"Its definitely a big deal," said Stephen OGrady, an analyst at the IT analysis firm RedMonk. "Now with the [OpenOffice.org Base], although I have not evaluated it to the extent that I can call it 100 percent at functional parity with Access, the interface is just as usable as Access. Its quite nice."
The first office application suite to feature native support for the OASIS-approved OpenDocument file format was released Thursday morning, one week following the projects fifth anniversary of its founding and after a delay caused by "show-stopping" software bugs.
Specifically, the database power within RC3 is OpenOffice.org Base, the first version of a stand-alone database to debut in the open-source office suite.
OpenOffice.org has been focused on developing other components of its suite to compete with proprietary offerings from Microsoft Corp. et al., such as its word processor, spreadsheet and presentation manager programs.
The stand-alone database rounds out the offering by bringing long-missing, important database power to users. Users will be able to create stand-alone databases, associated forms, reports and queries, much as with Microsofts extremely popular and widely used Access database.
According to documentation on Version 2.0s new features found on OpenOffice.orgs site, users have long been pestering the community for database support.
"One of the most annoying things is that people ask on the OpenOffice.org lists, Does OpenOffice.org also support databases?" according to the site. "This has been the case since the first release."
The problem wasnt that OpenOffice.org lacked a database. In fact, OpenOffice.org 1.1 supported dBASE (.dbf) databases without no additional software required. For more advanced requirements, OpenOffice.org 1.1 supported the MySQL database natively, or any database, for that matter, through ODBC and JDBC drivers.
"Weve always had a database element and were always surprised people didnt know it," said Louis Suarez-Potts, an OpenOffice.org community manager.
The community saw that there was a need for a more prominent module, as well as a need to hook up with a specific database that could meet most peoples needs, Suarez-Potts said.
"The problem is that the database part of OpenOffice.org was not that intuitive to find and the approach of data sources was hard to understand," according to the OpenOffice.orgs new features documentation.
"Another point is that the current implementation is too development-specific, resulting in the normal user not recognizing the intention of the links in a data source. This has to be changed."
RedMonks OGrady concurred. "The database capabilities they had before were not the equivalent of a Microsoft Office," he said. The lack, he said, was mostly "from an interface and front-end perspective."