More responses to comments on Word posts


Some people publicly and privately have suggested that they find it amazing that I am writing this blog. Some were just generally curious – that’s cool. But some of them have been suspicious of my motives because I blog. Three of them have asked how it is that I got “permission” to write this blog, or have assumed it must be part of some “marketing ploy”.



Allow me to clear a few things up and maybe provide some insight into the culture at Microsoft. First, I happen to have some time right now because I am on infant care leave for a month (a nice benefit that Microsoft gives to new Dads). My son was born eight days ago and once again is asleep in my lap as I write this. The first post I made about Word took me about 4 hours to write (I am NOT a great typist). I spent more time than usual on it because I suspected it would draw more attention than my past posts, and I guess I made the right call on that one.



The idea that I would need “permission” to have a blog is a little humorous to me. Microsoft  has always had as one of its strengths that it gives enormous freedom to its employees. We don’t have time cards, no one tracks our hours, and in general we are given a lot of responsibility. As long as we deliver results, it doesn’t matter if you come in at 2pm and don’t wear shoes (both of which I do occasionally, although less often than I used to).



In a way, the environment in any product group is more like a startup than a big company. We have small teams of dedicated people who don’t need rules and oversight to make them perform. In fact, if such bureaucracy did start to creep in, the best people would simply leave – it wouldn’t be fun anymore. Microsoft is consistently rated as one of the top places to work in America – even though our salaries are only a little above average and the stock has not gone anywhere exciting for several years. The reason is that the environment is great, the benefits are great, and the typical passion, commitment, competence and intelligence of the people around you everyday is exhilarating, frankly. I mean, I LOVE my job. What could be better than working through tough technical problems with smart people everyday, working with customers to understand their needs and then delivering what they asked for (take a look at OneNote’s SP1 – that was a tremendously fulfilling release for our team thanks to the users out there who have told us how much it improves their use of the product, if not their lives). Not to mention designing and building products that are used by hundreds of millions of people the world over. If you can make those even a little bit better, the impact you have is enormous.



You’ve probably noticed more and more MS employees have blogs (I think it is over 400 now). It’s a new technology, so it takes awhile to catch on. There’s no mystery or central control involved.



Why didn’t I blog sooner? There are a few reasons. One is that from the blogs I saw, I thought blogging was a form of vanity publishing – it didn’t seem to be an attractive thing for me since that sort of thing doesn’t turn me on. Now I see that those blogs are meant as a way to stay in touch with friends. Actually, you can read about my doubts regarding blogging here and here.



Another reason was that I felt I didn’t have much to say. It turned out I did once I got going, although as I noted in those earlier posts, without feedback from readers I doubt I would keep going.



A third reason was that I was leery of the net thugs, frankly. They’re so tiresome and impossible to reason with, I was concerned they would simply drown out any kind of mature exchange of information. I didn’t want to have to deal with a load of invective every day – not worth the energy. In the end, I decided I wasn’t going to be cowed by some gang, so here I am.



A couple of commentators have also raised the possibility (well, “certainty” in their minds) that my blog is a “marketing ploy”, and can’t be bona fide. As if I am the Mouth of Sauron or whatever. In reality, I am just a guy at home with his baby and therefore have a little free time. I think the automatic assumption that I am part of some evil plot simply underlines my earlier point about people making outrageous claims that I happen to know for a fact are utterly untrue. I can understand some people being distrustful due to the bad press the company has received over the last few years, but for me it’s like the 50’s – being labeled a communist because you wrote a letter to the editor in support of someone. BTW, rather than being supported by our marketing dept, I suspect the PR people and maybe some in marketing are quite nervous about my blog since if I say something asinine, they will have to deal with it most likely.



A couple of people have asked about the permanence of electronic information and access to it in the future if it is in Word format. Microsoft takes this very seriously. That’s one of the reasons we make the format documentation available to governments and other institutions, so that there is no concern that they will not have the ability to access the information at a later date. Personally, I find this whole discussion a little bit overwrought though. If it is access to the content of a Word doc that is a concern, just about any word processor available today can import Word documents sufficiently that you can access their content. You don’t need a Microsoft product for that. The issues are usually around getting the formatting exactly right, not access to the content. Also, if there are “bajillions” of Word docs out there in the future, you can bet that there will be tools to read them. Because they are just bits and not hardware, it is not the same as tapes or wax cylinders of the past, where the hardware to read the data is hard to find and maintain, and the amount of items in those old formats is not “bajillions”, it is more like “bathousands”, so the incentive to maintain the machines exists only for archivists. Archived bits (as opposed to media) can be translated by software far into the future. The argument that Microsoft would somehow disallow access to archived material in Word format is a straw man not worth addressing IMHO. I notice the same arguments are not raised about PDF, which is another closed,  patented, proprietary format. Both of these formats have free viewers BTW.



Others have asked about why we don’t use an XML file format as the default for Word. That’s an excellent question. Right now of course, you can in fact set Word2003 to use WordML as the default format if you like (Tools/Options/Save, then under “Default format”, choose “XML Document”). Changing our default format is a tricky subject, as I wrote in my last post. Last time we changed it, we got fire and brimstone on our heads from customers, and a whole raft of conspiracy theories to boot. So changing the format is not something one can do lightly. We are between a rock and a hard place. If we don’t change the format, most customers are happy, we have a hard time innovating, and we have people complain the format is binary and only Word can effectively use it. If we do change the format, we’re free to deliver some great new stuff, but many customers will be upset and on top of that some people will think we did it for nefarious reasons (probably the same people who think we keep it binary for nefarious reasons :-)). So, a no-win situation for us.



One person asked about being able to open or save the Open Office format. That should be possible with a converter or transform. Word has a freely available SDK for its converters, so if someone wanted to make such an import/export converter, they could. Converters are a lot of work though, and we only make them when a critical mass of customers need them. So far we’ve had essentially no demand for open/save of OpenOffice format (certainly not compared to WordPerfect, where there is still some demand, or Works, or a few others for which we get asked for updates to older converters). Again, this work is done only if it becomes a significant customer issue, and for the OpenOffice format it has a way to go to reach that based on current request rate.

Keep those comments comin’!

Chris

Comments (56)

  1. You know there’s something a little worrying about a self confessed "not a great typist" working on the word team <g>

  2. Yes, although fortunately I have AutoCorrect plus a whole team of great typists doing the designs these days… In fact it is an advantage to have a variety of user types designing the app – you wouldn’t want us to design only for good typists, or whatever user type you are not, would you?

  3. Alex says:

    My analysis of the slashdot convinced me that trying to argue on the stupid details is pretty much useless. You should really focus on your own customers, not slashdot or slashdot idiots.

