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The State of Massachusetts has decided that they will continue using Microsoft Office but will make OpenDocument format (ODF) plug-in part of the standard install.

The irony is uncanny: in an attempt to be politically correct in support of open file formats, the Commonwealth's CIO has decided to tell people to use the world's de facto office software suite, but optionally (?) save their files in a format that may not maintain the full fidelity of the documents themselves.  The irony doesn't stop there: it turns out that Microsoft Office, rather than OpenOffice, is in fact the politically correct choice, given its richer accessibility features (i.e. features for people with vision, hearing and other disabilities).

That OpenOffice lacks these accessibility features cuts to the core failing of open source software: without a regular, paid staff of developers, some of the nitty-gritty features, the ones that are less "sexy" and which appeal to a minority of users, just don't get implemented.  With commercially developed software, people get paid to do what others might consider grunt work, and they get reviewed based on their performance on this work.  So it gets done.

The failing of OpenOffice will become more apparent once Office 2007 is released.  And maybe OpenOffice will respond, within two years or so, with something representing feature parity.  But playing catch-up isn't a software development strategy; it's a grudge match.

Posted on Sunday, August 27, 2006 10:53 PM | Back to top

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