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CleverCactus is really quite clever

So, Microsoft has released Office 2003, and I was feeling software envy, until I looked at the feature list. The most useful features Redmond has spat out this year mostly have to do with integration with Microsoft Sharepoint Services. If you're a home user, this is pretty pathetic, since it requires Windows 2003 server (yeah, I'll have one of those running in my kitchen, please) and Windows Sharepoint Services.

I actually do have a Windows Server 2003 box set up in the Malebolge, and spent part of this weekend trying to set up Sharepoint. In the course of installing the new .NET framework, resintalling WSS, messing about with the settings to try to get it to work, getting three dozen error messages, and then knocking my webserver offline for two hours, I lost some of the few threads of sanity I had left. Whereas in about an hour I managed to reinstall IIS, strip off .NET, install PHP, and get PHProjekt running for my study group. (If your study group wants a groupware site, get in touch with me, because it's a 5 minute setup.)

Which leads me to Clever Cactus. I'd been following the development of this project back when it was Dynamic Objects Spaces, and now that it's in its second beta release, I'm beginning to think it's a credible challenger to Outlook. Clevercactus has all the basics: it reads your email, handles your calendar, presents a task list, and everything else. Data types can also be organized in "spaces" allowing you to organize information in a more flexible manner than Outlook.

Even cooler is the implementation of RSS and XMLRPC for weblogs. This entry is being written in CleverCactus, and if all goes well will be uploaded to Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil at the click of a button. Similarly, you can use it as a news feed aggregator. (For the moment, I'm likely to keep Outlook as a mail client, but use CC for a blogging tool.) Supposedly, Microsoft's Longhorn is going to integrate RSS with Windows, but I'm not holding my breath--this should have been a feature of Outlook 2003.

OK, the interface isn't up to even 1992 standard. It could use some GUI work, the menus should have hotkeys, and the fonts selected automatically are abysmal. This is probably the result of it being a Java implementation, but I can't say that for sure. One of the features that seemed to be supported in Dynamic Objects, and which doesn't seem to have carried over, is flexible data types: I can't drag a task into the calendar and have it become an appointment. But it's still a beta, and I'm hoping that between now and the official launch, Clever Cactus is going to get some usability upgrades. If so, Mr. Gates might finally have lost a loyal customer.

Update: Having had to just redo the formatting of the blog post, I won't be doing any further updating of Moveabletype through Clever Cactus. It managed to completely screw up most of the formatting, putting hard returns into the paragraphs at odd points. Still, this behaviour should be simple to correct by the time they launch the real product.


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Microsoft has released an update for Microsoft Office 2003. This update fixes a problem that occurs when you try to open or to save a Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003 file, a Microsoft Office Word 2003 file, or a Microsoft Office Excel 2003 file that includes an OfficeArt shape that was previously modified and saved in an earlier version of Microsoft Office. When a PowerPoint 2003 file, a Word 2003 file, or a Excel 2003 file is opened in an earlier version of Office, empty "complex" properties may be introduced into the file and a bit may be changed in the file record that describes these properties.

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