    Slashdot may convince some people that you are evil or with some other FUD they may convince some people that Word and similar products from Microsoft should be avoided. What I found is that, those people who are convinced that Microsoft products should be avoided also do not have a clue how to deal with the alternatives. That is, when they go ahead with alternatives they are not better off, in fact in many cases they are worse. First of all, Slashdot’s main point usually turn out to be that Word is closed. That’s really the only point they can come up with that favors the customers in a logical way, though if the product comes from Apple it is another story. So it is not exactly that they want open source, but only if it is something against Microsoft. In any case, it turns out that, all the quality open source programs for end users come from commercial companies. OpenOffice from Sun, Mozilla from AOL/Netscape, AbiWord from another company and so on. In each case, it is somehow assumed that if you open source a product, it will be better. However the head of the Open Source, ESR, demanded that Sun open source java, because open source developers can not keep up with the new things in java. That’s an admission that open source can not keep up with the pace of closed source and commercial innovation. I personally know few mozilla developers, and its future is not bright. As the funding is being consumed, they do not know how to continue. Already many developers are working on different projects. I have read interviews with the mozilla foundation head and she doesn’t know exactly what does mozilla mean and how mozilla foundation is going to make money. They do have some nice technology, not as good as IE, but still cross-platform compatibility is very attractive. But, they lack funding and support to make that technology more meanigful to customers. However, even worse, many current mozilla developers are happy just because they are competing against Microsoft. Somehow they think that if they are just out there with almost nothing against Microsoft, they are still something. For net thugs, that’s really what counts, not the software but the fact that you are doing something open source against Microsoft, or even just something against Microsoft.

    My conclusion is that, it is absolutely useless to convince a typical slashdot idiot. First because most of them are not technically capable, no kidding, they do not know even Linux or operating systems or software development, second the rest are competitors of Microsoft, thus they are naturally enemy.

  4. I was kidding you know, hence the <g> 🙂

    Mind you I’ve found auto-correct, like intellisense has made me lazy. There’s nothing like someone saying "Can you illustrate your code on the white board" to make you realise how productive things like that really are and how little you are committing to memory.

  5. Barry, I knew you were kidding 🙂

  6. I suspect why these complaints aren’t raised about PDF is because PDF is not a undocumented format&mdash;at a quick glance, it looks like the documentation is <a href="http://partners.adobe.com/asn/tech/pdf/specifications.jsp">here</a&gt;.

    As for patents, Adobe <a href="http://partners.adobe.com/asn/developer/legalnotices.jsp">explicitly</a&gt; state you don’t have to worry about those if you’re reading and writing PDF files.

    Yes, it’s closed and proprietary in that it’s only Adobe that sets the spec, but it’s open in that that spec is available to anyone that wants to read it.

  7. (This time without HTML markup! – sorry about that.)

    I suspect why these complaints aren’t raised about PDF is because PDF is not a undocumented format–at a quick glance, it looks like the documentation is http://partners.adobe.com/asn/tech/pdf/specifications.jsp .

    As for patents, Adobe explicitly state http://partners.adobe.com/asn/developer/legalnotices.jsp state you don’t have to worry about those if you’re reading and writing PDF files.

    Yes, it’s closed and proprietary in that it’s only Adobe that sets the spec, but it’s open in that that spec is available to anyone that wants to read it.

  8. Kirk McPike says:

    Chris, thanks again for all your blogging. And congratulations on your newborn!

    I’d still love to know why Word for Windows has such a weak word count feature compared to Word for Mac. You kinda knocked Word count in a previous post, but many, many, many of us depend on it, and it’s frustrating not to have it update live like it does on the Mac.

  9. Lee says:

    A great read Chris, keep it up! If you ever get some time it would be interesting to hear about how you develop Word and OneNote. For example do the developers use Visual Studio or nmake? We have a large project and find that it can take a while to start up with all the different sub-projects / source control etc…

    Cheers

    Lee

  10. Kirk, we looked at the Mac implementation and found it dragged performance too much – essentialy any change to the doc kicks off a huge amount of recalcing and slows down the app as a result. You don’t notice it with short docs, but it is noticeable with long docs. So we elected not to borrow that code from MacvWord. If you have XP or 2003, may I suggest you bring up the word count toolbar and just click "recount" when you’re curious. BTW, I didn’t say that word count wasn’t valuable to some people, but it is not too useful outside of academic users and writers, leaving the other 90%+ of our users wondering why it shows up in reviews all the time as a critical feature when other more broadly useful features are ignored.

  11. VikenY says:

    Chris, you’ve got a great blog going here. I always suspected Microsoft developers were having great fun reading Slashdot and you’ve confirmed it!

    Keep up the good work. Your history of Word was great, lets have more "behind the scenes" stuff.

  12. ChrisK says:

    I’m one of the readers who found the blog via Slashdot. I’m really enjoying it and hope that you continue to write. It’s always nice to see another software developer talking about how they build things and why.

  13. Chris, excellent blog – thank for sharing and for your attempts to defuse the Microsoft FUD. Congratulations on your newborn son.

  14. Scott says:

    It’s funny how people lump the "typical Slashdot idiot" together in the same way that the "typical slashdot idiot" lumps the MS bloggers in with the marketing dept.

    It’s easy to see how that mistake can get made though. For every post by you. Rick Schaut, Larry Osterman, or Raymond Chen about the history of an MS product or a technical gotcha you have 50-60(no kidding) posts about {insert the latest MS sponsored conference here} or how some MS product can make your life better. 90% of blogs.msdn.com can be mistaken for PR releases. It sure looks mandated or heavily suggested in some cases even if it isn’t. Plus there’s that weird way in which they all only link to each other. With the /. postings, the most idiotic are often the most vocal. But there are a lot of level headed people that read and moderate Slashdot.

    Your blog alone got me to download the trial of OneNote and try it out. I didn’t have any USE for it, but I did give a shot.

  15. Ralph Poole says:

    Chris, thanks for your long posts and your openness to questions and comments. I use Word although I am probably familiar with about a tenth of the functionality. I did have a question about innovation and your legacy decisions. You have commented a number of times about innovation and keeping customers happy; letting customers set your development agenda. Do you find the legacy of decisions that you made in the 90s stultifying? When will it be the right time to take the lead and make changes, say to file formats, calculating that the benefits outweigh the criticism that you will undoubtedly get? What would convince you to make a significant change in the product that would add value? How creative can you be? Can you give an example of a change you would like to make? In this respect, do customers lead the way, or do creative designers and software engineers lead the way?

  16. Russ Hawkins says:

    First and foremost, congratulations! Secondarily, it is my hope that this burgeoning practice of MS blogging continues – I for one find much of the information to be quite useful and love the insight it gives. I found your posts on Word to be fascinating.

  17. Joe Burlas says:

    Congrats on your baby! You’re the man, Chris.

    Joe.

  18. Alexandro says:

    I hope that soon this mass can demand openoffice.org Since we already doing it for Dockbooks and other formats that are no way supported with XML converters. The OpenOffice.org is WIDELY formated and ready for action.

    I dissagree with Alex

    " OpenOffice from Sun, Mozilla from AOL/Netscape, AbiWord from another company and so on. In each case, it is somehow assumed that if you open source a product, it will be better."

