Office 2007 FUD

January 24, 2007

Even using lots of opensource/free software on a daily basis I never considered myself being a fan of Linux/OSS. The more, when compared to closed alternatives, free software often looks pitiful. Nevertheless crowds of OSS-related idiots continue spreading FUD about competing software which doubtly make it look worse.

MS Office 2007 UI

Sooth to say I’ve been quite impressed to find this page on OpenOffice.org site as it seem to be written by either dumb OO zealots or complete morons. Let’s take a closer look at their argumentation:

“Are you a Microsoft Office user? are you thinking about upgrading to MS-Office 2007? If you’re like 98% of MS-Office users, you’ll probably stay with what you’ve got, rather than spend your money on an upgrade. Your current software does the job you want.
However, the chances are that you’ll have seen some advertising about Microsoft’s new product, and you may be wondering whether it’s time to change.”

I’m quite unsure that 98% of MSO users would deny to upgrade even though OO is relatively “popular”. I’d say that Microsoft Office 2007 is the most serious Office upgrade since the times of old Office 95.


Six facts to consider about MS-Office 2007

  1. If you’re a current MS-Office user, you’ll find MS-Office 2007 does the same job, prints the same letters, generates the same spreadsheets as your current copy. So why spend more money to do the same job as now?
  2. MS-Office 2007 has a radically different “new look”, which makes it look and feel quite unusual compared with what you are used to. Will this change help you, or is it just a marketing thing to help MS-Office look different from competitors like OpenOffice.org?
  3. Microsoft has provided 50,000 pages of new help files to help you understand the “new look”. Have you time to absorb all these changes?
  4. Microsoft dealers, trainers, and support people are hoping to make a lot of money from helping people migrate. Have you got all the support you need to help you cope with the changes?
  5. Upgrades like this are a major revenue stream for Microsoft. Are they providing this upgrade for your benefit, or for their shareholders?
  6. Earlier this year, Microsoft ran a long and expensive advertising campaign portraying people who hadn’t upgraded as the “Office dinosaurs”. Does this worry you, or are you happy to make your own decisions?

Let’s see…

  1. As usual, OSS zealots have forgotten about things, called usability and comfort, which is no wonder, taking into account overall pitiful OSS usability. After a couple of months of using MSO 2007 I must say it’s the easiest to use and the most comfortable Office suite I’ve ever tried (and these included StarOffice to OpenOffice, Corel Office, 602 Office suite and many others) .
  2. In fact, the new look is cleaner and easier to use. Commands are re-groupped, some are renamed, but the new positioning is much easier and finding a needful command in Ribbon UI is a toy compared to browsing menu trees. Microsoft has invented toolbars in one of their first GUI Words and now everyone (including OpenOffice) uses it. Now Microsoft implements even more effective navigation system and I’m sure in few years its popularity would only grow.
  3. Having a good contest help (compare this to childish OSS documentation with lots of missing links and useless/outdated articles) has nothing to do with complexity. I managed to make a complete switch to Office 2007 in just an hour (sic!). And on the second day I’ve found huge productivity increase. The complete switch has merely been more complex than migration from Office 2000 to 2003. The whole MS Office to OpenOffice migration would require more efforts.
  4. Should I meantion lots of companies making their living on supporting buggy OSS software which is a kind of their main business model? šŸ˜‰ Really, guys, just look in the mirror.
  5. Once again. Is there anything bad forgetting money for providing customers with a vastly improved product? Ask them.
  6. People would surely make their decisions but compared to MS Office 2007 OO is a dinosaur indeed, just like many other office suites.

In fact, the only serious advantage of OpenOffice compared to MS Office 2007 is price. The last one is quite expensive and that’s true. From another side, Groove or One Note functionality is not seen in OO, MS Office 2007 elso easily creates PDFs and comes with Outlook which is in fact an industry standard PIM/e-mail client.

OpenOffice may offer similar (well, not the same, but similar to older Office versions) functionality but:

  1. OpenOffice.org is really heavier on resources (working on computers with 512 or less Mb of RAM is not comfortable, UI is simply slow responding, etc…)
  2. Is harder to use (yes, you may surely use a kind of familiar, but less comfortable GUI or do some RTFM)
  3. Less functional (especially compared to high-end versions of MS Office)

So, the choice is yours afterall…

Well, OO is not really that bad for its price but the feature comparison on its site is slightly, hm… subjective šŸ™‚

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Future is now: innovative products and prototypes

January 20, 2007

Fortunately, along with all the badly designed stuff I cover in my hall of shame series there’re some good samples of really interesting, innovative and simply great designs.

