Abhi 2.0 on Technology

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Nothing Office-ial About It !

with 2 comments

Column in HT Cafe

Column in HT Cafe

First published in the Hindustan Times (Mumbai edition)

Everyone it seems, is intent on taking down Microsoft’s cash cow – MS Office. IBM decided to back Sun Microsystem’s pet project Open Office – a completely free, open-source version of MS Office – while Sun’s own Star Office began to be bundled by Google in its free-for-download software pack. Google for its part, got IT services giant CapGemini to endorse and evangelize it’s Web 2.0 take on Office called GAPE (Google Apps Premier Edition). The future of the online document is currently a slugfest between all these parties. Microsoft wants Office Open eXtended Markup Language (.OOXML) to become the global standard format for saving documents while the rest are pushing for the OpenDocument Format or (.ODF) at the International Standards Organisation which has the decision-making mandate. The ISO is currently gridlocked because there were more than the required number of dissenting countries against the Microsoft standard, in a round of voting earlier this month. India, which is represented at the ISO by the Bureau of Indian Standards was also a naysayer and there will be frantic lobbying in the next few months to get the BIS to take its final stand at Geneva in February.

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I haven’t bothered to install Microsoft Office on my relatively new desktop, purchased nearly six months ago. I’ve been banging out all my “Word” and “Excel” masterpieces on the completely free of cost and extremely user-friendly Google ‘Docs & Spreadsheets’. It started out accidentally, I must admit. On the first day of using the new PC, I needed to create a spreadsheet. Hypothetically speaking of course, I could have downloaded a pirated version of MS Office and a crack, but thanks to my (Exatt) “fraudband” it would have taken forever. I swear, the thought never crossed my mind but I’m just laying out the options. Piracy is evil! Anyway, I decided to check out the online options and the rest as they say is history. However, before you get inspired and start to uninstall, do analyze your usage. The online versions are fairly useless for complex documents with tons of images, tables, macros etc. and make a mess of charts, graphs and most functions beyond the basic ones. If your Excel usage borders on programming, then you definitely want to hang on just a little longer.

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Lest I come across as some sort of Microsoft basher, let me quickly inform you that I’ve tried most of the alternatives to Microsoft Office over the years and they’re all junk. I worked on Star Office for nearly a year in an organization that had both licensing and ideology issues and swore never to use it again. I used the absolutely free Open Office for nearly six months as well, but gave up after missing a very tight deadline which involved waiting for what seemed like six hours for a document to open. The other day, someone from IBM invited me for a demo of the latest version of Lotus Notes and my first reaction was “They’re still making it? Pray – why?” I know only one person whose company still uses Lotus Notes. Needless to say, nearly her entire team interacts and exchanges documents using their Gmail IDs, with ‘Notes’ being used as nothing more than an intra-company “official correspondence” notice board for formality sake. Now if only Google gets a PowerPoint equivalent up and running soon, I will never have to download a cracked version of … sorry, I mean never have to legally purchase a licensed version of MS Office ever again.

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Written by Abhi 2.0

September 17, 2007 at 1:47 am