    Well we got Linux, Apache, XUL, and Evolution as well as many other quality software that are superb and has no commercial background.

  19. Scott, when I look through the MS blogs, i find they are mostly by developers talking abotu this or that obscure coding technique or VS feature. There are a few by people who actually work in marketing, but they seem to just be blogging about what they do, which is naturally marketing events and so on. Are you sure you’re not reading into it more than is there? Can you name a few blogs that seem "unreal" in the way you describe? I think those people would be interested to hear that feedback.

  20. Ralph, customers lead in some ways (via "articulated needs" – i.e. the things they can tell us they need), and we lead in others – by looking at trends, customer situations, etc and dreaming up software or features to try to solve the problems we see the customer can’t describe or notice or even imagine software could help them with (unarticulated needs). Can you clarify what decisions you are referring to when you talk about a legacy of decisions in the 90s?

    The right time to lead and change something like the format is when the positives outweigh the negatives. Making the right call on that is why they pay me (and my colleagues) the proverbial "big bucks". We make significant changes to add value in the products each release (if not I should be fired) – are you referring to something specific you are looking for? Changes I’d like to make include removal of a bunch of old and unimpressive features from the product – but we get yelled at so consistently by customers whenever we remove even a tiny thing that seems hard to imagine. The UI could do with an overhaul, but that is a hot button like the file format.

  21. Michael says:

    You (and no others) should not take the anti-Microsoft flaming too seriously. It just happens because people always distrust the -big guys-. You know even stock analysts do wonder for quite a while now what Microsoft will do with its 50 or so billion dollars in cash. And Longhorn released late and with less features than announced.

    What does interest me more is what your insights of creating a software that large like Word are. I think i read about Bill Gates wondering how to be able to create ever more complex software (and the often slipped release dates suggest that even Microsoft is no closer to the silver bullet than others)

    But what are the means and techiques you and your colleagues have successfully applied to

    keep Word running? How are new featured incorporated without making the old codebase unmanageable?

  22. Juan R. says:

    Chris, nice blog. It’s always interresting to gain some insight in the real workplace atmosphere at MS, as opposed to the myth we’re usualy fed by the anti-MS crowd.

    Although I’m a Linux user myself I must admit MS Office is one heck of a product. It’s one of few windows apps I kinda miss on my box, to tell you the truth. Good job, keep it up!

    There’s one thing on your blog I’d like to react to, though… You kind of downplay the importance of MS Office compatibility. You make it appear as if the only thing lost is some formatting, but you downplay it as not really important since the actual content is still accessible. Let me tell you, business users find it that presentation is equally important as the actual content. If some company decides not to use the MS Office suite, but instead generates their documents in let’s say Openoffice.org and save it as a MS Word .doc instead, imagine how it will reflect on their image if they mail this file to a business partner and it looks well… kinda shoddy when they try to open it in MS Word… If the document looks amateuristic, so will the company that sent it, and that’s a business reality.

    Of course, there’s a myriad of other formats one could use: one could save it as a pdf and send the pdf, but this doesn’t work for forms that have to be filled in and returned, unless they’re willing to shell out for an Acrobat license, in which case they might as well just use MS Office. Other formats are even more obscure: you can’t expect from your business partners that have any clue on how to open an Openoffice.org document, or worse: a postscript file. 😉

    Compatibility with the word .doc format, not only content-wise but also regarding the formatting of the documents is a pretty big deal to the "competition". As long as an office application is not capable of opening and saving without loss of content or formatting in the defacto standard, being the MS Office file formats, it will never be a real competitor to the MS Office line of products as far as business users are concerned. Compatibility doesn’t matter if one is just to print it out; one can not deduce from a printed document what application was used for its creation. Once you start sending it around in digital format though, compatibility does matter.

    Note: this is not criticism on you nor MS: Microsoft has every right to decide if they want to open up their file formats, or prefer to use the inaccessibility to information on the internals of their products to their advantage. I might not like Microsoft as a business entity; I know people with first hand anecdotal evidence that not all of the so called FUD is untrue and that MS does indeed engage in some shady deals left and right, but I don’t quite understand the anti MS attitude either. For example: what’s the deal with sueing MS to stop them from giving away the browser as part of the operating system? Do you see anyone suing RedHat for doing exactly the same? Suse? Mandrake? Heck, even Apple does it, and nobody bitches about that. The way I see it, I might not like the way MS does business, but then again, I don’t like the way many people drive either. As long as they drive according to the rules of traffic though, I can bitch all I want, but I got no right to condemn them for their driving habits.

    Damn, hope I wasn’t too lengthy. 😉

  23. Juan, I agree with you that customers expect perfect fidelity when opening documents, and even a slight degradation will send them looking for an alternative. That’s why we try pretty hard to keep compatibility from version to version, even as we fix bugs that affect layout of documents (Check out Tools/Options/Comaptibility in Word someday to see what I mean). My point was in regards to archival access to information as opposed ot daily use of the software. There is a fear that a proprietary format means the content can’t be accessed in the future. I was pointing out that I simply don’t believe that is true. Access to the content of a Word doc is quite easy, and doesn’t even require documentation, as our many competitors have shown. What is hard is duplicating all the exact layout nuances of a Word doc to make sure it looks identical to how it was intended. And that part is true of any format, proprietary or not. As an archivist, you might feel you need to have a layout engine that can render the content the exact same way that it was intended by the author – format documentation doesn’t help with layout. Does that mean we have to keep archival copies of Mozilla, IE, Open Office, Word, etc. around, as well as the platforms that run them? If we need pixel for pixel accuracy, yes. But if we simply need access ot the content – no – all we need are the bits of the file and a converter that extracts content and formatting, and possibly does a pretty good job with layout. Content is accessible without those apps, and without even documentation on the formats (although as I said, we do provide it to gov’t and instutions that feel they need it).

    Recently I was looking at some emulators that run 25-yr old Atari and Commodore systems on a PC flawlessly. I wonder if that won’t be the way some files are accessed in 50 years?

  24. Ryan says:

    My biggest problem with Word is a matter of "control." I have switched from Word to a combination of Vim and LaTeX and only regret the loss of the green and red squiggles. I do, however, wish that LaTeX were easier to use…

    I ask, therefore, what plans the Word team has for improving the quality of Word’s output. On every count (e.g. font readability, word spacing, line breaks) latex beats Word hands-down. I converted my girlfriend’s honors thesis from Word to latex and she was stunned with the output. Compared to the professional latex PDF, the word document looked clumsy and amateur. While I understand (or think I understand) the complexities involved with providing real-time WYSIWYG latex-quality output, I believe that the Word team should be able to meet or exceed the quality of latex’s output.

    Additionally, I desperately miss the control that latex provides me when I work with a "traditional" word processor. This year found me working with a group on my Computer Science Senior Project, creating all of our documentation in Word to meet the project sponsor’s requirements. For me, this was an exercise in frustration. First, I despised the quality of the documents we were producing—I knew that a better tool existed and I wasn’t able to take advantage of it. Second, it was impossible to understand or use Word’s reference and TOC system. I know that there is logic behind the magic, but it was largely invisible to me and, since the goal of the project was to produce a completed product and not to understand Word, I didn’t have the time to grok Word’s referencing and TOC generation utilities.

