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

From: Kevin Dziulko
Subject: Re: (Slightly Off-Topic) Emacs-like Office App
Date: Fri, 1 Nov 2002 09:13:39 -0500 (EST)

This is off topic and should continue discussion else where, but I'm not
sure where that should be.

Target both software developers and casual office users? Good luck with
that. What is it that they do that is in common?  One big super app that
does everything? I think MS Word attempts that (has word processing,
drawing, desktop publishing, embedded spreadsheets,
modes(document templates), extendable with programming ...).  The result:
enormous, slow, unstable, and all the other reasons why people hate
microsoft apps. If you want an app that performs well, modularity is the
key. Many small programs with a narrower scope would be easier to create,
upkeep, and execute with high performace. An app can have all kinds of
great features, but if it runs slow and crashes, I'm not buying. Perhaps
it's me, but I find "does everything" and "simpler to use" to be a
paradox. And as far as bringing people to Linux, great apps will help, but
standardization will help more. Windows is easy because one knows before
ever even using a new app that they can save by clicking file, and then
save. Every single unix app has different key sequences for everything.

I'm sorry if my message is negative, but opinions were asked for.

On Fri, 1 Nov 2002 wrote:

> > 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
> feedback).
> > > 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
> start.
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