This series of articles reviews some of these products. Certain items are only prototypes while the rest might already be available. So, let’s go…

Yanko Design company’s site has lots of interesting stuff which is at least interesting.

For example, this Bonfire tripod burner originates from the idea that modern kitchen is just an evolution of a bonfire place:

Bonfire

Thus, by design it looks like a firewood. It’s compact (the construction is transformable) and power intensity is adjusted by several sensors as well.

Elio watch is another interesting prototype by the same company:

ElioĀ watch

Minutes and seconds are displayed by progress bars as well as text. Even though usability of this solution is arguable (one would have to become familiar with scales which are quite visual, but not common), the design is excellent.

Ambient devices company also features a lot of interesting stuff from so-called ambient interfaces: they deliever data to you without disturbing.

Let’s take a look…

Ambient Orb is a lamp, which changes its color, depending on incoming data, like weather forecasts or stock market information:
AmbientĀ orb

Forecasting umbrella utilizes a similar approach for informing you about a need of its use: it starrts pulsing light when the rain is most likely to come. The data is received by the radio channel…

ForecastingĀ Umbrella

Zooming mirror is probably a modern womens’ dream come true:

ZoomingĀ mirror

The mirror lets one see her face at 1x to 5x scales making it a great for makover. I’m not sure about actual products’ comfort usage and possible disadvantages, but the fact that such an idea has become real is just great!

To be continued…


Enhancing Linux Virtual Desktop experience with XGL

January 20, 2007

Now, some time after the initial appearance of XGL technology in Linux we may see and judge some of its results. As I expected, the very first developers’ attempts to implement a new “groovy, modern, Vista-killing, etc” 3D interface were reminding monkeys with grenades.

Wow, we have floating, flashing and convulsing windows! How great!

In a short time more reasonable application to all this beauty has been found.

What I really like is the idea of representing Linux’s famous Virtual Desktops in a 3 dimentional space.

XGL inĀ OpenSUSE

It’s eye-candy and represents the idea of a continuous stripe-like desktop. Similar things lie behind the Deskloops, a Windows application, utilizing a continuous “looped” desktop for handling lots of windows at once.

So, in fact we’re dealing with pseudo-3D Virtual Desktops as they just cover 4 (usually) of 6 available cube sufraces. By utilizing additional surfaces we could create a fish-eye-like navigation which would be more intuitive and closer to 3D:

xgl-vdm11.png

Now we utilize 5 cube surfaces with a single central part and one additional size desktop.

By adding 4 moreĀ  desktops we get this:

xgl-vdm22.png

which is nothing but a representation of classic OS/2 plane Virtual Desktop surface. Still I doubt it would look really nice in 3D.

My first version is not perfect either: its 2D version is not room-effective (or not too visual if represented in pseudo-3D) and one surface needs to be addedin order to complete a cube. From another side, it’s “more ” 3 dimentional than a stripe although generally OS/2-like layout might be more effective.

Now let’s make a step back and look at the resulting picture. What do we see? Correct. Just another ZUI implementation šŸ™‚


Resample not resize

January 12, 2007

It’s a shame, that even today people still use nearest neighbor resizing in GUI designs, especially in places then it’s not suitable. Taking into account that Lanczos resampling usually offers far better result at no cost (for static images) and even linear filtering outperforms nearest neighbor easily.

Just to make you see what you might be missing I share a couple of images, resampled (downsampled) with different algorithms:

notelarge.png

Original PNG image (once again from Tango) and two smaller versions: Lanczos and Nearest neighbor resized:

notesimple.pngnoteresample.png

Now let’s see some OS X wallpapers:

wpsample.pngwpresize.png

The difference is pretty obvious: “nn” spoils images by making them blocky, distorted and ugly which is arguably an advantage.

So, the tag is simple: unless you know for sure what you’re doing, do not useĀ  nearest neighbor resizing as it’s a fast way to spoil image. Also prevent usage of this mode by programmers (in many cases they use it without a real need) creating applications by your sketches.

Coming back to the title: resample, not resize; resample not, resize and not the opposite šŸ˜‰