September 19, 2006

OpenOffice.org announces template and clipart design contest

Author: Lisa Hoover

Users of Open Office.org's open source productivity suite will have a chance to win cash and prizes by submitting template and clipart designs in a contest sponsored by OpenOffice.org and WorldLabel.com. The contest, which ends October 13, offers a top prize of $750 to first place winners who submit the best template or clipart design, along with cash and other prizes to second through fifth place winners in both categories.

OpenOffice.org is accepting templates for four of its applications: Writer, a word processor; Calc, a spreadsheet; Impress, a presentation creator; and Draw, a graphics program. Judging is expected to take about three weeks from the close of the contest.

G. Roderick Singleton, OpenOffice.org's documentation co-lead, says it is "dead simple" to create a template design. "Start with a document and design it until you're happy with it. Then, using the File menu, save it as a template." Singleton recommends embedding any graphics into the template, rather than linking to them elsewhere, to ensure they are not modified during the export/import process.

Singleton says templates may be designed in any language (the suite currently supports more than 30) and is open to users worldwide. Contest entrants are free to submit as many designs as they like, though only one design per email will be accepted. "If you've got 20 ideas, send 20. Initially, there was some concern that we might get swamped with entries, but we're not worried because we have the tools to take care of it and get the entries out to the judges."

According to Singleton, the idea for the contest was spurred by regular requests from customers for more templates and clipart. OpenOffice.org has been downloaded more than 50 million times since its release five years ago, and Singleton expects the need for templates and clipart to grow proportionately. "Lots of new [users] are asking for templates, and they seem to have difficulty finding them. There is clipart available externally at OpenClipart.org, but we'd rather have our own." Singleton says OpenOffice.org has a template repository on its Web site, though it lacks volume, and says he hopes to gather 10,000 templates and 5,000 clipart designs by the end of the contest. "It depends who we attract and how fast they can move. We want original work, which takes more time."

Contest organizers will be looking for ideas and designs that are useful to multiple users. They say they hope to see a wide variety of submissions across all categories. "If you have a good idea for a document, look online to see what's there and then just be creative," says Singleton. "For example, how about a pleading document for lawyers? That we don't have, and it would be nice to have one. Or templates for grad theses -- any one of the styles that universities require would be an ideal candidate. Ideas for spreadsheets could be a simple family budget or something more complex. Maybe something wild and wacky for Draw or a template for presentations. The sky's the limit."

Russell Ossendryver, managing director of WorldLabel.com, the contest's sponsor, agrees. "The [submission] choices are endless, however we want to see universally popular types which have a function for the home and businesses alike: resume templates, business cards, presentation templates, calendar templates, invoices, business plans, wedding program templates, balance sheets, business letters, personal finance templates, and invitations would be welcome. Also, industry-specific templates for legal and healthcare would have great value."

Ossendryver says one of the reasons WorldLabel.com chose to sponsor the contest is because of the rising popularity of OpenOffice.org. "In my country, South Africa, the movement toward OpenOffice.org is phenomenal. Our office in Singapore is seeing a huge rise in OpenOffice.org users throughout Southeast Asia, including the Philippines. Templates is one area where OpenOffice.org is lagging behind the competition. We believe it is becoming essential for Openoffice.org and the OpenDocument format to have a wealth of templates to meet the needs of users in all languages. It will also help bridge a gap for Microsoft Office users switching to OpenOffice.org."

Ossendryver says WorldLabel is committed to the success of the contest and to rewarding entrants. "We want every entry that is eventually made public in the Openoffice.org Documentation Project to receive a prize -- an OpenOffice.org doodad of some sort, like a T-shirt, pen, or hat." If the total prize package comes to more than the allotted $5,000, Ossendryver says "WorldLabel has pledged all the additional funds needed."

"We are very hopeful that the community will participate in large numbers," he says. "It is an opportunity for users to share their work and help add value to the community."

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