23 September 2009

On Proprietary Formats and Open Sources

Working on some stuff in Microsoft Word this week, I've found my utter loathing of Microsoft's Office 2007 suite reinforced. Office used to be great stuff, but the interface, the bells and whistles, and the execution in 2007 were and are so thoroughly awful that I have embraced OpenOffice 3 with open arms and made my switch to the open-source model complete.

For starters, MS use of XML is enough to make me kick someone in the head. By bringing out a proprietary format, Microsoft gets to force out Open Document because people who don't know any better do all their saving in .docx (or .xlsx, .pptx, etc.) format, which OpenOffice can read but not write. When someone sends me a document in that format, I open it in OpenOffice, convert it to Open Document format, and send it back to them with an admonition saying "Not everyone uses Microsoft Office, save in an open format, please!"

On top of this, Microsoft's text-formatting methods are exactly the sort of things that idiots just love for making documents ugly and "cute" (in the worst sense of the term). Font effects, "WordArt™", and other flourishes make ugly documents and you just know some former sorority girl who's now in the secretarial pool just loves to put that crap into her correspondence (lest anyone wonder why this once-popular girl now exists primarily for the executive with the frigid wife to have someone to play hide the salami with.)

I make here an impassioned plea that more people go to http://www.openoffice.org, download the OpenOffice suite, and start using it. European governments (and some state governments in the US) are making the switch wholesale, and nothing is going to grab Microsoft by the nuts and squeeze like making a real dent in Office's sales. The wholesale revolt against Vista brought PC sales to a halt, did wonders for Apple and for the Linux community, and led to the absolutely sublimely wonderful Windows 7 (on which I am writing this entry, and which is the massive improvement over XP that Vista was supposed to be before it failed on a Microsoft Bob scale.) A similar revolt against MS Office might just lead to a revival of Microsoft's productivity suite before a combination of Google Docs and OpenOffice gives MS shareholders (me among them) an unpleasant surprise.

That's right...I own stock (42 shares, but I'm still a stockholder) in Microsoft. This is not some Linux geek's anarchist rant. This is a shareholder's "hey, wake up!" to the company. If I hate Office 2007 with a passion, I can't be the only one, and this is a bad sign not just for MS in general but for my bottom line. On the bright side, I got in at the right time on the stock as it's up 10% since I bought in early August during the pullback. I just want to see continued positive performance during the long recovery.

So download and use OpenOffice. The money you save may be mine.

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