As Bob Dylan said “the times they are a' changin' “ So what does that have to do with technology? Everything! Lately, we have been inundated by new updates to old friends. It began a few months ago with the Firefox 3.0 launch (which is now up to 3.03 and they are talking about 3.1 soon). Since then we have seen a rapid succession of new versions of Twitter, Jott, Internet Explorer, Skype, and now a UI upgrade for LinkedIn and the long awaited release of OpenOffice 3. In all fairness, IE 8 and Skype 4 are technically beta releases but that's meaningless. Heck, some software has been in “Beta” for so long I'm beginning to think it is just a euphemism for Version 1 (Plaxo Pulse anyone?).
So let's look at two new releases and what they do for us.
Nice, Not Thrilling, but Nice.
The new OpenOffice, version 3, just came out and I have to say that I like it. Of course, I liked version 2. That explains a lot. It is faster loading, but I don't see many new features. The new quickstart menu perhaps? Looks great on a Linux netbook designed for the unwashed masses but does little for everyone else. The UI is still decidedly old school and has seen only minor updates. The new Extension Manager, which looks a whole lot like the Firefox/Thunderbird extension manager, is a definite improvement. The (limited) support for DOCX formats is also very nice. It really doesn't matter since almost no one uses the DOCX format, even users of Word 2007, but it comes in handy on occasion.
Overall, the features that made OpenOffice 2 great are what makes OpenOffice 3 great. While not as pretty as the Microsoft Office suite, it gets the job done just as easily. It costs much less to buy than Office, zero being less than anything. That's a plus. The ability to extend OpenOffice is also useful, especially since major players like Sun do put out decent extensions. The PDF creation capability is a big part of why people use OpenOffice. I can't say that I notice a speed difference but it still works right and that's all I ask.
OpenOffice is still a contender. As more and more netbooks deploy Linux, the market share for OpenOffice will continue to increase. Now, if they could just clean up the UI so it doesn't look like something only a geek could love...
Once again, I sign on to LinkedIn and find the UI changed and not for the better. They keep monkeying with the layout and each time they do, important stuff gets buried and yet, the interface gets more cluttered. Neat trick. Less good stuff and more of a mess. Kind of like my garage but I digress...
It looks like LinkedIn is trying to go all Facebook on us. That's fine for college students and teenagers. It doesn't work for businesspeople. Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of the new features, especially the groups. It has come a long way from its days as an online resume. They just can't seem to stop fooling around with the interface. Perhaps the problem is trying to shoehorn too much into one piece of software. In contrast, the Plaxo Pulse idea, which is a bit like a Twitter stream, seems to work better. I get ongoing updates from people I know and can dive in further when I want to. It's a clean interface while LinkedIn's is not.
This seems to be the season for upgrades. Cool! Sort of. OpenOffice might have waited a bit longer if it meant a UI upgrade. LinkedIn should have left well enough alone. Jott completely messed up their latest version, annoying loyal users in the process. Xpenser is up next for an new release. Let's see how they do.