    This leads me to my second question: Are there plans to improve the referencing and auto-generation abilities of Word? With latex, I can simply use the macros "label{…}" and "ref{…}" for cross-references, it’s crystal clear what macros automatically generate TOC, List of Figures and List of Tables entries and how to override those entries and how to add entries manually. There is strong support for acronyms (e.g. latex can guarantee that the first use of an acronym is always expanded, per document or section or chapter or whatever), index creation and glossary creation. It is amazingly easy to create professional documents—once you’re over that huge initial learning curve.

    Don’t even get me started on formatting issues. I spent more time fighting Word to get the formatting I desired or needed that I would ever like to admit. Maybe I am too used to latex now to handle word. Admittedly, I am in the minority who enjoys "coding" a document. While you get what you see in Word, I get what I type (and want) in latex.

    If Word afforded me the power, transparency and quality that latex offers me, in a user friendly and well-documented package, I would be in heaven. I also want to emphasize that I have nothing but respect for the Word team. I realize that, with 400 million users you’re probably being pulled in 400 million directions. Not to mention you have to deal with legacy support, international support, making your software accessible and peons like me who do nothing but bitch. Don’t take this post to be a "I hate Word" post, take it to be a "I wish Word were better for me" post.

  25. Paul Berkowitz says:

    "Kirk, we looked at the Mac implementation and found it dragged performance too much – essentialy any change to the doc kicks off a huge amount of recalcing and slows down the app as a result."

    Ummm, have you noticed that it’s a Preference in Word Mac (Preferences/View)? Very easy to turn off. (And worth taking a look at Word 2004 to see if it’s off or on by default there for new users.)

  26. Dan Sterling says:

    I want to ask how you as an MS employee view the Open Source initiative, wrt R&D. MS, as you say, does try and build a product that satisfies customers (people with money:). What would your reaction be if, for example, someone created an OSS word processor that implemented (or, for a different word, stole) all of the ideas in MS Word? Or, for a more real life example, what would you think if someone made sure that every feature that was available in MS Word was available in Open Office?

    I have to admit the reason I use Linux on my desktop is because I like to play with the computer. I like to have absolute control– for example, if I want to implement my own word count, I can 😉 (especially if someone else has already written some/all of the code I need!) My logic is, I enjoy not just using my computer, but playing with it, making it work (or not work, as the case may be:)

    Well, I won’t extoll all the virtues of OSS here, but I was just wondering what you thought in general about OSS, and specifically about OSS "stealing" your R&D.

  27. Alex says:

    re: Dan Sterling

    Open Office was a closed source commercial product and was funded by a commercial company. The quality of the product comes from mostly the R&D money spent earlier. Now Star Office and Sun is the primary supporter of the Open Office, but in anyway Open Office is still developed by a commercial entity, rather than "someone" that you refer to. In other words, open source does not mean that there is no commercial stuff involved. Star Office is clearly a commercial product and Sun is funding Open Office through different means. We do not know exactly whether they are making money or whether they are losing money on it. According to the financial reports Sun is not in good shape, thus Open Office seems to cost Sun money. Anyway, Open Office is not a good example of open source, since the forces behind the product is not the same as the Linux behind the Linux kernel. In one case, one company is trying to undercut another company through making a product for free and then trying to get development support from individual people around the world. I think this is a big misconception about open source, as much as the use of Linux as if it is one single entity. Using Linux may mean using KDE, Gnome or completely something else or no X window at all. If someone come and say he is still using Dos, nobody would care about him, because it is an old technology. I also use Linux, but mostly because of Unix, since we were using Unix at the university, second it is something different and it is much easier to play with the details, since I am a geek too I always enjoy it. Just to clear out some of the misconceptions created by Slashdot idiots.

    One thing people also omit is the fact that Open Source Software is not one entity which is acting in one single uniform way. Different entities use some licenses for totally different reasons. Apache has been using its license for a long time, even before Linux. BSD was there before Linux and GPL. People calling these collective of licenses under one name is mostly because majority or all of them are compatible with GPL. GPL’s goal is though, or at least its initial goal, is to force software writers to release their code in GPL itself. It was motivated with a political purpose. GPL did become a big success because it is the best way for the developers to retain control over their code somewhat and yet profit from their work, find colloboration around the world and so on. It is still not well tested in the courts, because it is quite tricky. However, serious programs use GPL strictly for making money, since commercial companies have to buy commercial licenses. MySql is a great example. Apache is literally giving away its code and still makes money, and that’s really the only group I admire the most, but don’t forget that Apache has a lot of legacy and web servers are not a big deal anymore. Mozilla on the other hand uses a license which doesn’t force people to pay money, and I know that they are suffering. In fact, there is not enough number of people to push a new technology in mozilla. That’s why they are so scared of new technologies coming from Microsoft. Mozilla will remain as it is without significant improvements for years. It took Netscape to compete with Microsoft for years on the browser side, even after mozilla become open source they couldn’t do what Microsoft did in a short period of time. I know few people there. Mozilla developers are so arrogant these days that they will wake up when Longhorn comes. They seem to think that supporting few more css properties or supporting transparency in png or tab browsing are extremely important features which IE team can not do in years. In that sense, the story of Word is a great example why competitors always fail. Mozilla people are still playing dirty and try to exclude Microsoft as if playing with Microsoft will get them some money somehow. I don’t know their exact strategy actually, either they are planning to sue Microsoft for a stupid reason later or that they really do not know what they are doing.

    Slashdot idiots make it look like you are free to steal anything you want from bigger companies, but law is law, and that’s something phunishable. SCO is suing Linux users, because nobody cared about the laws. I don’t know whether SCO is going to win, but clearly SCO might have a case. Only Slashdot idiots do not take it seriously and continuously deny this, but they might really win.

    Overall it looks like internet created an environment where we all believe that everything would be free. That concept is dying, as more and more people realize that open source does not necessarily mean success. Specifically, the maturity of linux as it seen on slashdot is a good sign where this technology is headed. If Linux dies tomorrow, IBM will still survive by selling windows companies.

    My 2 cents, though I am curious as how many Slashdot idiots will reply.

    Ok, here is my on topic related question to Chris. Why do we need OneNote? I have a demo CD here, I have installed it before as a demo, tried it, but I really didn’t get the point. By the way I used it on a laptop, not a tablet pc. It looks cool and so on, but what’s the big deal with the program. You can do lots of stuff on it, but in which cases am I supposed to use it. I hardly take notes on computer, even I do, they are organized in the directories. Searching those documents can be accomplished through Explorer. Tablet PC features are cool, but still you have other means to jot down your ideas on the tablet pc. Recording audio is also not useful if you can’t search it later. I am of course talking about the mass number of people here, some people probably will find the product very useful.

