Version 3.2 of the open-source OpenOffice.org productivity suite delivers a handful of file format compatibility enhancements alongside feature tweaks for the suite's Calc spreadsheet application and continued gains in startup speed for the suite as a whole.
month saw the latest release of OpenOffice.org 3.2, the first version of the
cross-platform-friendly office suite to ship under the stewardship of Oracle.
The new release is a modest update, marked primarily by improvements to the
suite's compatibility with Microsoft's Office file formats, and by continued
improvement in startup speeds and overall bug-squashing.
testing OpenOffice.org 3.2 on both Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux systems, I found
the new release to be a worthwhile upgrade. The suite is freely downloadable,
and version 3.2 contains no changes that would require retraining. It's in the
next version of OpenOffice.org, 3.3, that the project is planning on beginning
the interface overhaul envisioned in its Project Renaissance with a new look for the suite's presentation application, Impress.
on the OpenOffice.org road map
are the changes that Oracle has begun to discuss
which involve a Web-based interface for the suite and greater integration with
other products in the Oracle family. As I found during my tests, OpenOffice.org
already is proving
more amenable to integration with sister products-such as MySQL-through the
suite's Firefox-style extensions library, which has progressed slowly but with
promise since its debut.
For a look at OpenOffice.org 3.2 in action, check out this slide gallery
a rival to Microsoft Office, OpenOffice.org 3.2 stacks up well, although
Microsoft's is the more polished and feature-packed suite. The biggest
advantages that OpenOffice.org has to offer are its price-free-and its capacity
for running on multiple operating systems. I've found that OpenOffice.org and
Microsoft Office play well enough together to co-exist in the same work
environment with little issue, although particularly complex documents can
still pose problems.
best way to find out how well OpenOffice.org 3.2 can work for you is to
download it and give it a try-the Web address for the product is conveniently
encoded into the product's name. OpenOffice.org 3.2 is available in versions
for Windows, 32-
and 64-bit Linux, OS X and Solaris.
most organizations, sufficient file format compatibility is the feature that
makes or breaks a productivity suite upgrade, particularly when considering a
shift from one software maker to another. The success of OpenOffice.org in
displacing Microsoft Office installations has long turned on how well the open-source suite has handled
Office formats, and the importance of format predictability isn't limited to
challengers, either. Microsoft, for its part, held firm to its binary Office
file formats for close to 10
years before changing things up with the XML-based format that
took over the default format mantle in Office 2007.
shift moved the goal lines back a bit for OpenOffice.org, creating new compatibility
gaps where features that worked well with the older Office formats became
unusable with the new default formats. One such gap, which version 3.2 closes,
is support for password-protected
documents. With OpenOffice.org 3.1, I was able to open password-protected .doc
files, but could not open similarly locked
down .docx documents. In tests with 3.2 using the same new-format Word
documents, I had no such trouble, and I experienced similar success with
password-protected Excel and PowerPoint files as well.
did, however, note that I could not unlock with OpenOffice.org a
password-protected Excel document that I'd created with a beta copy of Office
2010. This spreadsheet opened as expected with Excel 2007, but wouldn't work
with Microsoft's free Excel viewer application. At this point, I'm chalking up
the compatibility regression to the beta state of Office 2010, but we'll be
keeping an eye on the issue as Office 2010 moves toward release.