Re: Gnome Office summary from the Gnome Summit.

On Thu, Jul 25, 2002 at 11:57:04AM +1000, Martin Sevior wrote:
> Hi everyone,
> 	   Here are my notes fromt the Gnome Office session of the Gnome
> summit in plain text form. Since many of the people involved in these
> projects could not make it to the summit I thought it was important
> to write everything up. I think the the number one thing Gnome Office
> needs right now is a person committed to working and advocating
> integration between the various projects.
> Now that the Gnome 2 platform has been delivered maybe some people who
> have been concentrating on "platform issues" might like to look at these
> "integration issues". We came up with many ideas of how we can do better
> than the competition by integrating these large applications right into
> the desktop environment.

I must beg and plead that GNOME Office developers take a look at Apple's Lisa.
The Lisa, although from a more primitive time, was far more integrated - 
among the office apps and with the system - than MS Office.

This page sums it up:

Another good page is:

Remember, this was done in mid-1980s; it should be child's play now for
people willing to give it a try and not be distracted by isolated whiz-bangery.

The next closest system was OS/2 2.0 and later versions. It lacked polish,
but had excellent DnD capabilities as well as a template system. It was
based on CORBA (or a precursor, SOM, which is the basis of OpenDoc), just
like GNOME. Windows98 and later versions are very much and emasculated OS/2
with a bit more polish. The emasculation was the full split between the
office apps and the desktop; there's more money to be made that way.

It shouldn't be hard to do. Given motivation, a year, an office and some
cooperation from app developers, I could probably pull it together myself;
that's far from bragging - that's how easy it can be.

Please, please, please aim higher than MS Office.

Some fairly random comments follow. (With URLs, please see.)
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Notes from the discussion at the GNOME Office Workshop.
> By years end Evolution/AbiWord/Gnumeric will be serious competition for
> MS Office in features, be at least as nice to use, and of course be fully
> integrated into the GNOME environment.

I wouldn't say "of course...". The full integration has suffered so much
for the sake of theme-whiz-bangery across all of the GUI free software.
(Free CLI tools show remarkable integration by comparison.) The integration
is the hardest part for free software; I'd even suggest a "feature freeze"
until integration is done.

> _Status of GNOME-Office Applications_
> _AbiWord _
> New features: Tables, Footnotes, EndNotes, Revision Marks, Auto Font
> configuration/detection, Anti-aliasing, Hidden text, Document properties,
> Import/Export filter improvements, Bonobo container for embeddable
> objects. Gtk 2/Gnome port, Maybe "plumbing plugin" to do useful things
> with interesting text strings (UPS slips, email addresses, Instant
> messenger addresses). - beta in a couple of months, Stable release by
> December.

GEdit recently "hid" it's plugin system. The hiding doesn't look complete
to me, but when done I think GEdit will be far better for it. I haven't
tried Abi in a while, but the new treatment of plugins in GEdit may be a
good example for it. (I seem to recall that Abi is more like what GEdit is
becoming in this regard, but I'm not sure so I point it out.)

> _MrProject _
>         ??

Heh. There's a great article by Alan Cooper which might be a source of idea
for integration between MrProject, Evolution, and others:

> _GAIM_
> Separate library backend from Front End. Make it usable from any apps
> that want Instant Messenger - maybe via a "pumbing" style infrastructure.

Please don't forget Gabber. Like much of GNOME, the Jabber protocol is XML
based and open and free. It integrates the other IM protocols and should
make for a great native IM protocol. See again the Cooper article.

> _Agnubis_
>         ??

With Multi-head Gtk and Keith Packard's RandR X extention, Agnubis is sure
to send PowerPoint to the underworld expressly. :-)

> _Gnome-db_
> ??

Mmmmm, Nautilus integration. Please see:

> _GtkMathView_
> ??

As a physics student, I hope GNOME Office will lick LyX. ;-)
(Or maybe the GNOME UI of LyX will also be considered? It seems stagnant
though. TeXmacs is cool for it's CAS integration, LyX's WYSIWY_M_ is far
more appealing to me.)

> All the Gnome Office applications are large programs. We all have lots of
> work to do to make our own applications as good as they can be. However
> we also realize that each project gains from using features from other
> projects. We also all gain from a common look and feel from an integrated
> look among our projects. So we want to find ways to integrate these
> projects to make them easily usable and develop synergy between them.

Yes! Yes! Yes! (Except you said "synergy" ;-)

> Apart from anything else these helps in "Marketing" . Users now expect
> Office Suites to have these integrated features.

Users' expectation are low compared to what they could have; consider, e.g.,
that most expect crashes.

> Some suggestions for integration.
> * Have a gnome-office panel?shell? to launch these applications.

Make the office the desktop environment. A good template system goes 
a long way here. See OS/2, or the Stationary Pad from Lisa on a Mac - if
you can find one where that works. :-/

Another thing that OS/2 had is "Work Areas". A user could check a box
on a folder's properties and the folder would become a work area.
Opening the work area folder would restore a state; any document which was
open when the folder closed would be reopened along with reopening the folder.
This folder property was used as the "session manager" of OS/2; the desktop
was a work area.

To push this kind of integration further, we could have another flag for
folders - a "Desktop" flag. This would allow any folder to be the Nautilus
desktop and could be the primary, if not the only, interface to creating
workspaces. This would be less confusing for those coming from 1 workspace
environments such as Windows and the Mac, while providing a more powerful
version of a workspace for others. I'd probably make a Bookmarks folder
that opened a workspace for all my browsing needs; the desktop icons
would be the bookmark subfolders and top-level bookmarks.

> * Copy and paste (maintaining formatting) easily from application to
>   application. (Concensus was to use (X)Html to X clipboard?)

Remember you can tranfer any kind of data as long as both programs agree. :-)

> * Some wizards to whip up useful applications from users.
>   (eg Form letters, envolope printing)

Templates! (See above.)

> _Some Action Items._

> * Work towards cohert dialogs - Gnome 2 UI guidelines.
> * Look through the UI guidelines to evaluate our interfaces.

HIG development has been very slow. :-(
(Maybe I'll do it again.)

> * Menu label/orders

When I drafted the menu section of the HIG, I looked at all the GNOME Office
apps I could get from Debian. Following that part should be easy because
it is largely based on what you already have. :-)

Cheers and with great hope,
Greg Merchan

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