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Re: (Slightly Off-Topic) Emacs-like Office App

From: bobstopper
Subject: Re: (Slightly Off-Topic) Emacs-like Office App
Date: Fri, 1 Nov 2002 12:20:43 +0800
User-agent: Mutt/1.3.28i

> Hi Richard, answers below,
> > Emacs can probably do something similar to what I'm thinking already if 
> > support was written for it, but I'm thinking Emacs would probably remain,
> > well, ugly in the eyes of typical office workers and it would thus
> > be unappealing.
> Wait, who are the target users, software developers or typical office
> workers?  :-|

I'm hoping both. The idea is that a simple wysiwyg app can be created with
all the visual masturbation features you see in todays office products while
maintaining a easy-access programmable interface such as Emacs. So, basic
users are happy because they can do all the same kinda stuff they could before
(but hopefully they're MORE happy because they only need the ONE app to do
it rather than several - it simplifies things for them a bit), while advanced
users are happy because, like with Emacs, the possibilities are boundless.
I'm hoping it can then appeal to both software developers AND office workers,
basic AND advanced, power users AND point-and-click users. So, we get a nice
app that all these basic office users love and we don't have to castrate what
we ourselves can do with it.

> > Instead I'm envisioning something that looks a lot like current gnome
> > office products... only it's capable of doing all of them simply by loading
> > the appropriate modes (perhaps after first writing them ;).
> If the target users are typical office workers then why not help
> improve the OpenOffice offering.  It would probably be much less work.
> :-\

It would be plenty less work. But if all we're doing is providing something
that basically is the same as M$ office but looks a little different then
not many people (other than hardened free software advocates and a few people
who see the product and like not having to pay for it) will bother using it.
It's "different" (unfamiliar territory) and provides no real advantage within
its features. What I'm proposing is something that actually improves on the
idea of current office apps while also making it practical for the rest of
us who like to create vast modifications using built-in extension languages.

> > Gnome office is a great idea and I think it's a great alternative to M$
> > office but I think the idea of having separate programs attempting to 
> > integrate through some additional system like bonobo or OLE will still
> > remain somewhat unintegrated and perhaps not as consistent in its interface
> > as what I'm suggesting would be. I imagine typical office users would be
> > much more satisfied if they only needed the one app that could do everything
> > and I imagine advanced office users and programmers would be much more
> > satisfied if they can extend that app to do almost anything they please.
> So the target users would be _advanced_ office users and programmers?
> Certainly programmers using Emacs would benefit.  What incentive would
> advanced office users have to make the switch and undergo a learning
> curve? :-?

I'm hoping to make it as simple or more simple as current office apps in its
interface while adding to simplification by having all office functionality
within the one app. That way basic users don't have to hunt and run a new
app each time they want to do a different officey thingie and additionally
the interface remains almost identical between modes with perhaps a few
modifications (as with Emacs) - so the user feels familiarity between modes.
Of course, this idea of "consistent interface" is enforced to an extent in 
products like M$ office, but office users still often use software from other 
vendors which isn't so well integrated. Within this product there would be
no reason for such vendors to create completely different products when
they can just write a mode which works seamlessly with the basic office app.
It encourages a whole new level of interface consistency.

So that's my main hope for it appealing to typical office users. For advanced
users, I'm hoping the idea of a programmable interface using guile or whatever
might appeal to them as it provides so much more power (like a previous poster
mentioned - try doing a regexp search using M$ word).

> > So if something *better* (rather than just equivalent) than M$ office is
> > written as part of the GNU/Linux project then we have much more clout for
> > winning the average user over. I imagine for this sort of goal the app
> > would almost certainly have to have a fully featured M$ Windows port so
> > it can first appeal to all these M$ windows users, and once they're won
> > over it's a small step to realising that if everything they need for
> > office work is in that app, and that app is available on GNU why not just
> > use GNU?
> Yow! Sounds ambitious.  But wait, who is the target user?  Uncle
> Bill's M$ success was by appealing to the lowest common comuter-user
> demoninator and releasing not-so-thoroughly tested software early in
> order to beat others to market.  What features will this project
> provide that will attract these folks in herds and send them
> stampeding to GNU/Linux boxes? Answering that question, what would be
> the quickest route to providing these features and advertising that
> fact? :-/

It's very &$#!ing ambitious. I hope I've given a good illustration of why it
might appeal to common users already. Tell me if not. The quickest route
to providing the features? *shrug* I haven't bothered thinking about
implementation yet =P .  Advertising? Heh, got me there. How does GNU
normally advertise? I'm hoping word of mouth might succeed among the more
advanced users and then maybe it'll catch on from there. In the meantime,
if it works out well maybe a company could focus on its development and
sell packaged and documented versions to aid further development and
advertising costs. I'm idly considering that last idea (hence I'm seeking

> > So, with that description of my infant idea in mind, I have a couple of
> > questions:
> > 
> > Does anyone know if something like what I'm describing already exists
> > or is in the process of being written etc?
> > 
> > and of course:
> > 
> > Is my idea stupid, infeasible, lacking in some major consideration, too
> > damned hard etc or is it actually a good idea?
> I like the idea, but it sounds like a lot of work.  Would it be worth
> it?  Eventually, of course, the best features of Emacs will creep into
> other applications and visa versa.

Soooo much work =<

The things that would convince me it's worth it are: people want the product;
I manage to make money out of it thus fulfilling my dream of beginning an 
income generating programming cooperative (I'm an anarchist and I want rid of
bosses =P); and it wins people over to the GNU cause (Like I said, I don't
think providing an equivalent will do it - it needs to be BETTER).

As for the features of Emacs creeping in, why wait when we can just do it
from scratch? The best features of Emacs, I would say, would be its use of
modes and elisp. Most programs would need a complete rewrite to provide that
functionality anyway. This would have the advantage of having it from the

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