Reflections and Projections

Commercial Presentation Applications

So, we've been developing openlp.org for a few years now, but to be honest, I've never looked at the commercial offerings. I know about them, and I know that most people seem to hear of them first, but I've never actually installed them and tried them out.

So last night I installed 4 applications:

  • EasyWorship
  • SongShow Plus
  • SongPro
  • Sunday Plus

I basically just installed everything, and then opened each program and tried to figure out how to use it without looking in a manual.

Installation

Apart from SongShow Plus, the applications installed in apretty straight forward manner. SongShow Plus, however, was a nightmare. It has a whole bunch of "components" which you can choose to install, only each and every component is an installer in and of itself. This means, that with a default install (pre-selected components), you install 26 components, and you have to click buttons on each installer a minimum of 3 times... that's a minimum of 78 clicks! It took about 15 minutes to install SongShow Plus, thanks to all their installers. I was not impressed with SongShow Plus after that.

First Impressions EasyWorship

If you wanted to say that openlp.org copied someone's interface, it would be EasyWorship's. Of all the applications, EasyWorship's interface is the most like openlp.org's. For me it was simple and easy to see what to do and how to do it. EasyWorship is also written in Delphi, like openlp.org, but it uses the archaic Borland Database Engine.

SongShow Plus

SongShow Plus has a very flashy interface, with a silver look and little effects here and there. However, as my wife pointed out, all the icons look the same. It's interface is somewhat similar to openlp.org and EasyWorship, but not quite as intuitive.

SongPro

Eyesore. That was my first impression of SongPro. It doesn't look good. The backgrounds of the text boxes are turquoise or yelow, and I couldn't initially figure out how to put together an order of service. The buttons are all too big, there's too much whitespace around certain elements, and it really looks like it was hastily put together with no regard for how it looks.

Sunday Plus

Bizarre, just plain bizarre. When you open Sunday Plus, it shows you  a small window in the middle of your screen that looks more like a calculator than anything else. From there I was absolutely baffled as to what to do. How do you set up an order of service? How do you add/edit/delete songs? I couldn't figure out how to use Sunday Plus after 5 minutes, so I just decided to leave it.

Some Thoughts

Features are not king. If you application doesn't look good, and isn't easy enough to figure out how to use, then people will not be impressed with it. From what I've read in forums on the Internet, a lot of people like EasyWorship because of it's smart, not too simple but not too complicated, and easy to use interface.

I think it's important to have a decent set of features, but it's more important that your interface looks good (but not flashy) and that your program is easy to use, without having to read the manual.

Comments

If you think I'm right or wrong or missing something or overlooking something, please leave a comment.

Happy Birthday openlp.org!

Tomorrow, the 17th of February is a very special day. It's openlp.org's 4th birthday!

We've come a long way in four years, and even managed to get a major release. We're excited for the future of openlp.org, as you can see by our roadmap.

Join us in celebrating openlp.org's birthday by making sure people at Church know what openlp.org is.

openlp.org 1.0 released!

YES! The moment has FINALLY arrived!

We are very proud to present openlp.org version 1.0. We've waited a long time for this, and I'm not going to lie to you, we're very excited about this release. Over the last few years openlp.org has transformed from a small and seemingly insignificant open source application, to the most featureful open source lyrics projection solution (or so I've been told).

For those of you who are eager to get hold of it, you can download it from our download page.

Some of the features you'll find in openlp.org 1.0:

  • Projection of:
    • Songs
    • Bible verses
    • PowerPoint presentations
    • Videos
    • Images
  • Custom slides
  • Timed congregational alerts
  • Themes:
    • Solid colour, gradient, and image backgrounds
    • Text shadow and outline effects
  • Translatable interface
  • Importing:
    • Themes
    • openlp.org Songs
    • OpenSong songs
    • Bibles from CSV
    • Language translations
  • Exporting:
    • Themes
    • Songs
  • Setting up, saving, and loading of orders of service

Please take this opportunity to spread the word about openlp.org.

Finally, I personally would like to extend a BIG thank you to Derek Scotney (my partner in crime, I mean, development), Jonathan Corwin (he likes to break openlp.org and report the bugs to us, hence becoming our lead tester), David Bunce (heading up support, taking time to respond to people's questions about openlp.org), Richard Banks (web hosting, and this brilliant new site design), and all the rest of the folks in the community that have helped us get to where we are today.

And finally, a word from the Word of Life:

 33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
          How unsearchable his judgments,
          and his paths beyond tracing out!
 34 "Who has known the mind of the Lord?
          Or who has been his counselor?"
 35 "Who has ever given to God,
          that God should repay him?"
 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things.
          To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Romans 11:33-36 (New International Version)

Getting ready for version 1.0

Well, it's 2 days before the release of openlp.org 1.0, and I am proud to say that we have almost all the issues resolved. It was a bit touch-and-go earlier, with a few of the bugs being potential show-stoppers, and with solutions seeming to be unavailable, but fortunately we have managed to either fix them or work around them.

