Thought for the day:Don't trash Microsoft Office just yet

Research wizard Peet Morris gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.One issue that is being missed in the hullabaloo...

Research wizard Peet Morris gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.One issue that is being missed in the hullabaloo regarding Microsoft's and Sun's office suites is programmability.

Among the best features of MS Office is using bits of it to build applications. I once went along to a company that wanted advice on building a unique bug-tracking system for its programmers - a laudable thing to do (track bugs, that is).

However, I discovered that the entire company had a site-licence for MS Office, so I asked the bosses why they wanted to build a bug-tracking system from scratch when MS Office already contained all of the components they needed to build it? They could glue these together using, say, Visual Basic and - hey presto - they would have a bug-tracking system.

It turned out that they'd not thought of such an approach. Anyway, to cut a long story short, they went ahead and built their bug-tracker using MS Office components. They saved themselves about a year's worth of development time too. If only I were paid according to pay-off rather than by the hour!

Now, I've scanned Sun's Web site for StarOffice, and I can't see how you could do the same with its product. Of course, you might not want to.

If you just want word-processor or spreadsheet software then I would suggest you take a closer look at Sun's product.

However, if you want to get the most from your investment in an office suite, I suggest you ask yourself whether you could benefit from being able to use bits of it in your own applications. Why write your own code when someone else has already done the job for you (and will update and support it)?

Forgive me, but I don't see the same kind of potential in Sun's StarOffice, If you're miffed with Microsoft's new licensing scheme and use MS Office as a set of "basic packages", well, go ahead and see if you can get a better return for your pound from Sun.

If, on the other hand, you're the kind of person that thinks out of the box, don't lose sight of the potential that component programming can offer with MS Office.

What's your view?
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Peet Morris
has been a software developer since the 1970s. He is a D.Phil (PhD) student at Oxford University, where he's researching Software Engineering, Computational Linguistics and Computer Science.

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