Teesside's summer of code

I’m now done with all the projects of my different modules and I’m expecting the pass mark in all of them (and hopefully more than that in some of them).
Starting this week I’m going to be working on my Master’s project: a project that is not only the masterpiece of this year, but that is also going to be the only worthy project of my portfolio when searching for a job next year. This project is of a paramount importance for myself but I also want to make it valuable for more people than only me.

Creating a leading office application

As a strong supporter of Free Software, I always thought that the most important entrance barrier to GNU/Linux was it’s office suite. How many people do you know that prefer OpenOffice.org over Microsoft Office? To reach a larger audience (and it deserves to), Linux doesn’t need “acceptable alternatives considering that it’s free”. Open Source and Free software need to lead, following the great success of Firefox and other software that the FOSS community can be proud of: Songbird, Inkscape, Aptana, Azureus, Miro, VLC, Pidgin, name your favorite.

I also know that the best way to have people migrating to GNU/Linux is to bring to their current Operating System great applications which, added to one another, will create a familiar digital environment that would be possible to find on any other OS. I believe that the Web now is not only a valid platform to build applications, but that it is also the best one for cross-platform applications and the best one to bring innovations that can really benefit to the users.

Using the Web as a vector of innovation

I could have started to build the online word-processor of my dreams but last year, on the occasion of my final year project, I have been asked to work on a presentation tool à la Microsoft PowerPoint. It was a great opportunity for me to gain a deep understanding of the Web technologies and standards and of the user interfaces of such applications. The purpose of this first project was to create an online alternative to Microsoft PowerPoint but their haven’t been any notable work on innovations, in short, the final product was an “acceptable alternative considering that it has been developed by undergraduate students”, which  is not acceptable from an end-user point of view (for example it lacked an undo/redo feature). When I first discovered 280slides I was really disappointed: it was exactly what we were aiming for, but usable. The only advantage of our application was the possibility to add animations to the slides but that was so poorly integrated in the whole application that it was almost useless.

Fortunately, during this year of master I have been able to mature the idea of this application, to discover new Web technologies (canvas and SVG) and to strengthen my skills. I feel now ready to give it a second try.

Where to start?

My first task will be to write the specifications of this application. I have to explain why there is a need for an online presentation application (my aforementioned commitment to Free Software explains my personal motivation for this project, but it doesn’t make it a valid piece of research). To this end I am going to evaluate the current solutions that have a common purpose (from PowerPoint to JessyInk, without forgetting about 280slides or Google Document) and I am going to present the “contribution to the body of knowledge”: what innovations will this application introduce as well as the expected findings that should come out along the process of creation.

I am going to blog as often as possible about the progress of this project since I need to keep a written track of my progress (to help me for the 12 000 words report) and to try to attract some people’s attention because I NEED feedback from potential users at all stages of the development. I am already searching for a name for this application. I own the domain slide.me, but I am a little bit worried about its potential suggestive meaning. What would you suggest?

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  1. Pingback: lrbabe » Blog Archive » Project Renaissance: about OpenOffice.org and usability

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