The one thing that unfortunately is NOT complete is the user guide, otherwise known as the documentation. We'll be releasing with what we have so far, and after the release, we'll work on the documentation, and release 1.0.1 with the complete documentation. There is enough in the documentation for the user to be able to get to know how to use openlp.org, so it's not a big deal.

For those who don't know, Hannah and I have also been moving these last two weeks, so things have been really hectic. I'm really grateful to Derek and Jonathan Corwin for stepping in and taking up any extra slack when I've not been able to get work done on openlp.org.

Derek and I have also been investigating getting CDs printed. This is a slightly expensive affair, as you no doubt can imagine, but if there is enough interest, we'd like to pursue that option. I'm thinking of doing something similar to Ubuntu's Shipit, except that we don't have the millions that Mark Shuttleworth has, so we'd be asking you to pay for CD production and shipping costs. Of course, buying in bulk reduces the cost of the CDs, and in a minor way, the cost of the shipping too.

And lastly, don't forget to subscribe to the openlp.org newsletter! This is where we'll announce new releases and important events. Don't worry, we won't spam you, and you won't get lots of mail.

Getting bookstores to distribute openlp.org

I've been formulating a professional e-mail to some of the Christian bookstore chains here in South Africa, and I decided to make it available to the openlp.org community. This letter basically just talks about what openlp.org is, what open source software is, and why we want them to distribute it.

I've created a forum topic with the letter in it, and I encourage you to look at the letter, translate it into your language, and decide amongst yourselves who should be the "openlp.org representative" for your country. Just remember to keep it sounding professional.

Derek and I have been looking at how much it will cost to print labels for CDs and give those CDs away. We came to roughly 1 US dollar per CD. This isn't a lot, and you're welcome to investigate doing this yourself. I'll post CD labels and other packaging and promotional things later, so that you can print out and use these things. So if your letter is successful, you'll be able to download official openlp.org labels and print them out, and give the bookstores professional looking CDs.

But don't stop there. Why not print out more labels and CDs and hand them out to folks from other Churches that you might know, so that they can also benefit from open source software?

Roadmap: openlp.org 1.0, 1.2, and beyond...

I was going to reply to the Cairo graphics library topic in the discussion forums, but my answer started getting too long, and I decided to rather blog about the roadmap of openlp.org, since in essence that's what was being proposed in that forum topic.

Full steam ahead for version 1.0!

So, our top priority at the moment is version 1.0, and getting it out the door at the end of this month. We have indeed worked long and hard on openlp.org, to get it to a state where it is a stable, reliable, feature-full application that contains the features that 90% of churches out there are going to need on a Sunday.

So, no more features, just bug fixes, and then out the door with version 1.0.

Version 1.2: Featuritis is the name of the game!

Next up on the list is version 1.2. Internally, there are a number of improvements that can be made to openlp.org. While they won't necessarily seem to make a difference externally, it will make our lives developing and maintaining openlp.org easier. Once we're done with the code clean up, we'll start entertaining feature requests again.

Of course, we will do our best to incorporate as many of the new feature requests as possible, but some will fall by the wayside. We need to be realistic. Once again, version 1.2 will only run on Windows. We realise that there have been a large number of requests for a cross platform version, but the current version of openlp.org is tied down to Windows. There's no way we can convert it to a cross platform version.

Cross platform, coming right up in version 2.x!

A while back I started thinking about a cross-platform version of openlp.org. However, I didn't see that much of a demand, and since I was rather involved in getting version 1.0 going, I was glad I didn't have to think about it.

Over the years, however, we've had request after request:

  • "Does it work on Mac OS X?"
  • "I downloaded openlp.org, but I can't run it in Linux"

So, we're definintely going to develop a cross platform version. There's just one problem: it has to be from scratch. As I mentioned before, openlp.org currently is not portable at all. It's glued firmly to Windows.

The cross platform version will most probably be written in C++, although I've entertained the idea of using Python. We're not there yet, so I'm still thinking about it (and I'd love to have your input on it, if you've got anything to say on the matter). We'll also use one of the cross platform graphics libraries, like SDL or Cairo, so that openlp.org becomes truly platform-independent.

Update: At a developer meeting we decided to use Python, as it would be simpler and easier to implement a plugin system.

Of course because we have to rewrite openlp.org from scratch, openlp.org 2.0 is going to take a long time to develop. If you are interested in helping out with the cross platform version, please contact me. I'd actually like to get it started now.

So where does that leave us?

openlp.org 1.2 is once again going to be a while away. I doubt we'll have anything beyond beta stage by the end of this year. There's a lot of work that needs to go into it, and since none of the team is devoted to working on it full time, things will no doubt take a little while. I hope to have the first alpha release of 1.2 (i.e. 1.1.0) in about June of this year, although we'll see how far we get.