    So maybe I am missing an important point here, but why someone exactly need onenote? Does it really improve productivity significantly, or is it just a software which is appealing but useless in real life? Of course asking the second question to one of the programmers of OneNote is stupid, but I am trying to get the point of OneNote here. 🙂

    Regarding the Office Doc compatibility, I personally favor open standards and formats. Obviously that is in my best interest as a consumer, however I can not force or bash any company to do so. This is asking to google to show how it indexes, so every other company can do the same. Yes, it is not exactly the same, but the bottom line is you are forcing a company to reveal its IP because it is too sucessfull. This problem can be solved in two ways, either you can pass a law that somehow regulates these, or that you can work harder and find a way to solve it exactly, but then it turns out that you have to spend quite a lot of money to be able to do that. So at this point, the Slashdot idiots are crying, but certainly we just can not demand Microsoft to open up its IP.

    In my whole life I didn’t create a big project, most of them were non-serious, until recently I created something that is somewhat serious, cause I spent 2 years on it. The resulting program was not a big invention, but it was something. Only then I realized what does it mean to give away your own code, design, archticture, everything. I know, first hand that creating is hard, working on the code is hard, doing something is freaking hard. So when a slashdot idiot demands that someone has to open up his/her own code I know that he is either not a programmer or that he is pretty much aligned with stallman’s political views. In either case, I strongly object to anybody who forces me to reveal my code. GPL is trying to do exactly this.

  28. Alex says:

    re: Alexandro

    me:

    " OpenOffice from Sun, Mozilla from AOL/Netscape, AbiWord from another company and so on. In each case, it is somehow assumed that if you open source a product, it will be better."

    Alexandro:

    "Well we got Linux, Apache, XUL, and Evolution as well as many other quality software that are superb and has no commercial background."

    Alexandro, I believe you didn’t get what I said. When someone spends time on a project or on a program for so many years and spend so many hours on it, it is not an easy decision to make it free or in fact to distribute the source code or distribute the source code without any limitation. It seems to me that, in your whole life you didn’t create a major project, such as a serious kernel, etc… When you create something like that, you don’t go naturally and say let’s make this open source. It is not easy, and if you have read Linus’s biography and many more interviews by Linus, you would see that it wasn’t an easy decision for Linus, though he is happy about it, rightly so. There are many reasons why someone goes with open source, but one thing that is a big mistake is that to assume that it will be a sure success. Open sourcing a project is always a good thing for the consumer in the short term, since the consumer do not lose anything. However for the long term it will hurt the consumers for sure, since people are not going to develop for free. Developers will end up doing other businesses, priority will shift for developers. That’s very natural, because if you don’t offer money nobody is going to give away their time. Development is not free, somebody has to pay something.

    Now, there is no question that I like all those programs, but Evolution is not a superb system first of all. I would still prefer Exchange and outlook given enough money, only otherwise I would prefer Evolution. Evolution has an exchange connector, and the strategy they are following is that, by offering cheaper clients for the exchange they can gain some customers. If Microsoft was an open source company you wouldn’t have Evolution today. Evolution is making money in companies that are using Exchange but wants to deploy Linux clients. Another way of making money for Evolution is support, but nowadays support is really another way of charging people for the software. Evolution is open source, because giving it away for free does not give you development support from outside of the company. That’s really a way to make money. This is not about open source, stallman and his idiot friends at Slashdot are trying to pose it like that. When you ask Qt guys why they don’t make Qt at windows open source, they tell you they can’t because they are making money out of that market, but when you ask them about Linux, they love it. As you see, this is not about open source, it is about money, and as long as people will make money they will support Linux, when GPL gets all over it, which is impossible but let’s assume that happens, nobody is going to be happy, neither developers nor users. In fact, despite the fact that slashdot idiots are pushing Linux on the desktop, as a user myself I know that Linux on the desktop is still a joke. I love KDE, but that’s because it is different and that I can mess with every component of the OS. But I do not advise any of my friends to use it. Apache has been open source, long before there was Slashdot and this so called "open source" movement. JBoss lawyers visited Apache group, because they thought their own code was leaked into a similiar project in Apache. If you think about it, both of them are open source, so there shouldn’t be a problem, but one is GPL the other one is Apache. Apache is a true open source and it comes from the times where universities were very active in operating system development. GPL, on the other hand, is a way to make money for JBoss. XUL is something, but AOL funded that technology and as you see it is not something that is all over the world. I personally tried to use XUL, talked with Mozilla developers, and what I found is that XUL is not a mature technology. There are still serious bugs, very limited, no IDE, no WYSIWYG editor or anything that you can use as a RAD tool. It is more like Tk, only from Mozilla. But my point was that AOL laid off its employees, kicked them out, pledged only 2 million dollars for a foundation and that foundation rehired only very few of those employees who are laid off. Now, you and I don’t care about what happened there, since we have XUL, but it is AOL’s money who created it. If companies realize that open source do not return anything to them, they will stop pouring in money. That’s where AbiWord is another good example. If Sun goes out of business, OpenOffice will be an another example.

    Remember, I didn’t say open source projects suck, many do in fact, or that open source is evil and such, all I said is that companies who are going with open source do not get something back in return. That is not very good news for you and me, that means less and less people will consider open source. I am also tempted to open source my own project, but what I realized is that, when you give away your IP, there is no turning back.

    However, I would love to have an open source license which would make colloboration easy yet somehow protect the individual developers and compensate their work somehow. Until that license comes in, I don’t think I will make anything open source, except my small projects.

  29. Joku says:

    This gets bit offtopic, but Alex, really, have you ever considered that one (million) might just read and come from slashdot because the value it offers as a place to quickly aggregate all kinds of news interesting to the tech-geek persons? Even many people at msdn blogs say they read it, whether for occasional fun or just the news aggregating effect, I do not know.

  30. On comment you made about things you would like to change sparked a question in my head. Do you guys create "concept user interfaces" like automobile manufacturers come up with "concept cars"? I have always been partial to Interface design and hearing you mention that in a feedback response makes me curious about how many different Interface concepts you might come up with and what they are based on (customer feedback, research, ergonomics, whatever). I am not talking about the difference between XP and 2003, but more extreme conceptual interfaces.

  31. Regarding the difference between WordML and the binary Word format, won’t the WordML format offer much greater possibilities now? It would seem that as long as you didn’t get rid of support for old tags, you could keep creating new tags that the older Word versions would just ignore the newer tags that they don’t understand, much like an HTML document. Is that just a stupid assumption? An since the Word client could open both formats for a few versions, people could take their time to get used to saving old documents to the new format. You could create two different but similar icons for each format so a customer would know by looking that this document is the old Word format and this document is the new WordML (forgive me if this is already the case, I have not created a WordML document yet). Anyway, a batch converter could be created for those customers who needed to upgrade a large number of documents to the new format (again, maybe this isn’t important enough to do if you have a binary Word document viewer).

