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To read comments to this article, go here
Microsoft Upset Over Groklaw's Article on ODF
Tuesday, July 25 2006 @ 10:43 AM EDT

I guess Microsoft is upset that I showed you screenshots that proved that there is no Save As function for ODF in the usual menu in Microsoft Word 2007. If you read Dutch, here's an article attacking Groklaw, with a lot of blah blah blah about it being alpha code and it's not fair and someday it will happen and all that jazz.

But there still isn't a Save As option for ODF in that menu. Period. And according to the article, as I read it, there never will be, unless the company changes its policy.

The article directs you to Stephen McGibbon's blog for proof that someday there will be the ability to Save As, but it isn't going to be in the usual place. Don't take my word for it. Look for yourself. He has screenshots of what they plan. According to Mr. McGibbon of Microsoft, you will someday be able to save as ODF, but it won't be in the usual menu, but rather off to the side in the ODF ghetto. Take a look with your own eyes. ODF stays a second class citizen. That is not good enough, and I can't think of one good reason to design that way. Can you?

There is, by the way, a deadline for ODF documents to have Save As functionality, if Microsoft considers Massachusetts' requirements worth meeting. The deadline is January. So, is the Microsoft ODF translator going to have Save As functionality by January? And will a separate menu for ODF documents, apart from the easy menu Save As which all the world is used to using, be sufficient to meet their requirements? Why do I think maybe not?

Sorry, Microsoft, but I continue to get the feeling that you would like users to think that it's a big hassle to use ODF. Is there any good reason on God's green Earth why it can't be just another file type on the "Open" and "Save As" menus? For that matter, is there any good reason to make people download it themselves?

Actually, Stephen was asked that question about it not being just another file type on his blog, and here's his answer:

re: ODF Add-In - Screenshots Hi Simon, in the current prototype, PDF, XPS and ODF are all treated similarly, with downloads available from the office download center. (We are putting the download pointers for PDF, XPS and ODF on the file save as menu. By going there you can download these things. Once they are downloaded, ODF appears as is shown with its own menu bar so ODF can be opened there too as shown in the screenshots). This design is not final, and may change in the future. Interested to hear your feedback.

In short, it's not going to be in the usual place, and it will be a hassle. End of story.

If Microsoft does decide to fix its policy, could it also please fix the other issues? For example, could it make it so you can set ODF as your default? And fix the performance penalty? And make sure you can round trip? And use the usual keyboard shortcuts? You know, the usual things that folks expect to be able to do.

Marbux has sent me something to add to the discussion, particularly with regard to userfriendliness and Massachusetts. I will let him tell you in his own words:

***********************

To that list I add a question: Will it even be possible to display ODF file names in the Office file open and save dialogs without manually selecting display of all file types ("*.*")? Software designers realize that complexity in user interfaces should be minimized. Forcing end users to depart from standard methods often translates into features not being used because human memory favors familiar actions. The key is consistency in interfaces, Microsoft itself points out in Official Guidelines for User Interface Developers and Designers, User-Centered Design Principles:

Consistency is important through all aspects of the interface, including operational behavior[.] To design consistency into software, you must consider the following:
Consistency within an application. Present common functions using a consistent set of commands and interfaces.

So with the departure from Microsoft's own design principles established, one might rationally conclude that there has been a failure to implement them in the ODF Translator.

Microsoft emphasized when it announced the open source ODF Translator project that this "work is in response to government requests for interoperability with ODF because they work with constituent groups that use that format." Thus, it is fair to question whether a decision to provide only non-native ODF support in Office is enough to satisfy government.

Here is what the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has to say on the subject, from the Executive Branch Information Technology Division's standards for software procurement, ETRM v. 3.5:

Agencies will need to develop phased migration plans allowing them to configure existing applications to save office documents by default in the OpenDocument format with an implementation date of January 1, 2007. Any acquisition of new office applications must support the OpenDocument format natively.

* * * * *

Department will be required to:

1. Use office applications that provide conformance with the OpenDocument format, and

2. Configure the applications to save office documents in OpenDocument format by default.

From here, it looks like the Microsoft Office ODF Translator's design may need a tweak or two to make Office eligible for government procurement.

On the question of saving with ODF as your default, please see ODF Add-in for Microsoft Word (bug tracker) ("We currently have no way of doing this. But ideas are welcome!").


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