians learn computer skills on open platforms, and then become the very developers to advance those platforms in turn.

Vancouver, Canada Chooses Open Standards

May 25th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

As one of a handful of governments in North America to be so bold, Vancouver, Canada has announced a policy of open standards, interfaces and formats for all public data, announces Slashdot:

They will also consider open-source software on an even footing with proprietary for all new software purchases. Fifteen of the fifteen people who signed up to speak to city council on the topic spoke in favor.

The original article in CBC, titled City of Vancouver embraces open data, standards and source, continues:

Vancouver city council has endorsed the principles of making its data open and accessible to everyone where possible, adopting open standards for that data and considering open source software when replacing existing applications…

Reimer had argued that supporting the motion would allow the city to improve transparency, cut costs and enable people to use the data to create new useful products, including commercial ones. She had also noted that taxpayers paid for the data to be collected in the first place.

OpenOffice Project Renaissance Designs

May 20th, 2009 Benjamin Horst’s Project Renaissance, a bid to reinvent the application’s user interface with no preconceptions as restraint, is currently in the design phase. Slashdot reported on it in OpenOffice UI Design Proposals Published, and the proposals are collected in the OOo wiki here.

Johannes Eva and Jaron Baron have created two that I quite like, although I haven’t had the opportunity to look at all submissions yet.

Better ODF Support for MS Office

May 18th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

While Microsoft Office 2007’s latest service pack purports ODF support, it’s not complete, nor does it appear designed to provide usable interoperabilty with other ODF-capable applications.

For users of MS Office who need better compatibility, the solution is the Sun ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office:

  • The Sun ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office gives users of Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint the ability to read, edit and save to the ISO-standard Open Document Format (ODF).
  • The plugin works with Microsoft Office 2007 (Service Pack 1 or higher), Microsoft Office 2003, XP and Microsoft Office 2000.

Malte Timmermann explains the situation in his recent post Better ODF support in Microsoft Office via Sun’s ODF Plugin:

So many people complain (everywhere, including in OOo mailing lists) about the bad ODF support in Microsoft Office 2007 SP2, that I thought it might be a good idea to post some information about the ODF Plugin here…

The Sun ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office, which is based on, adds support for ODF to Microsoft Office 2000 and newer versions. So you don’t have to use the very latest Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 version (in case you really need Microsoft Office for some reason) , where ODF support is insufficient anyway.

Lifehacker on OpenOffice 3.1

May 15th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Lifehacker has been a fan of OpenOffice for some time now, and recently published an overview of 3.1’s Usability Tweaks.

Anti-aliased rendering for Draw and charts, “eye-friendly” highlighting, spreadsheet zoom slider, formula hints, and comment replies got special attention from the Lifehacker team.

Those are just a few of the 3.1 changes we thought the average user might appreciate, but there are more technical and core-based upgrades—like spreadsheet performance, sorting defaults, and built-in document locking—detailed at‘s release notes.

It’s always good to see and other open source software get attention from more mainstream media outlets. (I know, Lifehacker is not mainstream, but it’s a lot closer than free software-specific outlets!)

Firefox Has 270 Million Users

May 13th, 2009 Benjamin Horst reports Firefox Hits 270 Million Users, Without Linux.

The open source Firefox web browser from Mozilla now has some 270 million users. That’s the figure that Mozilla staffer Aza Dotzler is now claiming, and it’s not an easy number to calculate.

Calculating the number of users of any open source application is notoriously hard, but Mozilla has some techniques that can help it arrive at a reasonable estimate. It measures the number of installations pinging the update servers daily, and multiplies that by three to reach its guess.

But the system doesn’t count Linux users of Firefox. Author Sean Michael Kerner writes:

If we take Fedora’s number of users to be 13 million, Ubuntu Linux’s to be another 8 million, then roll in Debian, SUSE, Mandriva and Gentoo users, I don’t think it would be unfair to say that Firefox easily has over 100 million active daily users and nearly 300 million users total (but that’s my own calcuation).