Archive for the ‘OpenOffice’ Category

Best/Favourite Excel version

Thursday, 11th December, 2008

Which is your favourite Excel version and why. Include all the factors you feel are important.

For me its 2003 no question. Its much more stable than previous versions. Has all the features of a proper spreadsheet (proper UI for example).

I’ve seen all kinds of mess with previous versions, but my 2003 install has been rock solid, no matter how dumb I’ve been. It is possible to crash, but it recovers more cleanly than previous versions.

If your favourite spreadsheet app is not Excel, which is it and why?

I have been meaning to try Lotus and Quattro pro for ages, but just never seem to get around to it.

In fact here are my top 5 spreadsheets in order:

  1. Excel 2003
  2. Gnumeric
  3. OpenOffice Calc
  4. Excel 95 (such a step forward from 4.0)
  5. Lotus 3.something – the dos one where \ (/?) did menus and : (?) did formatting – what a step from the previous

Whats yours and why



Bad spreadsheet

Friday, 5th December, 2008

Dennis made a good point on the last post about being fed up with people always blaming spreadsheets when there is an error. You know who

I totally agree. I can’t remember the last _spreadsheet_ error I saw*. Actually they are usually _user_ errors, either in the mechanics of spreadsheets, process of development or lack of domain knowledge, or whatever.

I blame Sarbox, Eusprig and auditors, in that order, for raising the awareness of spreadsheet risks, without giving due regard to the wider issue. The wider issue being poor controls of any software development will create risky, error prone systems.

At Eusprig 2007 I think the first 3 speakers (one was me, one was DB from the FSA (regulators of all UK financial services)) highlighted the increased risk from user developed Access databases.

The Eusprig stance is entirely reasonable – they are focused on spreadsheet risk (the clue is in the name). If someone wants to create another group to focus on the risks of end user databases, or other types of risk, Eusprig would be happy to help and collaborate. But in 10 years of Eusprig there is no sign of EuDBrig – possibly because the name is even less catchy?

Sarbox and auditors I feel are a little less reasonable in hounding spreadsheets and spreadsheet users. Partly I suspect this is because auditors think they can audit spreadsheets, but I bet very few of them have the first clue about databases (or code actually). ‘Proper’ systems get proper systems auditors with an IT background, not the fresh faced graduate accountant trainees found in financial auditing. (I have no idea which department is auditing the .net based financial reconciliation system I built for a recent finacial services client.)

Should we start a ‘spreadsheets are innocent’ campaign?

What sort of catchy slogans should we be painting on walls and pavements outside large auditing firms?

‘Excel is innocent – it woz Access wot done it’?

*Of course I can really – its the Excel 2007 calculation presentation bug – I coded a test proc here



Weathering the recession

Tuesday, 18th November, 2008

In the red corner representing all that is good and sexy with the cloud/t’interweb, lets hear it for Gooo-oo-gle.

In the blue corner representing the grubby reality that most people actually do real work on desktop apps, just back from the 1990’s lets hear it for Microooo-soft.

Lets get ready to r-r-r-rumble….

Google sells ads. Very efficiently. Pay per click puts the onus on the advertiser to improve their conversion rate – but they only pay when people visit their website and see their sales message. (lets ignore click fraud). Google only get paid when people (potential customers) click on ads.

Other forms of advertising like telly, magazines etc are a big up front cost and a hard to measure conversion ratio – expect spend on this sort of advertising to plummet as we move into the depression.

Google ads are highly targeted, and can be managed in real time by the advertiser. Some advertisers, especially the ‘buy x at fleabay’ where x = whatever you searched for type (slaves, syphilis, fail – whatever), will reduce their spend, but many won’t. They will work on their conversion rate, and even if they give away 99% of their margin to google in fees they are still making some profit. At 100% they are still building/maintaining market share.

If advertising spend does plummet Google could sack off the half of its workforce that are working on freetard beta products that generate no cash and maintain its margin without materially impacting its future ad serving business.

I think Google will suffer, but not much, certainly not as much as these guys reckon.

Microsoft makes most of its money from desktop software (1/3 Windows, 1/3 Office, 1/3 all the other stuff they do, much of which looses a stack of cash). Lets just look at the 2/3.

Microsofts business is a big investment upfront in R&D and Dev costs. Those cost are sunk forever and cannot be cut. The ongoing cost is then mainly marketing and distribution, and a bit of support. Meanwhile that big dev cost has moved onto the next version (and next but one).

