I have had a few enquiries recently asking why there is a dependency on MSOffice to create templates for publisher - actually there is no dependency. Yes, we have invested in Office by producing a plugin to MSWord to help you build templates, but there is nothing to stop you using an alternative editor to build templates. That said we have not certified on the alternatives but some early testing has shown some promise, there are some issues but we have pinned some of these down to the RTF version that we certify on not being supported in the alternative application.
The biggest difference is that the alternatives either do not have formfields or they have their own versions of them that are not compatible with MSWord's versions. Open Office is a prime example - they do have formfields but they do not have a 'help' tab in which to embed the code for the template thus you end up needing to write the command directly into the document. This leads to a very busy template but it will work.
Of course, there are alternatives,
There is another alternative on the horizon - the Online Template builder - not a greatly imaginative name at the moment but this is going to be an all singing, all dancing DHTML/JScript application that allows you to build templates. It's not yet production and its not quite to the level of the RTF template sophistication but the gap is closing fast. Its a drag and drop environment with Office 07-like toolbars - very friendly and we hope pretty intuitive - currently going through user testing as I write. I think Im allowed to at least provide a couple of screen shots:
Based in the browser, first thing you'll get are some default layouts to work with.
Now, you can create objects - charts, tables, sub totals, etc - with the drag of a mouse. Notcie the ribbon tool bars and the property palettes for minute control.
You're gonna have to wait a little while longer for this ... it'll be worth it I promise.