Key KOffice Developers Talk About KOffice 2 and Open Standards

KOffice, the office suite built on KDE technology and in the KDE Communtiy has recently
gotten a lot of press, but is still often underrepresented. In this interview, some key KOffice developers tell us about the recent progress of KDE's Office suite, about Open Standards and how KOffice plays an active role in bringing Freedom to users. We have talked to Boudewijn Rempt, developer of Krita, core KOffice contributor and KOffice release manager, as well as to David Faure who has been taking part in the OASIS, the organization that is responsible for advancing the OpenDocument (ODF) standard.

David Faure says:
We're taking part in the OASIS because we truly believe in Open Standards. KOffice standardises on OpenDocument. Free Software and open standards are a perfect match and the way to move forward for a society to ensure vendor-independent access to its data. We're actively participating in the OASIS since it matches our value, and we believe that one strong standard is in the best interest of our users.

Boudewijn Rempt gives us an overview over what's happening in the KOffice community.

How is KOffice 2 progressing?
We had a bit of a slow start -- porting to KDE4 took longer than we thought. Maybe we started our port a little too early. Large parts of most applications have been completely rewritten. We're making really good progress now, across the board of applications. The Google Summer of Code project to improve OpenDocument support in KWord has been a big success: we're still not completely done, but confidently expect KOffice 2.0 to have improved support for OpenDocument in key areas such as spreadsheet and word processing.

What will be the main features for KOffice 2?
We've taken integration to the next level. Applications now offer an interface optimized for a particular task, but they all use the same small-grained objects to compose documents from. That means richer documents, more consistency in the user interface and excellent expandability.

What target users do you have in mind for KOffice?
Right now, home users, students and people running small businesses. Additionally, KOffice offers a very flexible and rich platform for implementing office-type applications for specific markets, such as education or vertical markets.

Can you explain some platform aspects of KOffice 2(.x)?
OpenDocument is totally native for us. KOffice has had a large part in establishing the standard and continues innovating within the standard and contributing to new versions of the OpenDocument standard. OpenDocument really is the platform we are building on, it informs many of our design decisions, without forcing us to implement an OpenOffice clone at all.

KOffice has some time ago switched to OpenDocument as default file format. What is the motivation for this move?
Cooperation has always been in the forefront of KOffice development. We developed the libwv2 .doc library together with Abiword, and the libwpd WordPerfect library together with OpenOffice. Developing our own, underspecified file format just didn't make any sense when there is a chance to cooperate on a widely used, rigorously specified file format. Besides, we listen to our users and hear that they want to exchange documents without enforcing their customers, teachers or peers to use the exactly same application in the exactly same version.

Why do you think OpenDocument is the right thing to embrace for KOffice?
It's been beneficial in two ways: the KOffice involvement has kept OpenDocument from becoming the memory dump of OpenOffice internals detractors so often allege it to be. And KOffice has gained recognition, compatibility and also quite a few features in the process.

There is a Windows version of some of the KOffice applications coming up. In how far does this new platform influence the way the KOffice community works?
Well, it's actually *all* of the KOffice applications that will be available on all three platforms: Unix/X11, OS X and Windows. Not that that changes much for us: we have a very clear vision of what we want to achieve, and we're making good progress in that direction. We are ready to welcome the influx of users the wider availability of KOffice means -- and actually, we're already get quite a few inquiries about where people can download our software.

Recently, the ISO standardisation process of OfficeOpenXML ("OOXML") has gained a lot of public attention. What are the implications of OpenXML as ISO standard next to ODF for Free Software applications?

The standardisation process of OfficeOpenXML has turned sour, not in the least because Microsoft couldn't resist the temptation to cheat. Right now we're seeing evidence of a concerted campaign at discrediting OpenDocument vis-a-vis OfficeOpen XML. That's unfortunate, to say the least.

If OfficeOpen XML becomes an ISO standard, we will, in all likely hood, still not spend time on supporting it. The standard is enormous, very complex and to a large extent so badly specified that a full implementation is probably even harder than implementing the old Microsoft binary file formats. Add to that patent encumbrances and problems with copyrighted elements -- and our conclusion is that we prefer to concentrate on making KOffice a great set of applications that are satisfying to use and satisfying to develop.

There were rumors about an ODF library in KDE. Can you update us on the
progress there?
We're committed to developing such a library. Only today, some first steps have been set in the direction of that goal. Still baby steps, and the ODF library won't be available with KDE 4.0 or even KDE 4.1, but we are keeping that goal in mind when developing KOffice.

Recently, more and more governmental agencies and public bodies embrace ODF as their default document standard. Can you give us reasons for that?
There are many good reasons for governments and public bodies to support OpenDocument, and no good reasons not to support it. OpenDocument documents can be read and edited on every computing platform, present and future. Wide availability is good for citizens, a solidly specified, unencumbered standard is good for archiving, and the very implementability means a free market with genuine competition, which is good for the budget.

Thank you very much. I'm personally really looking forward to KOffice 2.0. I think it's the office suite with the greatest potential in the market right now.

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Open-Document-Foundation is a Microsoft trademark.

by redeeman (not verified)

The KDE projects values are simply outstanding. Focusing on really open and free formats are the right thing to do, and KDE is at the front of the action.

truly excellent.

by Sum Yung Gai (not verified)

Agreed. Attempting to support Microsoft's patent-encumbered Uh-Oh-XML file formats is both counterproductive and legally dangerous. Microsoft could have avoided this whole mess by simply adopting the encumbrance-free ODF. But they want strife, because they want to control what we do.

I left Microsoft Windows for good several years ago, because I became very concerned about what I see as their ultimate goal--power over others at virtually any cost.

Remember, Microsoft is acting just like a drug dealer who says, "the first hit is free." Don't believe me? I quote:

No thanks, Microsoft. I'll stick with Freedom. Every time.


by Pete Dixon (not verified)

I really dislike that a company who has fallen so far off the beam as MS has is the company to whom many people look to for standards. It's time for global, universally accepted standards that are independent of companies who monopolistic interests are served by their own rules being adopted. MS had a role at one time in setting standards but that time has passed.

And yeah, as you can tell from the tone of my writing, whenever I'm forced to use a MS product I generally go 'ick!' and end up getting mad from the design errors.