Case in point: The Excel jockeys I know refuse to use OpenOffice.org if they can help it, because of its laggardly support for Excel’s macros, with which they accomplish any amount of custom-tuned number-crunching. Blaming them for adopting a proprietary product accomplishes nothing.
Or consider the endless and tiresome debates about replacing Photoshop with The GIMP, which always revolve around the end user being re-educated and not about the program being made appreciably better.
If OO.o supports all of ODF’s features perfectly, but is still a frustrating application to deal with on a day-to-day basis, it won’t amount to much of a victory.
A real guiding hand
What OpenOffice.org most needs, more than anything else, is a string guiding hand that will not be afraid of moving it forward—that will make it a truly useful alternative instead of just a no-cost substitute, and which is capable of seeing open source as a sensible development strategy rather than an unreachable ideal.
OO.o has been a political pawn of one kind or another, as opposed to a useful piece of software, for far too long. Back when the Oracle acquisition of Sun was brand-new, Larry Ellison proposed moving away from C++ for OO.o’s development and using JavaFX (a conveniently proprietary item in Oracle’s technology portfolio).
I can’t find anyone apart from Ellison who thought this was a great idea—not least of all because Java development itself has been stagnant for years now, but because anyone who has written a program of any size knows how brutally difficult something like that is. If taken seriously, such a measure would have probably killed OO.o for keeps, or at least stalled it once more for years on end. (Let’s not even speculate about that being what Ellison wanted.)
The inheritors of OpenOffice.org’s throne—whether it’s Oracle, IBM, the Document Foundation or some other party waiting offstage—need to keep all this in mind. The number of people who value the utility of their software far outnumber those who value freedom over other things. If you can’t build a product that makes them happy, you probably won’t be able to make anyone else happy either.