Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Software Google Open Source

Andy Wolber Explores Online Word Processors' ODF Support 70

TechCurmudgeon writes with a look at how well Google Docs and Microsoft Word Online are at dealing with documents that start (or are exported) in Open Document Format. Does using proprietary document formats make any more sense than buying a coffee maker that uses only one type of coffee, or an ebook you can only read on one device, or a nail that you can only hit with one type of hammer? Why do we use document formats that lock us into only one specific piece of software? Why are we limiting ourselves to only one type of tool? "Control of a format or distribution channel can make it harder to use a competitive solution. That's one problem of proprietary formats: a switch costs you time and/or money. You don't want to buy a new coffee maker to try different coffee, a new e-reader to read a different book, or new software to edit a new document. Open formats or distribution channels make it easier for people to choose a different solution. ... Fortunately, Google re-enabled support for ODF in December 2014. That means you can leverage the collaborative capabilities of Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, then export your completed work to a file in an open, non-proprietary format." Spoiler alert: On balance, both Google Docs and Word Online handle ODT files reasonably well.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Andy Wolber Explores Online Word Processors' ODF Support

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    How many of you own Keurig machines?

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by Guspaz ( 556486 )

      Proprietary formats can't be universally judged as good or bad. There are plenty of counter-examples in both directions. For example, the lack of DRM in the Atari 2600 killed the videogame industry by allowing a huge flood of low quality games to flood the market, and the presence of DRM in the NES revived it by allowing Nintendo to act as a gatekeeper to stop that from happening.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Replying anonymously to preserve moderation of the parent.

        That story is an industry bromide, but it seems at best incomplete. The PC game industry and mobile game industrys are both alive and will despite having considerably more products/consumer than the console market ever did. That is despite having much lower barriers to entry. Flappy bird, or goat simulator anyone ?

        • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

          While true, a good chunk of the PC market and all of the mobile market is going through DRM protected solutions such as Steam.

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          Which mobile platform were you referring to? iOS has lockout, Nintendo 3DS has lockout, and PlayStation Vita has lockout.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Proprietary formats can't be universally judged as good or bad. There are plenty of counter-examples in both directions. For example, the lack of DRM in the Atari 2600 killed the videogame industry by allowing a huge flood of low quality games to flood the market, and the presence of DRM in the NES revived it by allowing Nintendo to act as a gatekeeper to stop that from happening.

        Or take something like Apple's Lightning port. It was non-standard since everyone else used micro USB, yet it improved on the USB

        • USB is CPU intensive because it makes devices cheap to make, as they dont need any processing power themselves - which is why it undercut FireWire, even tho FW was arguably the better of the two.

      • Re:Coffee?... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT com> on Saturday January 17, 2015 @05:12AM (#48837637) Homepage

        The PC platform also lacked any form of DRM, and is flooded with all manner of software much of which is either low quality or in many cases downright malicious, and yet the platform is very successful.

        A lack of DRM or other stupid platform restrictions is overall a good thing, albeit with some side effects.

        • The PC platform also lacked any form of DRM, and is flooded with all manner of software much of which is either low quality or in many cases downright malicious, and yet the platform is very successful.

          How many households in USA and Canada have a game console near the TV (or a TV-sized monitor)? How many have a gaming PC near the TV (or a TV-sized monitor)? I'm under the impression that gaming PCs tend to be confined to desks, with the differences in genre selection that that entails.

    • I was given one, and I use the plastic reuseable adapters. When it dies I will go back to making coffee in a drip maker. I'm not buying a DRM one. But I sure do like the speed.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    any more sense than buying a coffee maker that uses only one type of coffee

    For most of 2014 Keurig was the #1 stock in the S&P 500, kicking Apple's and Google's butts, based wholly on people making a choice to buy a coffee maker that uses only one type (K cups) of coffee. http://alphanow.thomsonreuters.com/2014/11/keurigs-little-coffee-k-cups-brew-big-profits/ [thomsonreuters.com]

    Slashdot has searched for years for the identity of Bad Analogy Guy and it seems Mr. Wolber has finally unmasked himself.

    • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

      I prefer Tassimo :P

    • Aeropress has no such DRM issues, and my friend who has one raves about it. I plan to buy one. It is simple, cheap, and comes from the folks who gave us the Aerobie!

      http://www.aeropress.com/ [aeropress.com]

    • So is all this 2014 profitability coming after their stupid DRM-laden 2.0 coffeemakers?

      I guess this just again proves H.L. Mencken's adage: "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people."

    • by mspohr ( 589790 )

      I had a Keurig but got tired of buying expensive coffee that was ground and packaged months (years?) earlier... especially once they started raising the prices of the pods. I gave the machine away and replaced it with a good coffee grinder, an AeroPress (and a nice pump espresso machine)... much better coffee and much cheaper. The AeroPress is just as fast (if somewhat messier) than the pod machine.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't know if this is still the case but I switched from Excel when Excel wouldn't open ODF but Open Office *would* open Excel. I was getting ODF sheets in from people, and it simply made no sense at that point having Excel. Seeing the ribbon interface that came later, I'm very happy with my decision.

    I actually wonder why anyone pays for the Office Suite now. It isn't often that we actually use a wordprocessor now, its all done online, the spreadsheet in OO is excellent, and the salesmen are trying AndrOp

    • It isn't often that we actually use a wordprocessor now, its all done online...

      Who exactly is this "we"?

    • I actually wonder why anyone pays for the Office Suite now

      One word: styling. In a corporate environment that needs to 1) allow mostly untrained office workers to share, cut and remix content and 2) stage it with corporate branding of tolerable quality, MS Office is still the easiest software stack to set up.

      There are other platforms for technical writing that are more flexible and provide better, more professional results, but they're a nightmare to mount from scratch, and require a good deal of training. M

  • by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Saturday January 17, 2015 @01:17AM (#48836995)

    The spoiler alter tells us both Google docs and MS Word Online "handle ODT files reasonably well".

    Unfortunately the test is done in very simple files, and we all know that as document grow bigger and more complex, the ability to reasonably well transfer them from one software to another vanishes. But this should not be a surprise considering MS Word itself is unable to cope with big .doc files and will corrupt them at some time.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Agreed, this test is pretty meaningless. It transferred one simple document, and even that did not work properly.

      Try a long report with change tracking, references, floating pictures, equations and Excel graph objects - see how much time you have to spend to fix it, and then wonder whether you want to do that every time that you get a document from a collaborator.

      • I've even seen such complex documents munged in Word. Modern word processors really do suck at large complex documents, which is why there is Latex.

    • But this should not be a surprise considering MS Word itself is unable to cope with big .doc files and will corrupt them at some time.

      Forget about corrupting large .doc files in MS Word. MS Word will display incorrectly even simple .doc and .docx files that were created on machines with _different print drivers installed_. This is due to Word (and Powerpoint, but not Excel) being designed to create documents for printing, even if that is not their primary use case today (Powerpoint animations don't print very well).

      If you want a document for others to _read_, use PDF. If you want a document for others to _edit_, use whatever they use.

      • Using the same editor as the other person doesn't always help. As you pointed out, just using a different printer will give you a file that renders differently on two systems.

        The whole layout model used by Word and OpenOffice is fundamentally broken. You can either allow people to place text and graphics at fixed locations on the page, or you can be compatible with multiple printers. It's impossible to do both at once. Printers do not even have identical models for what's considered the printable part o

    • by endoboy ( 560088 )

      "reasonably well", which translates to "OK, as long as the files are simple and you don't care what they look like"

  • Great win for ODT (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I stopped using Microsoft Office in 1998 and never looked back. Glad to see an open format becoming a real contender. Would it be crazy to wish that everyone could just use .txt files for most everything and end this word processor madness? I wonder what percentage of documents were written with unnecessary markup that could have just been a plain text / markdown had there been an accessible and widely recognized WYSIWYG word processor that wrote natively to markdown?

    • I stopped using Microsoft Office in 1998 and never looked back. Would it be crazy to wish that everyone could just use .txt files for most everything and end this word processor madness?

      I'll take it as given that clerical work in the broadest sense is not a significant part of your job.

