Mathias Bauer at the GullFOSS blog
about simplifying the OpenOffice.org interface. There are some good
points about the complexities of page-setup.
But this has me worried that Styles in Writer may get buried even
further under the interface, as happened with Microsoft Word:
> Many users, especially new ones, don't use or even understand styles.
> So if you want to win them it is important that they can use the
> application and explore its advanced functionality without taking
> lessons in “ styles and how to use them” as a precondition. I still
> think that they should get into styles later on to get the most out of
> Writer or OpenOffice.org in general, but it shouldn't be necessary in
> the beginning. On the other hand styles are a vital part of the
> OpenOffice.org document concept and pleasing users that want to ignore
> them shouldn't make working with styles harder for other users.
Could it be that people don't understand styles because OpenOffice.org
and Word don't ship with decent style-sheets in their default templates?
Because a lot of the buttons on the interface apply direct formatting
instead of styles? What if the “bullet” ![graphics2](/blog/2006/12/01/dont-bury-styles/1.png)
button automatically applied a style (say 'List 1 Bullet') and clicking
the demote ![graphics3](/blog/2006/12/01/dont-bury-styles/2.png)
button changed the style to 'List 2 Bullet'. What if the HTML export
system actually produced neat XHTML based on the styles you use. Without
styles then there's going to be no decent HTML export. Look at the mess
the Writer produces now.
I'm much more interested in how we can teach people how to use styles
than in giving up and burying them.
On the [ICE project](http://ice.usq.edu.au/) we make it possible for
people to be much more productive than they would otherwise be by giving
them a template with a good set of styles, and a hierarchical style menu
that they can use to do all their formatting.
Here's my suggestion for OpenOffice; make a way to switch between a
format driven interface where it's all about applying format attributed
individually (left align, bold, indent etc) and another interface the is
100% styles based, where even the bold and italic buttons do things
using styles. Actually that's essentially what we're doing with ICE, for
both Word and OpenOffice, and maybe one day other word processors.
The [ICE-RS project](http://ice.usq.edu.au/info/ice_rs.htm) will be
developing lots of templates that use the same style names but look
quite different, for things like different journal formats. If a newbie
could start typing and be able to reformat their document dramatically
by choosing a new template would that not be a good thing? In this world
few end-users would need to muck around with details like headers
because that would be taken care of for them. I know that some word
processors ship with a set of templates, but I've never seen consistent
use of styles across those templates.
The template support in OpenOffice.org Writer is one of the least usable
parts of the program. There is no simple way to attach a different
template to a document, you have to copy and paste the contents into a
new one, or you can use ICE which has a 'repair' function that lets you
apply a new template to one or more documents.