The promotional material for Office 2003 gushes about all the new, glitzy ways to “share” while you work. But there’s an ominous undercurrent, evident in the progression of the topic headings on the Reasons to upgrade page:
Office itself is a black box. There’s no sharing or exchanging or collaborating. Only managing, controlling, and preventing. They understand how valuable most people think true collaboration is, which is why it’s the first item on that list. But you don’t get to collaborate on the next release of Excel, or contribute a better indexing tool for Word. It’s an illusion of community that masks a reality of rigid control.
And that impulse to impose keeps poking through. You can now share your Word documents in exciting new ways … like restricting others from editing them.
Of course, when it comes to providing actual security, as with the “Password Protection” feature for VBA projects — a feature used by thousands of developers and by companies like Adobe for their Office Add-Ins — you’d think Microsoft would know all about how to keep source code secure.
“If you lose or forget the password, there is no way to view the locked VBA project.”
But their cryptography is so bad that all it takes to see “protected” VBA code is a (free) copy of OpenOffice. Then again, Microsoft knows that true security doesn’t come from encryption, it comes from litigation.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually like Office. I use Word every day, and more often than not, it’s a positive experience. But then I take a glance over at CPAN, and I’m reminded what collaborating and exchanging are really about.
The Microsoft “office” isn’t a bad place to work. Just don’t forget who keeps the keys.