OpenOffice.org is an open-source alternative to Microsoft Office. Based on code donated by Sun Microsystems when it acquired Star Division in 1999, the OpenOffice.org suite is developed and supported by a community of volunteers with Sun sponsorship.
The new beta release comes in advance of the anticipated announcement of the next version of Suns StarOffice 8—a commercial software suite that builds on top of the OpenOffice.org 2.0 code.
OpenOffice.org is available as a free download for Windows, GNU/Linux, FreeBSD and Suns Solaris platform.Versions for additional operating systems and computing platforms are in the works, according to a statement from the OpenOffice.org team.
"The second beta is much (more stable), and fixes many bugs found after the first," said Louis Suarez-Potts, who leads the OpenOffice.org community, in an interview with Ziff-Davis Internet. "There are no real showstoppers that I know of. (But) there were rather lots of bugs that had to be ironed out . I think people dont really understand the magnitude of the change and its importance."
About 600 bugs from the first beta were reviewed and dealt with, Suarez-Potts said. "Keep in mind that these bugs included those pertaining to all of the platforms and languages (the suite supports), and we are ready for 60 languages and a dozen platforms."
Many of the changes in OpenOffice.org suite from Beta 1 to Beta 2 were related to the softwares broad language support. Because of its open-source nature, localization teams have created versions of OpenOffice.org for for many regional languages, ranging from Albanian to Welsh.
The suite features a number of improvements over the first release of OpenOffice.org, including a new database module that makes the database features of the suite more accessible. It also introduces support for the OASIS OpenDocument XML file format, as well as a new user interface and document filters that the OpenOffice.org team claims make the application even more interoperable with other office suites, as well as easier to use and learn, regardless of the operating system it is run on .
"We have always used XML," Suarez-Potts said. "But now we are using the open standard OpenDocument file format. Any other vendor, company, what have you, can use the standards; this means, as we say, that vendor lock-in, where a vendor seduces you with a file format, but then locks you into it and the inevitable high license fees, is not possible."
The new OpenOffice.org also includes major architectural and interface improvements, making it much easier for developers to build "plug-in" programs for the suite
A 2004 Forrester Research Inc. survey of 140 large North American companies revealed that 46 percent were currently using open-source software and another 14 percent planned to do so soon. Open-source solutions are attractive to customers primarily for their relatively low cost compared with many proprietary offerings, but also for their perceived superiority in security, the study reported.
Editors Note: This story was corrected to clarify the nature of the OpenOffice.org project and the beta version of the software, and updated with information from additional interviews.