After a couple of alpha releases we'll have a minor code freeze (no more major features), where we will start working towards a final product. This will be our beta release phase, and after a few betas we'll have a full code freeze (no more features, end of story) and enter into the release candidate phase.

After the release of 1.2, the 1.x branch of openlp.org will go into maintenance mode. This means that we won't have any more major releases, only bug fix releases. In fact, once 1.2 is out, we will only perform major bug fixes on 1.0, and once 2.0 is out, only major bug fixes will be done to 1.2.

Final words

I hope this clears up things for people. I know that at times some folks have wondered where openlp.org might be going in future, so this should answer those questions.

Please remember that over and above, openlp.org has a feature-based release cycle, not a time-base one. We will release each version as and when we see fit, with the features we are happy with, and when we're happy that they are bug-free. That might sound a little dicatatorish, but at the end of the day it's us the developers who have to decide what we can and can't do. We do this in our spare time, and we aren't paid for it.

Some Interesting Statistics

The other day I decided to check what our project activity on SourceForge.net looks like. I was quite surprised to see that our activity is sitting at just over 99% (they rate it up to 2 decimal places), so I went to go and have a look at how many times openlp.org RC6 has been downloaded.

What a pleasant surprise! As of this blog post, openlp.org RC6 has been downloaded 614 times. That equates to 5.21 gigs of data being downloaded. Wow. I didn't realise it was that much!

Last week, openlp.org's activity was 99.73%, and by close of day yesterday we were ranked 517 out of 166,587 projects. That's no mean feat, especially since we don't have a particularly large project!

If we can get over 600 downloads after only 3 weeks, just imagine how many downloads we could amass after the launch of version 1.0!

In other news, we've just started Test Phase 1, to see if we can catch as many of the remaining bugs as possible before we launch version 1.0. If you'd like to be part of these test phases, please e-mail me.

Lastly, I'm still trying to single-handedly write all the documentation myself. As of yet I *still* haven't had anyone who has actually done anything more than offer me empty words. If you really have more than just good intentions and hollow words, please let me know.

Testers required

Hi All

We are fast approaching the planned release of openlp.org v1.0 at the end of this month, and we would like to put together a group of about 10 testers to put the software through it's paces to help us iron out any last issues. We would like to have a test release available by the middle of next week, and then run quick update cycles when issues are found and corrected.

If you would like to take part in this activity, please mail Raoul (raoul[at]openlp.org) to indicate your availability, as well as the specs (OS/CPU/RAM/VIDEO etc) of the test platform you intend to use. That way we can try and spread the testing over a range of platform configurations.

***Please only apply if you are willing to put in the necessary time to do thorough testing and submit to us detailed fault scenario's to reproduce any bugs that come up, so that we can squash them a.s.a.p.

We look forward to hearing from you.

God bless,

Derek.

A Christian response to Microsoft

As you may or may not know, my primary desktop system runs Kubuntu Linux. I do this because Linux is far more stable, it's virus-free, it has far superior security, and in general is more user friendly. It's also updated frequently (every 6 months in the case of Kubuntu), any security flaws that are found are patched immediately (including my system downloading and installing those patches), and it's 100% free to boot. As such, I like to promote Linux as an alternative to Windows.

Recently I came across a "rant" - a person venting their frustration - on a Dutch chap's site. It is unlike a normal rant because not only is the length of a dissertation, but it's also well thought out and well written. Most rants are irrantional, illogical and full of insults; this rant was the complete opposite. And what was the rant about? It was about Microsoft.

I urge you to read this document. You can find it at: http://www.vanwensveen.nl/rants/microsoft/IhateMS.html. It's a very honest and factual essay on Microsoft. As you read it, I encourage you to think about what a Christian response to Microsoft would be. Should we as Christians actually be using their software? Should we be endorsing a company like that through using their software?

It says in Philippians 4:8-9: "8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. "

My question is this: Is Microsoft a company you want to associate with as a Christian, as a member of the Church? Are they "true, noble, right, pure lovely or admirable"?

I would recommend that you show print out this document and show it to your pastors and those involved in the leadership of your church. Ask them to think about what I've said.

Advertisement Flyer

I've busy with a few things marketing-related for openlp.org lately, including creating a flyer for people to print out and hand out, or put in local Christian bookstores (with their permission, of course).

This flyer is done in Scribus 1.3.3.9, and the page size is A4. In South Africa our standard paper size is A4. I don't have any Letter size paper, so I can't test that flyer out. I've attached both a PDF and the original Scribus file to this post so that you can download it and print it out, and if you have an alternate paper size, you can edit it to fit your paper size.

If you do print it out from the PDF, make sure that it disregards the printer margins when you print it out. I've sized it on the page so that it fits well inside the physical bounds of the pieceof paper. It's 3 columns, so that you have 3 flyers per sheet of paper. Don't forget to flip the paper over and print the second page on the back!