Working on some document today, it occurred to me, once again, that OpenOffice's method for designing and applying documents styling totally sucks!
Granted, this was not the first time that I cam to this conclusion but, today, I've come to realize that OpenOffice's paradigms constantly make me waste time trying to form a mental image of how every style element is suppose to relate to the other one, yet without having the full picture available within a single, easy-to-read document. Also, there is a complete lack of consistency in how style elements work. Some want to be defined in millimeters, while others want to be defined in points, while other still in number of lines. What a mess!
In short: to become remotely usable, OpenOffice needs to approach document styling via the "HTML document with a separate CSS style sheet" paradigm. In other words, I need to be able to edit styles globally, as a group and separately from the document content itself, rather than having to click my way through a multitude of dialogs, for each and every type of text elements.
To compare this with web design, there, I can focus on the actual content, formatted around semantic text elements (headers, paragraphs, block quotes, etc.) and then decide on the presentation styling as a separate global process by attaching a CSS style sheet, in which the relation between each type of text element and how it will be displayed is crystal clear, because it's handled as a unified style editing process.
I think that this is one area in which Free Software could innovate in a positive way, by distancing itself from the Redmondesque practices of Microsoft Word, from which OpenOffice borrows too much. How about having a proper Style Editor application (similar to a CSS editor), within the OpenOffice suite, while Open Writer itself would only be allowed to load the style sheets produced by it and to apply them to semantic text text elements?