If customers don’t buy a version of Windows or Office, the vast majority of costs are still sunk, sure they can burn a few less dvds, and save a few pennies on FedEx, and hard to open packaging, but they don’t have much leeway to reduce costs to maintain margin. If they reduce Dev costs (of future versions) they are effectively eating next years seed corn.

Microsoft make the premium office suite, yet O2007 has largely failed to connect with the power user/dev community that should be driving adoption. I don’t think Office 2007 deployments are where they should be by now.

Not many people are claiming Vista has set the operating system world alight either (well Apple and Ubuntu have I guess!).

In a cost cutting world productivity gains is a hard sell. Bosses will be expecting workers just to stay later and be thankful they have a job at all.

I think MS have an uphill battle in the current climate to over-recover their costs (make margin)  as they have done in previous years. They have already played a lot of marketing cards so about the only tool left is deep discounts, and that is already happening. As the premium player against strong free/open source competition, a price war is a bad place to be.

In terms of competition who competes with Google on pay per click ads? Ya who? No one is the correct answer. MS paying searchers way more than they earn per click is not a long term strategy, and certainly not a robust one.

Who competes with MS on the desktop? In OS, Apple is doing well at the top end, Linux at the netbook end (and XP in a way). In Office, OOo are claiming 150-200M users, and increasing by 1.8M per week (20-30% of the Office suite market), and thats zero cost, as is sticking with the current version (unless you are on some Software Assurance type annual fee). Sticking with the current at least saves you a big migration cost either to O2007 or OOo.

On the plus side at least they didn’t squander their cash mountain on Yahoo. So they have a decent cushion. And I guess they have the option of hacking off some of the loss making areas.

In summary then (sorry this was so long)

I think Microsoft will get a bigger battering in this recession than Google. I expect more news of more sparkling discounts on MS products, and tactical withdrawal from some markets, in the coming months.

What do you think? And what do you think the impact on us independent devs/consultants will be?

I kind of thought Excel/VBA may pick up as its faster and cheaper than many alternatives, but I’m not seeing that, are you? There does seem to be a bit more Access work around though I reckon.



Free Crapware

Tuesday, 11th November, 2008

Well Ross beat me too it, but I was thinking:

Why would anyone want some crappy toolbar malware with their Java run times?

(Sun includes MSN tat instead of Google tat)

I’ve got a post lined up on a related topic but isn’t this just turning the JVM updates into a huge trojan horse?

Like why would you want OpenOffice with your JVM?.

I know Sun are about to fall apart but loading up the JVMs with loads of irrelevant tat seems like a short term game.

What have you downloaded recently that came with a bunch of unrelated rubbish?



Google drops StarOffice

Monday, 10th November, 2008

I never fully understood how come Google could give away StarOffice, when StarOffice themselves wanted 50 quid or something for the suite. (Google Pack). I also never quite understood why StarOffice and not its Open Source sibling OpenOffice. (better migration tools apparently)

Anyway Google have now removed StarOffice from their Google Pack.

I’d hope this is because they now feel OOo is ready for prime time and are just sorting out the links. Others seem to think its Google trying to drive people to Google Docs. So perhaps they think Google Docs is now mature enough to compete with a desktop based system? It might stand a chance with Gears integration, is that in place yet?

Perhaps its just cost saving from the big G – maybe they couldn’t afford the bandwidth?

(there is a recession on dontchya know)


Simon 3.0 downloads

Thursday, 6th November, 2008

Up from the usual 1.2 million per week to 3 million for the week of release. And after the weekend its up to 5 million. And now running at about 1.8 million a week. And that doesn’t include the Linux crowd who will most likely be getting their update via their OS repository. Hello Asus? (and you Ubuntu) ours is where??

Here is the link to the PCWorld article covering it.

One interesting point from that article is the OOo goal of 40% marketshare by 2010. Up until the last 12 months I would have laughed at that, right now I think its a very real possibility. I see Firefox is now officially at 20% market share.

Here is the link to the OOo marketing blog.

I suspect the OOo adoption rate is higher than MS Office 2007 just now, and I expect that to continue. Whether it will hit some critical mass and take market share at an ever increasing rate I’m not so sure. If MS mess up again in O14, and if OOo gets real world VBA compatibility then I think it will happen. In fact I think O14 will be a critical release for a few reasons, especially in the current economic climate.

Having said all that creating OOo versions of my Excel tools is still some way down my todo list.

Do you think OOo will gain significant market share in the markets you care about? Are you seeing it already? Hows your starbasic coming along?



Office in a browser available now

Tuesday, 4th November, 2008

So for all you browser lovers, seems office is available right now in a browser.

Please leave a comment detailing the compelling real world business advantages of this over using a rich client and saving to a shared resource.