    Anyway, I guess I don’t really care about keeping the file format the same as long as you don’t completely abandon the old format for a release or two. 🙂

  32. Juan R. says:

    Alex:

    If Microsoft was an open source company you wouldn’t have Evolution today. Evolution is making money in companies that are using Exchange but wants to deploy Linux clients.

    Me:

    Well, you kinda touched the main difference between the OSS movement and commercial entities like Microsoft here: the OSS movement is usually dragging behind the commercial entities, seeking clone software , compatibility and interoperability with proprietary software etc… while it’s the companies like MS that usually push the envelope a bit further. It seems like the OSS movement is affraid to try new, radical ideas because it might alienate their targeted customer base: people looking for cheap or Free alternatives. A company like MS doesn’t need to fear this; they already have the market share, and if they push out new radical ideas, people will naturally embrace them, after bitching about it for a couple of months.

    Take the radical change in user interfacing from Windows 3.x to Windows 95 for example: would Gnome and KDE have come up with the idea of a taskbar at the bottom of the screen with a "start" menu containing all the applications if MS didn’t do it first? I doubt it. Looking at older window managers like WinMaker, AfterStep etc… you see that the "old" way of doing things was have some buttonbar at the righthand side of the screen where one could aggregate a couple of often used apps, much like the quicklaunch icons in Windows 9x. If MS didn’t pour a lot of R&D into it and came up with this novel idea of one start button with a complete menu of applications under it as an alternative to their old UI, I doubt we’d be using that kind of interface today.

    Maybe that fear of innovation is unfunded, maybe it isn’t. Right now Linux doesn’t have the market share necessary to push out radically new user interaction ideas IMHO; yes, they try to use a couple of new ideas left and right, but if the UI would be something radically different from what people have come to expect from computer interfacing, not many people would use it. Enlightenment is a good example of this: it has no start menu or taskbar whatsoever, starting an application envolves clicking on the desktop which calls up a menu, and navigating through that. How many people will arrange their windows in such a way that part of the desktop is always visible? I for one don’t; I don’t mind sacrificing some screen real-estate to a taskbar and start menu, but apart from that my applications are always maximised (except for the small to tiny ones and file browsers). Hence I use Enlightenment, but only as the window manager used by Gnome which provides me with the rest of the stuff I need.

    Anyway, the bottom line of what I’m trying to convey is this: OSS is always reacting to the current state of the industry, while corporations like MS are the ones shaping it. Doesn’t necessarily mean OSS is bad per se, but OSS in my view needs commercial entities in order to profile itself against.

    It would be interresting to see what the industry would look like now, if proprietary software would never have existed, if all software would have remained open source like back in the days RMS so fondly seems to remember. Would it have progressed at an accellerated rate compared to now due to the exchange of ideas, or would the progress have stalled because there was no drive to beat your opponent since you could just as well borrow his code, hence hardly anybody would be compelled to innovate and let others reap the fruits of their labour? Too bad we don’t have the technology to investigate different timelines…

  33. Juan R. says:

    Little footnote regarding my previous comment: although usually OSS borrows ideas from proprietary software, it sometimes also works the other way around. I’ve seen parts of Windows become more and more UNIX like, especially the WinXP bootup sequence and recovery shell.

    And sometimes you even see great ideas in OSS which are still not implemented in proprietary software; one thing I really miss in MS Windows for example is multiple desktops. It still needs third party software like nVidia’s nView desktop manager to be able to arrange your applications on different dekstops in WinXP; I sure as hell wouldn’t mind if MS would borrow this idea from the opensource community in order to improve their own product. It still puzzles me why after so many years of using multiple desktops in Linux, Windows still doesn’t offer me such a feature. The stuff in Stardock’s ObjectDesktop should IMHO just be standard part of the native Windows UI, rather than a third party addon.

  34. Alex says:

    Juan R.:

    I disagree with you on your observation that KDE and Gnome are trying to avoid making radical changes. On the contrary, they are more free to do that, because they have less market share. If you have read Chris’s story about the word history you would see that, when you have the market share you should avoid making dramatic changes. Your whole argument is actually against the current facts.

    KDE and Gnome are reacting most of the time, because there is not enough number of developers out there. People assume that these projects have enough man power to do anything they want. No, they don’t have that. They don’t have the resources, and in some cases most of the developers are not as good as you would like them to be. There is no barrier into entering these projects, except the time you need to spend. So, the real reason why these projects are not serious is mostly related with manpower. That’s why you need investors, companies to invest in these open source technologies. For some companies, it is way to recruit developers, for some others it is a way to undercut competition, and yet for some others it was a way to make money, but they couldn’t.

    Joku:

    You sound like a slashdot idiot, sorry if it is offending, but that’s how your logic sounds. Nobody said you are not supposed to visit slashdot, I am also reading it. However, if you didn’t detect some bullshit going on slashdot, then I am sorry for you. You should really go ahead and read some serious web content. Slashdot become popular because once it was a nice geek news site, but more and more it become a site which is basing its whole business on microsoft bashing. As soon as a competitor with real content emerges, see what happens to slashdot. Sooner or later microsoft bashing will be unpopular, and those who profit from it will be hurt the most. Since you are believing in slashdot, you are totally off the real world. As soon as people realize that Slashdot is mostly a bunch of losers with lots of free time, you will see how unpopular it become. So I don’t see how you can defend Slashdot in anyway, except if you believe in everything written there as a slashdot idiot.

  35. Juan R. says:

    Alex: I see your point, and don’t disagree with it totally, but it depends on your POV. I was concentrating more on the business users of OSS, while you seem to have the hobbyist in mind. The hobbyist will try out new stuff just for the fun of it, but some people don’t think like the geek tinkerer and just want to get the job done without too much hassle. If OSS wants to be a viable alternative to commercial software for these users, it’s in their best interest not to alienate them by experimenting with the UI concepts, and just stick to the way others like MS or Apple etc… did it before.

  36. Betalogue says:

    In his fourth post on Word’s development process, MS program manager Chris Pratley says the following:

    A couple of people have asked about the permanence of electronic information and access to

  37. Samuel Audet says:

    Hello,

    About the PDF format, here is the specs doc:

    http://partners.adobe.com/asn/acrobat/sdk/public/docs/PDFReference15_v6.pdf

    Check section 1.4… it might be "copyrighted", "patented", and whatever, but it looks to me to be same thing as Java: keep control over the standard, but at least let everyone get the impression that you want to work with them.

    Can you point me to anything similar at Microsoft’s for the Word format or WordML format?

    Let’s see… Office 2003 XML reference version 2

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=FE118952-3547-420A-A412-00A2662442D9&displaylang=en

    Released April 15, how convenient. Available only in an EXE decompressing to .DOC and .CHM… not so convenient. Do we see any kind of intention from Microsoft that they want to share this information? Hum, nothing! The only thing they say is (among other things)

    "Microsoft may have patents, patent applications, trademarks, copyrights or other

    intellectual property rights covering subject matter in this document. Except as expressly provided in any written license agreement from Microsoft, the furnishing of this document does not give you any license to these patents, trademarks, copyrights or other intellectual property."