  • I notice that it's been a while since I've worried about document formats. I'm not so vain as to need features not supported in Rich Text Format, so for 20 years I've been sending people .rtf files out of compatibility politeness. Once, when I explained all this to someone, the response I got was something like "Dude, these days, everyone can open basically everything." And there's something right about that. In the old days I worried about formats forcing MS Office lock-in, but nowadays it's hard to get me
  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Saturday January 17, 2015 @05:11AM (#48837629)

    WTF is the point of an online word processor?

    Every smartphone has enough CPU power and memory to run a WP onboard, the only thing they haven't got is a big enough display and a keyboard, and having thte program online isn't going to fix that.

    Maybe there is a point in having your document stored in 'the cloud' (unless you want privacy)

    • Primary implicit shared edit by multiple people, and access from any computer without having to install any software.

    • I wouldn't put SENSITIVE documents in the cloud. That said:

      >Every smartphone has enough CPU power and memory to run a WP in Chrome

      FTFY

      or:

      >Every smartphone has enough CPU power and memory to run an extremely basic WP, without change tracking or any other post-189 features

      > Maybe there is a point in having your document stored in 'the cloud'

      I first used Google Docs for collaborative editing. Another person and I were both making little edits to the document, sometimes I'd edit it one day and he'd ed

      • Every smartphone has more than enough power to run a word processor on the device. I was running word processors with scalable fonts and outline printing on my 7.something MHz Amiga with 512kB RAM and 880k of storage. Yes, they have to do substantially more today, but luckily smartphones are literally many orders of magnitude more powerful than was that computer.

    • by bazorg ( 911295 )

      There more than one reason behind this:

      1) everything that is online only has a potential to earn a rent at some point.
      2) cloud providers are better at keeping data backed up than the typical home user
      3) advertising revenue for provider.
      4) some features like the aforementioned teamwork do work well if applications and shared data are centrally hosted
      5) new features can be added and tested with minimal effort.
      6) customer retention. Even if there are no ugly tricks to prevent paying users from leaving, having

    • The editors are barely online anymore. Most of the work is happening in your local browser, driven by Javascript code. Some people have even started breaking those layers completely apart to where you don't need the remote component at all, like the Atom editor. [atom.io]

      The main benefit of using a browser hosted editor is that you don't have to install (and maintain, and update, etc.) a dedicated editor/word processor. You just go to the possibly local web page that the editor is hosted at.

      When you store your doc

  • by oever ( 233119 ) on Saturday January 17, 2015 @06:45AM (#48837805) Homepage

    Why load a document only to have it mangled by converting it to the internal format of some online text editor?

    When loading a document, any document, that you want to edit and then save back, there should be no conversion whatsoever. The question of how good support for ODF is, should not be 'how badly does it mangle my documents?'. It should be a given that the document is *not* mangled. The question on how good the support for ODF, or any file format, is, should be: 'what types of edits can this program make on this file format.'

    For decades, we're accepting that documents editors save back a file that, on the binary level, is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the original file. How weird this leniency towards document editors is, becomes apparent when looking at at how computer programmers work with documents. Computer programmers always use plain text files for everything. When the text editors they use saves their documents with tabs instead of spaces, or utf16 instead of utf8, they get quite irate and will abandon that text editor forever. Why do normal users not get angry at document editors that mangle their documents?

    So instead of choosing these horrible black box online text editors, I advise you to use something like WebODF. This ODF editor, which is purely client-side javascript, can run on your private site and saves your ODF back as it found it with changes only in the places where you edited the document.

  • "LyX is for people who want their writing to look great, right out of the box. No more endless tinkering with formatting details, “finger painting” font attributes or futzing around with page boundaries." ref [lyx.org]
  • I had been using Google docs for school papers because it let me edit them both on school computers and at home and was good enough. I stopped using it when I started using Libre Office for most things and found I apparently could not load documents created in in Libre Office into Google, no matter what format I saved them into. They would load and allow viewing, but would not allow editing. I assumed this was just Google's way of avoiding problems with MIcrosoft that it didn't see any point in fighting ove

"It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God but to create him." -Arthur C. Clarke

Working...