Time is up, and we are home again. KDAB has once again proved to be a great host, and so has the city Berlin. We have had a great and productive weekend. Read on to learn more details about the KOffice 2008 meeting in Berlin.
The KOffice team. Notice how they manage to look rather sane.
Inge Wallin, Peter Simonsson, Cyrille Berger, Patrick "SaroEngels" Spendrin, Sven Langkamp, Jos Poortvliet, Camilla Boemann, Pierre Ducroquet, Franczesca
Jarosław Staniek, Thomas Zander, Alexandra Leisse, Marijn Kruisselbrink, Jan Hambrecht, Sebastian Kügler
On Friday night, most of the KOffice developers went out for dinner, and returned to the hotel soon after that. With the many plans for Saturday, they stayed off too much beer. As a consequence, almost everybody made the kickoff at 9 in the morning. Inge kickstarted the day with a short talk about the plans and goals for the meeting, and we then split up into two groups. Both went to work immediately. The developers spend most of their time watching the beamer-screen showing a KOffice application and discussing it. They were joined by Ellen Reitmeyer of the KDE usability team (and openusability.org). Much time was spend discussing the current docker system and drafting new guidelines to improve the situation. At some point there was a sudden outbreak of laughter and even applause. They finally managed to crash KWord - it took them over two hours. Luckily (or not...) KSpread was much less of a challenge - just starting it and clicking around for a couple of seconds did the trick. Still, it is clear the work on stabilising KOffice is slowly paying off. During the discussions, the coffee grinder (KDAB has an excellent coffee machine) regularly made its creaking noise, making sure the developers stayed on their toes.
But after hours of talking, bug hunting and coding, it was time for food. We split up in smaller groups so we could fit in the small hole-in-the-wall foodplaces they have around here. After food - more work. UI was discussed again and questions were asked. Ranging from 'how can we make this smaller' to 'this looks like crap', the discussion went up and down. Strong disagreement, happy agreement. As users might note, the interfaces of the different KOffice applications are looking more and more similar. According to the developers, the dockers will become even more consistent, but at the same time the different applications will focus more on their core business, thus diverging their user interfaces.
Meanwhile, in the marketing room, the marketing team was working on world domination. Under the inspiring leadership of Inge they came up with a sound marketing strategy for KOffice summarised in one sentence, "we should leverage buzzwords and synergize the utilization of neologisms". When this was presented to them, the KOffice developers loved it. Then proceeded to ask why it took almost a full day to come up with that crap. Luckily, the marketing people also did a nice SWOT analysis, prepared the release announcement and discussed several strategic issues. There now is a rather solid communication plan for the 2.0 release, and the KOffice developers liked the work which had been done.
The marketing talk spawned a discussion about the release date and what would/should be ready. Previously some choices had been made, but the lack of developers in some areas required some reassessment. Among others, it was decided that KSpread, which was supposed to be released with 2.0, did not seem to be ready. Further it was decided the team would focus on a release somewhere in February next year.
Many KOffice developers have never seen their software released to the public. The previous KOffice release was years ago, and it is time the code gets in the hand of some interested users and developers outside the KOffice project. So the goal for the coming months is clear: release. The applications will have a reduced feature set, everything which is not ready will be removed to ensure stability. "No Crashes" is the target, as long as the applications are stable, it is possible to have a decent look at them. The project has been doing rather exciting things, going where no other Office has gone before. The level of integration and general technical excellence is certainly unique. The project feels it is time to present the architecture they developed to the world, with the main goal to create some excitement and attract new developers. Despite its immaturity, the potential of KOffice is huge, and reviewing the software will clearly show this.
Talking to developers revealed the status of several of the applications. The many changes in the core of KOfficelibs but also further down the stack, like KDELibs and Qt 4 forced Kexi to rewrite large parts of the application. This means despite the fact the KDE 3 version was very mature and stable, Kexi won't be joining the 2.0 release. Nonetheless, the developers stress that version 1.6.x is still ahead of the competition, at least in the Free Software world. Hopefully they can release together with the rest of the KOffice apps when 2.1 becomes available, and they expect the application to be pretty good by then. Meanwhile, as said before KSpread seems to be too unstable to do a release, and KWord is still lacking table support. As the rest of KWord is relatively stable, this lack of a 'minor feature' will not be a show stopper, KWord will be available in the 2.0 release. Krita, which has became the most powerful Free Software painting application during the 1.x release, faces high expectations. The 2.0 release probably will not fulfil all of them. The application is, despite relative maturity, still rather unstable and it might be necessary to remove some features in preparation for the release.
KPresenter will be part of the 2.0 release as well. All the big parts are in place, even though many details still need to be worked out and stability is currently lacking. According to the developers, the application will be ready for a basic presentation. Karbon and KPlato seem relatively stable, both being maintained and in a state where they can be released. Karbon even prides itself on having pretty cool new guide snapping. Kivio, on the other hand, probably will not make it. Its maintainers will not have time to get it into a releasable state. For each and every of these applications one thing should be clear: if you feel the application should be released, you can make it so by providing patches and help.
In the evening there was good food again courtesy of KDAB (kudos!). We did have an unintended tour the KDAB area of Berlin, as we left the office into the wrong direction. No complaints, though, as the weather was great, and at least those with cool route-planning-gadgets enjoyed testing them. In the end, it was Sebas who noted the 'good looking people are in that direction', which finally got us where we needed to be. Good food, some weird photos, and after another few hours at the KDAB offices it was time for sleep. Obviously not for all, several developers went out for beer.
Sunday started early again. Day two began with a talk by Alexandra Leisse from the Marketing team. She had spend a lot of time preparing the future of the KOffice website, and presented a compelling vision. The website should get a stronger focus on the community, probably even leading the way for KDE in this. One idea in this area would be creating a life stream or social stream, a site showing all the stuff that is going on in the KOffice community by connecting blogs, commits, twitter but also Facebook and other web services. The following discussion lead to interesting places. Jaroslaw showed the website he wrote for Kexi some years ago. It is a very professional looking site, yet entirely wiki-based. Some surprised faces showed how unexpected this was. KOffice will probably use this technology in the future.
After the marketing discussion, Thomas Zander started his talk about unit tests, and the team went back to coding and discussions. At 14:00 hours, the first developers started to leave. We had a good time - now it is coming to an end. But many will probably fire up their laptop when they get home, or even during traveling. Yes, there is a lot to do, but many here believe the future is bright. We are having fun creating something the world has never seen before. Our architecture will be able to do things nobody else can - an exciting prospect. So if you need the freedom to be creative, if you want to do things you can not do anywhere else - join us! Now's the time...