    Wow, if I were Corel, I would really want to implement WordML in my Word Processor, NOT!

    Also, why isn’t WordML available in the "normal user" version? For 95% of the population, it means they still have no choice over which format they can use: .doc. In OpenOffice, we can for example, at least save it in .pdf.

  38. Samuel: Désolée, but as I mentioned earlier, the Word fomat documentation is available on request to partners, gov’ts, institutions, etc to ensure good interoperability with Word content, and to alleviate concerns that the format will not be understandable in the future. We choose not to make it public – our prerogative.

    Re WordML on the other hand, we have a program to support people using the WordProcessingML schemas, as well as SpreadSheetML, etc. If the fact that the files come in an self-extracting exe for ease of use on the Windows platform distresses you, you can access the documentation from other, non-Microsoft sources as well (e.g the Danish gov’t: http://rep.oio.dk/Microsoft.com/officeschemas/welcome.htm) and this is in a format you can read in your browser.

    I wouldn’t second guess Corel’s intentions – I can imagine several reasons why they might want to license the patents for converting WordML into word processing data structures.

    WordML is available in all versions of Word2003. Please check your facts. You’re probably referring to the additional support for customer defined schema embedded in documents that is in the "Pro" version of Word (about 65% of the user base. I am not sure how you arrived at 5% – that is quite wrong). Since you are comparing products, this additional XML support for customer-defined schemas is in fact not an option in OOo, although feel free to use Adobe’s PDF format instead :-).

    FWIW, Word has four full roundtrip formats: RTF, HTML, XML, DOC. RTF and XML are fully documented and available. For XML, we also released a transform from WordML to HTML that any HTML viewer can use that supports XSLT, and also an IE add-in that uses that transform to show WordML docs in the browser. With this, a WordML doc can be viewed anywhere, to the extent that a browser can support word processing capabilities and XSLT. The HTML styles that Office defines for roundtrip purposes you can more or less figure out by looking at them (despite all the rhetoric), and DOC format documentation is available on a limited basis as I mentioned.

  39. Kevin Jordan says:

    Sorry Alex, but Joku’s right.

    Some people do go there for the aggregational value. I’ve very nearly unsubscribed myself several times to escape the extra email/day it sends me (without the email I’d probably forget to check Slashdot); sorting throught the junk (be it inane jokes, extreme freedom fighters, paranoid software users, etc.) isn’t easy, either. Whenever I get to this point, I remember one +5 Funny post I saw (but unfortunately didn’t bookmark – it would have been an excellent post to save) that glibly suggested that an apparently naive parent poster browsed at +5. I browse at +5; it’s really a great filter for the informational. There’s still propagandist junk I have to filter, but there’s also enough of interest to keep me coming back.

    For Slashdot Linux may be God, but don’t forget that there’s still a place in it for directed sound, martian rovers, and gigantic model train sets with hours of viewing intricacies.

    >The idea that I would need "permission" to

    >have a blog is a little humorous to me.

    >Microsoft has always had as one of its

    >strengths that it gives enormous freedom to

    >its employees. We don’t have time cards, no

    >one tracks our hours, and in general we are

    >given a lot of responsibility. As long as we

    >deliver results, it doesn’t matter if you come

    >in at 2pm and don’t wear shoes (both of which

    >I do occasionally, although less often than I

    >used to).

    As for your freedom to post, forgive me for posting links to blog posts from another one-time Microsoft worker:

    http://www.michaelhanscom.com/eclecticism/2003/10/even_microsoft_.html

    http://www.michaelhanscom.com/eclecticism/2003/10/of_blogging_and.html

  40. Kevin Jordan says:

    Whenever I get to this point, I remember one +5

    >Funny post I saw (but unfortunately didn’t

    >bookmark – it would have been an excellent post

    >to save) that glibly suggested that an

    >apparently naive parent poster browsed at +5.

    Aha!

    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=101500&cid=8650805

    Via Google query for "slashdot browses +at 5" (no quotes in actual query).

  41. Decker_DK says:

    Ryan:

    Don’t even get me started on formatting issues. I spent more time fighting Word to get the formatting I desired or needed that I would ever like to admit. Maybe I am too used to latex now to handle word. Admittedly, I am in the minority who enjoys "coding" a document. While you get what you see in Word, I get what I type (and want) in latex.

    Me:

    Thank you Ryan – I can see I’m not the only one who has that "problem". I too get so frustrated, when Word does that non-intuitive "formatting", that my work-collegues thinks I’m getting a heart-attack, as I growl loudly at the monitor.

    I constantly revert back to Notepad or similary (better) text-editors, so I can get my work done, and forget all about layout and formatting – even though it would have made the result better looking.

    Maybe I should check out that LaTeX stuff…

  42. Henk Devos says:

    Some of the comments i read here seem to indicate that there are quite some misunderstandings about the PDF format.

    It is true that the format is documented as pointed out. You can download the full specifications for free.

    It is not true that PDF is a closed format, with specs written by Adobe and that’s all. In reality PDF is extensible, and there are several companies that have defined their own extensions. There is for example PDF/X and Certified PDF.

    One very strange thing about the PDF format is that while it is documented, some details are kept secret. This is the case for example for the formulas used to calculate PDF 1.4 blend modes: All you can do is guess how Adobe is doing it. This is a very bad thing. PDF is now becoming the standard for document exchange and print (much like PostScript has always been, but also for other areas than where PostScript has always been used). If there is no definite interpretation of certain features that everyone agrees on, this can be a serious problem. When printing a document you could get completely different results than intended.

  43. Samuel Audet says:

    Thank you for taking the time to reply Chris! I really appreciate it.

    Hum, ok yes WordML format is available in all Office 2004 Editions as pointed out on Microsoft’s Web site. My bad. Interesting, thanks for pointing this out.

    As for the "95%", it’s just another way of saying "almost everybody", in French/Quebecois anyway.

    65%… that’s an interesting number. Does it take into account legally licensed copies? Or pirated copies also? Also, I’m more interested in knowing how many organizations are using (actually, buying) Office Pro vs something else actually. Like, if IBM buys 100000 copies, that would count as one in my head, as of course, the whole company needs to communicate documents to each other, and since there is no way to exchange documents between Microsoft Office and something else, well.

    As for Microsoft Word supporting so many formats, hum well, let’s go over them:

    RTF: I haven’t seen any word processor or anything other than Word that actually gets the formatting correctly. I would assimilate it to the .DOC format.

    HTML: Hum well, as you have said, the format is rather limited, and unless we accept to lose some formatting, I don’t see the point of saving a document into a bunch of non-standard tags stuck into an HTML body.

    XML: Oh yes, I would like to know if Microsoft is backing companies to help them implement XML solutions. All I see on Microsoft’s Web site is a bunch of "you can do this", "you can do that", "will allow you to", "eases bad hair days", etc. But nothing like "We want to help companies standardize on the WordML format and help them blahblah", or something like that.