Frankly I think netbooks and virtualisation make the rush to the browser a bit 1970’s don’t you?

I can run Ubuntu on a USB drive, or a million and one live disties via CD that make no changes to the host PC. Or I can run a range of different VMs each optimised for particular activities. Why would I want to use a browser?

Is the claimed simplified central management worth the clumsy interface?

I am sure some people will find it useful, of course. I just wish the media (and others) would give a bit more attention to the real world. I’m getting a bit jaded about all this cloud fluff following the PDC. There is still plenty of life in rich client desktop apps, especially for actual _work_. Not just talking (or IM’ing) about it, or collaborating about it, but actually producing something of commercial relevance to your employer.

When we take the dog for a walk she runs ahead. But she doesn’t know the way so runs round and round and zigs and zags left and right. And she often has to double back when she goes the wrong way and we turn off in a different direction.

The media is like our dog wanting to lead but not knowing the way. And we are like real world business going the way that suits our purpose.



Are any of you currently working on, or planning a cloudy app?

Microsoft: We had to discount Office 2007

Thursday, 16th October, 2008

Microsoft admits it had to discount Office 2007 to boost uptake

They have a lot of discounting to go before they reach the OpenOffice price point (and ease of installation – no insulting product activation in OOo).

Of course they could choose to compete on quality, features and benefits rather than price. That would certainly be my inclination against a zero cost competitor. I wouldn’t go for pointless irrelevant (destructive?) product differentiation either though.

Discounting is the classic finance solution to weak sales. Marketing would plump for better eduction of potential customers on the benefits (perhaps by sponsoring the Excel User conferences??). Engineering would go for more/better features. (Its called functional fixation – We did it at college so it must be true)

I’m with engineering here. What about you?

I guess marketing might go for discounting if they felt the product was priced above the customers valuation. But this is meant to be the premium productivity suite. They still have Works don’t they?

Compare and contrast with Apple who have pretty much just increased prices across their whole notebook line up.

(And OOo 3.0 runs natively on Macs as well as the other two main OS’s Windows and Linux)

Just remind me, what is the point of Microsoft Works?



Why should Microsoft enhance Excel?

Wednesday, 15th October, 2008

Lots of people are bemoaning features, lack of features, or bugs in Excel. (not me of course ;-))

Anyway the thought struck me, why should they bother?

I’m not saying they have or they havent. I’m not saying they should or they shouldn’t.

I am asking what’s in it for Microsoft?

We’ll all end up updating eventually right?

How big an impact would it have on their finances?

Whats the cost benefit?

Would that money invested in developer effort be rewarded with

  • more sales?
  • faster take up?
  • sales at a higher price?
  • Reduce the rate of decline of MS Offices market share?
  • Reduce Vistas impact on OS market share free fall?
  • cross selling opportunities?
  • all of the above?
  • Others?

I’ve put some thoughts about their ribbon investment in the new traditional place.

I know kudos-wise if everyone on-line exclaimed wow Excel v n is mega super-de-duper fan-chuffiin-tastic, that would be great. But business-wise does it stack up?

And don’t be quoting any ‘quality’ or ‘excellence’ claptrap. Those are great for motivational speakers, Return On Investment is what keeps firms in business.

  • Where is the ROI on catching up with OOo in worksheet functions? (or UI),
  • Where is the ROI in updating VBA?
  • Where is the ROI in making SUMIFS as powerful as SUMPRODUCT?
  • Where is the ROI in providing multiple UIs to suit multiple uses/users?
  • Where is the ROI in fixing charting?

Personally I think many of these things would pay back, and I hope OpenOffice eating their lunch will encourage them to divert resources to these sorts of areas.

(I haven’t considered the opportunity cost of investing in these over some of their other technologies (search? Yahoo!?), feel free to do so in the comments)

What do you think? On an ROI basis what 3 things would give the best rate return? why?

Is it even worth investing in desktop apps? or do you think the cloud/unimind will solve all that?

let us know



OpenOffice 3.0 out

Monday, 13th October, 2008 overwhelmed by demand for version 3.0

I’m guessing thats a nice problem to have

Linux format has a less than overwhelming, and rather light review of the new version, eventually deciding it does just about justify the full increment

As a matter of interest – does/would anyone use that start centre mentioned in that article? I don’t/wouldn’t.

I’m looking forward to reviewing the download figures once the 3.0 effect has filtered through.

I think I’ll wait for the initial rush to ease off before I download it.

Anyone using 3.0 already? views?



[ps I love that VBA compatibility is mentioned as a big win – makes me think that the OOo folks ‘get it’]