While sat here watching Ben Goodger doing a talk about Firefox at EuroOSCON, it got me thinking about this concept of taking a huge and bloated project (such as Netscape) and cutting it down to the core and releasing a spin-off project such as Firefox. With all of the recent discussion and email I have been receiving triggered from Opening the potential of OpenOffice.org, it makes sense if this process was drilled into OpenOffice.org.
Now, I understand that OpenOffice.org is a huge chunk of code, and the hackers behind it are working flat out to cut out the bloat and make it run faster with the current feature-set, but I get the impression that a lot of people will only use a subset of what OpenOffice.org provides and this could benefit from being Mozillarized (hey, its not a word, but we need a word to describe this process). As an example, I tend to use OpenOffice.org Writer for most of my word processing, but I rarely use certain portions of it, and much of the older functionality that looks a bit crusty around the edges, such as the 3D objects that look awful, could be happily junked in favour of better usability, more focused functionality and better performance.
This approach could be implemented in different ways. One argument is to take the pure Mozilla approach and single out a specific application and cut it down. The most notable application is probably OpenOffice.org Writer. I suspect that if you speak to most OpenOffice.org users, they will use Writer more than the other components. Another possibility is to single out each application and remove the ability to embed components inside other components. From my limited straw poll foo, it seems few people actually embed components at all. The reality seems to be that people use each component in a singular fashion, but appreciate the fact that the applications all use the same user interface and are considered part of a suite. This could be an interesting area to research.
Admittedly, the argument against this approach is that applications such as Abiword and Gnumeric present cut down applications, but the problem is that there are subtle interface differences that make these applications feel less integrated in terms of the user experience. It is important to remember that integration is not just embedding components but the most fundamental integration is in the way in which similar options in different components are available the same place. This achieved in OpenOffice.org as the applications are part of a suite.
I think the first step in identifying if this process is possible is to determine how people use OpenOffice.org. What kind of features do you use? Which things are never used? Which things a confusing? Would you consider fewer features and better performance as preferable to the current OpenOffice.org? If we can answer these questions and get some definitive data about OpenOffice.org use from both techies and non-techies, I am convinced it can help the hackers behind OpenOffice.org create a better office suite. By all means, use the comments box on this article to share your experiences and research.
Do you think mozillarization is possible? What are your typical uses of OpenOffice.org, scribe it here…