    It’s this displeasing snobbish taste of "I don’t care about anybody" I get from Microsoft that I REALLY don’t like. You are writing about the most sensible stuff I have ever read coming out of Microsoft. You know, in Japan, people don’t really care so much about contracts, licenses or whatever. They believe in trust, and Microsoft ain’t it.

  44. Samuel, 65% is the percentage of Pro in the user base of legal copies, which includes corporate users. I am not sure why you would treat a company that has 100,000 users of Office Pro as a single user.

    RTF: RTF is actually used a lot more than you might think – not so much as a word processor document format as a way to carry formatting on text blobs. Many vertical market applications use it as the way to pass formatted text around and between applications. For kicks, try copying text out of any app that uses formatted text, and then check the clipboard to see if RTF is available – it is more common for this use than HTML actually. There are also several small-audience text processors that use RTF (e.g. for movie scripts). When they open a Word doc saved as RTF, naturally they can’t display many parts of the Word document – this is more a function of their lack of features relative to Word than it is difficulty with RTF.

    HTML: the point of using CSS to roundtrip word processing capabilities not supported in HTML was to make it possible to use a format for documents that could be viewed in any browser to amke the information more accessible.

    XML: there is actually quite a lot of info on how to support XML in Word. Check some of these out:

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/office/understanding/xmloffice/tools/default.aspx

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/office/understanding/xmloffice/articles/default.aspx?pull=/library/en-us/dnofftalk/html/odc_office01012004.asp”>http://msdn.microsoft.com/office/understanding/xmloffice/articles/default.aspx?pull=/library/en-us/dnofftalk/html/odc_office01012004.asp

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/office/understanding/xmloffice/articles/default.aspx

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/office/understanding/word/articles/default.aspx

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/office/understanding/word/articles/default.aspx?pull=/library/en-us/dno2k3ta/html/odc_of_wordxmschemas.asp

    http://www.microsoft.com/office/xml/default.mspx

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=a56446b0-2c64-4723-b282-8859c8120db6&displaylang=en

    If I am showing this snobbishness you mention, please let me know (with examples) so I can either explain or modify my writing style. Thanks. A bientôt.

  45. BTW, a good blog to read if you are interested in building on Word’s XML support is John Durant’s: http://blogs.msdn.com/johnrdurant

  46. Samuel Audet says:

    Hello,

    Sorry for not replying sooner.

    No, Chris, don’t worry, you’re not exhibiting any snobbishness. 🙂 I’m talking about Microsoft in general. (Of course, I do see a few weaknesses in your arguments as you don’t seem to be eager to find answers to my questions such as: Are pirated copies counted in the number of copies "used" by people? … )

    Yes RTF was a nice hack to exchange information before XML came along… Let’s put it out of its misery. 🙂

    CSS is nice, but not a way to actually store word processing or spreadsheet information.

    Looking at all those pages on Word’s XML support, I still don’t get the feeling that Microsoft wants to help anybody. They just gave us XML support because too many people were crying for it. It’s the same as Internet Explorer really. At the moment, Internet Explorer does not have many contenders, not a lot of people are complaning, thus Microsoft does nothing to fix their browser. So they can concentrate on XAML and whatever plan to force out of the Web any non-XAML browsers… (yes I admit, I am pretty paranoid of Microsoft, but all good and bad things have an end. I’m starting to stop worrying about it.)

    Heeey, look at this, Microsoft is even admitting they mainly (? my guess) added XML support because of complaints from their customers. It doesn’t actually care about innovating unless 1. customers complain 2. the innovation can leverage its monopoly:

    "With the announcement regarding the open and royalty-free licensing of the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas, we are addressing a concern that our customers expressed: too often business-critical information ends up locked inside data storage systems or individual documents, forcing companies to adopt inefficient and duplicative business processes."

    http://www.microsoft.com/office/xml/letter.mspx

  47. Hi Samuel,

    Actually, I am trying my best to answer your questions. Above, I wrote "65% is the percentage of Pro in the user base of legal copies". "legal copies" does not include pirated copies, which we can’t track directly of course. If pirates generally take the Pro version, then the percentage would be even higher.

    How exactly would you propose to put RTF "out of its misery"? It is used all over the place and relied on by many other companies. We have to keep supporting it even if we didn’t want to. RTF has a place too – as you say, HTML is inadequate to carry the kind of information word processors need, so RTF fills that role pretty nicely, since it was designed for that purpose.

    Regarding XML support, when you say that "Microsoft [doesn’t] want to help anybody", you are actually referring to me and my colleagues. I can assure you that we added our XML support because we felt it would be valuable to our customers – it would help them. I would *not* say that a large number of customers were complaining about the lack of XML support although some were, that is true. Largely they did not know what XML is, and are just finding out now.

    Bear in mind that my job actually consists not only of responding to complaints or user requests, but also understanding what future technical needs our customers will have (often before they know it or understand the technology themselves) and building the product to meet those future needs. If we waited until a significant portion of our customers knew well enough what they wanted that they could ask us for it, it would then take 2-3 years for us to respond from that point with a new product – way too late for them and even later for those customers that are ahead of the curve. Instead, we have the situation we are in today where many customers are pleasantly surprised that we thought about their needs and built in the kind of XML support we have that allows them to hook Word into their business processes.

    The point of your last two paragraphs eludes me to some extent. You seem to be criticizing the company for listening to its customers. The section you quoted is simply relating a fact – some customers have a concern that too much of their corporate info is stuck on their desktops – so we are trying to help; not just with file formats, but also portal software, search technologies, etc. Are you sure you are not falling into the trap of simply criticizing whatever the company does?

  48. parl says:

    No Response to the formatting issues posted twice now? I have the same frustrations. I use wordperfect simply because it lets me view the code and control the format. Word presents my worst fears… understanding that something works one way and then does something completely different with no way of knowing why. Please respond! I would love to start using Word if it didn’t freak me out so much.

    Here’s the latest for me. I spent an hour setting up all my styles just the way I want them, including a very nice table style. Now every time I apply a table style, then try to apply a Paragraph style to any text after the first row of text, it takes all the text, creates a new table and puts it into a text box for me. How nice, yet how completely sick and wrong!!!!

  49. Parl, did you have a specific question? if you’re talking about reveal codes, see the third paragraph in the previous post: http://weblogs.asp.net/chris_pratley/archive/2004/04/28/122374.aspx

    For your bug on table styles, I tried the steps you describe and could not reproduce it. The text accepted the paragraph style just fine. Can you send me the document, or post it somewhere? (BTW, from your description it sort of sounds like rather than applying a paragraph style, you applied a new table to the paragraph, forcing Word to create a nested table – is that by any chance what you did?)

  50. Sam Smith says:

    You shouldn’t take anything posted on the internet to heart. There are a lot of people out there who love the ability to flame anonymously and will do so inevitably. Nothing can be done about it except to try and ignore them.