Recently, I was working on a PowerPoint presentation that I’ll be giving in the near future. Although I’m certainly no stranger to Microsoft Office, working on the presentation was a real pain because of all the types of data that were going into it. For instance, most of my speech was written in Microsoft Word, and I had to cut and paste parts of my speech into PowerPoint from Word. Furthermore, I had sales figures in an Excel spreadsheet and customer information in an Access database. All of this information needed to go into my presentation as well. So, in order to create one presentation, I had to work with four separate applications.

Some things never change
When I used Microsoft Office for the first time in the early 1990s, I made a prediction that it would only be a matter of time before Microsoft integrated all of the Office components into a single application. The prediction seemed logical, since it would do away with separate file formats and a separate interface for each application. This seemed especially natural since all of the Microsoft Office applications are designed to work so closely with each other.

Well, history has once again proven me wrong. Not only has Microsoft failed to consolidate the Office applications into a single application, but it has created even more applications than previously existed. However, my prediction wasn’t completely inaccurate. A Chinese company called Evermore Software has created the first truly integrated Office suite.

Evermore Integrated Office 2003 (EIOffice 2003) recently became available in the United States. The preview version I received was limited, but from what I can tell, this product looks promising. On the surface, it looks a whole lot like Microsoft Office. Therefore, people who are used to Microsoft Office should be able to adapt to using EIOffice 2003 with a minimal amount of learning.

Through my limited preview, I could also tell that some very clever techniques were used to create EIO. For starters, the product was written entirely in Java, which means that just about anyone will be able to run it. Java is designed to be universal in nature, and Java applets, for the most part, run equally well on both Windows and Linux machines. The company has also stated that Macintosh OSX and Solaris versions are currently in development as well. All versions will be available in both English and Chinese.

One file format
An interesting detail about this product is the way it stores data. As I pointed out earlier, Microsoft Office uses a separate file format for each product in the Office suite. For example, Microsoft Word files use a .doc format, and Excel documents use an .xls format. EIOffice 2003 is different, though. Not only are the individual applications integrated into a single application, but the product uses a single file format regardless of what type of data you’re saving.

The company refers to this file format as a binder. A single binder file can store items such as text, graphical images, spreadsheet cells and ranges, audio, and video. Other data within the binder file allows all of these various objects to remain synchronized and enables the application to work with any of the various data types on an as-needed basis.

Favorite features
Among EIOffice 2003’s features are its compatibility with Microsoft Office, the simplicity of its Paste function, and the product’s ability to manage desktop real estate. Let’s take a look at each.

  • Microsoft Office compatibility: You can import and export Microsoft Office files, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. This means that even if a document was originally created in EIOffice 2003, you can export it to a Microsoft Office file. You can also save documents in HTML and XML format.
  • Paste function: As you may know, in Microsoft Office, you can link documents together so that when data in one document changes, related documents automatically reflect the change. However, in Microsoft Office, it can be a little complicated to create these types of links. In EIOffice 2003, however, linking data is simply a matter of cutting and pasting.
  • Desktop real estate: Since EIO is completely integrated, you can work with different objects in different windows, thereby maximizing your desktop real estate. The main difference is that since EIO is completely integrated, there is only one menu bar, regardless of how many object windows you have opened.

The retail price for EIOffice 2003 is expected to be $99 per license. That’s pretty good considering that Microsoft Office 2003 Standard Edition sells for $400. At the same time, however, you must consider what you’re really getting for the money. Microsoft Office 2003 includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. EIO includes equivalents to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but it doesn’t look like the suite will offer anything to take the place of Outlook.

The verdict
Since I didn’t have a full demo version of EIOffice 2003 to test, I can’t tell you what additional features will be offered or how stable the product is. What I can tell you is that the product looks extremely promising, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on it.