LibreOffice: An Idea Whose Time Has Come (and Gone)

The OpenOffice community has staged a coup against project owner Oracle, but to what effect? The Document Foundation promises little more than a tired retread on an outdated office productivity meme. It’s time for the open-source community to ditch OpenOffice and instead embrace the web.

OpenOffice 3.0 Released

Open Office 3 ReleasedThe latest version of Open Office, released today, has been in development for the past three years. As one of the most popular open source competitors to Microsoft Office, the release has been anticipated for some time (the launch even warranted a party!).
Open Office comprises of several applications: a word processor (Writer), spreadsheet (Calc), presentation package (Impress), drawing app (Draw), and database tools (Base).
Some of the features heralded in the new release include:

  • A new splash screen upon launch (see above)
  • The ability to import Microsoft Office (.doc, .ppt, .xls) and Office 2007/Office 2008 for Mac (.docx, .xlsx, .pptx) files (though it still isn’t possible to save to these formats)
  • Support for sharing Excel workbooks
  • Support for Excel sheets with up to 1024 columns
  • A solver component for solving optimization problems
  • Better polished crop and drawing tools
  • The display of multiple Writer pages while editing
  • Inclusion of Office commenting / change tracking in the document margin
  • Some support for Visual Basic macros (a feature dropped by the Microsoft Office team)
  • Enhanced support for PDF exporting, including password protection
  • Support for Open Office extensions, allowing further features to be created by developers (similar to Firefox)
  • No more reliance on X11

Open Office 3.0 is completely free to download and try out. If you are struggling with the Open Office site being overwhelmed with requests for the new software, it’s worth trying this mirror. Installation is far simpler than in previous versions and you can be up and running in a few minutes.
Let us know whether you’ll be switching from Microsoft Office!

Sun Posts StarOffice 9 Beta For OS X

Sun Microsystems posted a beta version of StarOffice 9 today (based on OpenOffice). The 183MB download gives you a disk image that contains an application you just copy into your Applications folder (no icky/cumbersome installer). Upon first launch, it prompts you to read the license agreement and asks for some basic user information. Unfortunately, it also stalled on me and required a Force Quit and relaunch before I could start testing it out.

All-in-all, there are some pretty neat enhancements, including:

  • support for Microsoft Office 2007 OOXML files
  • a much improved presenter interface (for slideshows)
  • the ability to import and edit PDF files (via an extension)
  • PDF/A export support along with PDF encryption options
  • much better integration with MySQL databases
  • a calendar extension (requires Thunderbird), finally providing StarOffice with the beginnings of an Outlook competitor
  • a blogging & wiki publishing components (additional extensions)
  • charting and “Solver” additions to Calc
  • a new extension framework (allowing you to roll your own)

I had time to try the Microsoft document support and enhanced PDF import & export and was greatly impressed. You edit PDF files in Draw (kinda makes sense) and can do minor manipulations very easily (though the formatting may not always carry over 100% in the beta). I wanted to try the weblog publisher, but it kept hanging StarOffice each time I tried loading the extension (I can, as a result, report that document recovery works perfectly!).

Since it’s beta, Sun would appreciate feedback you can post your experiences/problems to:

  • General Discussions for feedback about all findings around StarOffice 9 Beta
  • Installation for feedback about StarOffice 9 Beta Installation issues, and
  • Extensions for feedback about StarOffice 9 Beta Extensions

StarOffice 8 is currently listing for $69.95USD, so we can probably expect version 9 to be around that price (which is substantially cheaper than Microsoft Office).

If any TAB readers are heavy Calc users or manage to try out the new Impress or blogging/wiki/Outlook features, drop a note in the comments! TAB should have a full review of the finished product once it’s released. 3.0 Beta Rocks Aqua On Intel

VMware was not the only pre-release surprise this past week as launched a beta of their new 3.0 office productivity suite complete with native OS X GUI support (no need to run X11 anymore!) along with a sizable list of other enhancements and bug fixes. TAB put the suite through a series of tests to help readers determine if this 168MB download is worthy of a spot in their Applications folders.
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