Does Mac particularly need

by Robert Daeley

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Back in the day (say, five years ago), tech pundits would posit every other day that to really cut the cord with Microsoft, Apple needed to provide its own alternative to the Office suite. Now, in the Amazing Future, we find that this process has already begun.

People are daring to dream bigger, though. With the advent of, often trumpeted as an Office-killer, not to mention the resurgence of Apple as a brand and Mac as a platform, we are beginning to see a new message emerge out here in punditland: maybe it's not enough to just cut the cord. Maybe, just maybe, it's time to go on the attack.

While I enjoy the imagery of black-turtleneck-wearing commandos, looking like silhouettes in iPod ads, descending on Redmond as liberators, somehow I can't believe that's going to happen.

As for the other side of that vision, I don't think Apple as a company particularly needs They already have re-done versions of two of the big three Office apps: Pages, the word processor, and Keynote, the presentation app. Throw together a spreadsheet and get Mail and iCal updated to modern standards (not to mention doubleplusgood Exchange support), and your office suite is already there. Which isn't to say that Pages, for example, has all of Word's capabilities yet. Some might look on that as a good thing. ;) But it's a start.

But here's what I think is the real core issue here: Apple as a company might not need OO.o, but Mac as a platform sure does. Like biodiversity in an ecosystem, software diversity in an operating system is both a measure of its health and a much nicer place to live in. It can go way beyond competition being a good thing -- cooperation can be a good thing, too, not to mention cohabitation.

And who knows -- as Macintosh resurges, a certain company in Redmond might just come knocking on the door in Cupertino again, instead of the other way around.

So what do you think? Should Apple cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war? Or is it enough to keep the diversity coming?


2005-11-21 10:55:29
spread sheet? we don't need no stinking spread sheet
Apple has a much more powerful answer than a simple spreadsheet like Exel. While FileMaker might provide too much power, Apple could bundle a scaled down version of FM Pro with iWork and you've got your complete office productivity suite.
2005-11-21 11:03:08
Isn't the formats question the important one, Robert? I'd hope to see Apple support Open Document in time. If they don't, I'd want to use someone else's office software on the Mac.
2005-11-21 11:16:00
I agree. Supporting Open Document is the most important aspect of Office software in the future.

Unfortunately, Apple is being much like Microsoft lately with their closed and proprietary file formats.

2005-11-21 11:55:17
OO.o needs to give respect to show respect
There are two good reasons OO.o has gotten so little interest on the Mac, IMHO. The first is that the Mac has a legitimate version of MS Office, so for those who genuinely need real Office, 100% file-wise compatible and complete with bat-shit crazy macros and in-line VB... there you go. Secondly, OO.o's developers apparently made an early decision to not worry about doing a Mac version, which has left their codebase so incompatible with the concepts of Aqua that the only way to bring it up on a Mac is through X11 (which few Mac users understand and fewer will tolerate, especially given its poor integration with the rest of the system [forget about using your Mac fonts in X11 OO.o 2.x]) or through the heroic efforts of NeoOffice/J to invoke Java as a go-between.

The primary reason I keep OO.o on my system is that I have a few zealots who insist on sending me .sxw and sxi documents, which only OO.o can open. I should send them Mariner Write files to see how they like it. Also, I genuinely prefer the simpler presentation editor in NO/J to PowerPoint, though I suspect I'd be happier still with Keynote if I did enough presentations to merit paying for it.

2005-11-21 11:59:00
OO.o needs to give respect to show respect
Yuck - subject botch. Should be "OO.o needs to give respect to get respect"
2005-11-21 12:17:49
spread sheet? we don't need no stinking spread sheet
Now see, that's a good idea. :)
2005-11-21 12:18:28
Interoperability should always be the mantra, you're right. It doesn't matter what platform or OS you're using as long as it can communicate with others.
2005-11-21 12:45:28
Pages vs. Word
Pages needs to evolve quite significantly before it replaces Office. Open Office is more directly document compatible. Some code optimization and interface cleanup could make it very reasonable.

Keynote is a better PowerPoint than PowerPoint. This, in part, has to do with the nature of the work: presentation documents themselves tend to be shared less as documents, and more as presentations, notes, etc. Keynote can dump to adequate formats for this. Keynote rocks.

2005-11-21 12:50:56
Spreadsheet: Lotus Improv
Apple needs to dust off Lotus Improv. It's not a spreadsheet, it's so much more.
2005-11-21 13:01:02
Also Mellel, Nisus Writer, etc., as Word alternatives
While they aren't up with Word (yet!), Mellel, Nisus Writer, Mariner Write, et al. are worthy alternative word processors for many people.

And just today a link to Papyrus ( was posted on I know nothing about Papyrus, but it appears to be another Office alternative, one that seems to have been around for a while on Windows and so may interest people here.

2005-11-21 18:03:31
poor, poor choices
Mellel: bad.
Nissus: bad.
Pages: bad.

All for the same reason.

All are good, and if you were only producing documents by and for yourself might work. Might.

If you ever need to interact with anybody else, direct Word file compatiblity is what you need. Almost always.

I can't send a file to someone that's been poorfly converted by some Save As filter; when it gets back to me, I need to open and convert it again.

OpenOffice needs work, and we shoudl be encouraging that work on the Mac.

2005-11-21 18:04:57
spread sheet? we don't need no stinking spread sheet
Hmm,you've obviously spent too much time with Excel nerds who insist on attempting to use it as a database.

While FileMaker Pro is the best end user database in captivity there are a number of things it won't do that a good spreadsheet app (and Excel is a good, if over-featured, spreadsheet app) will do.

Though for a fully functional office productivity suite you would have both FMP and a good spreadsheet. Then support people wouldn't waste so much time with end users that insist on using spreadsheets to hold their data.

# Tony

2005-11-21 18:12:13
poor, poor choices
Personally I've never had a single person report a problem with a Nisus saved Word document. On the other hand I've known many a problem with Word documents saved in early versions that won't open in later ones.

Direct Word compatibility is not what you need. It's a target that moves too swiftly. What you need is a document format that is open, rarely changes and can be easily supported in all its versions. Hmm, ASCII anyone? HTML perhaps? Oh, I know - Open Document Format!

# Tony

2005-11-22 01:48:03
poor, poor choices
If you ever recieved any of the documents those people I work with, as well as myself, have recieved, you'd understand why I'd prefer any other documents than those created by MS Apps. No offense to MS, because I actually like Word, but then again I don't try to do half-___ page layout with it either. (The only thing I will say about those others is that I've yet to know of anyone who's seen or worked with a file created in one of these apps.)
2005-11-22 06:59:20
spread sheet? we don't need no stinking spread sheet
Actually just the opposite. I initially used FMP as only a spreadsheet - it took me a while (FMP 4?) to appreciate the power of the database. I then had to teach a class using Access and learned to love FM even more.