OpenOffice.org 2.0, the open-source office suite sponsored by Sun Microsystems Inc., is getting closer to reality.
The latest prebeta edition, OpenOffice.org Snapshot Build 1.9.m65 (680_m65), is feature-complete and reveals an office suite that includes a personal DBMS (database management system) and improved Microsoft Office file compatibility.
Microsoft Office, with which OpenOffice is often compared, comes with the Access database. Starting with 2.0, however, OpenOffice will include the open-source HSQL database engine.
HSQL is a Java-based database. It is an SQL (structured query language) DBMS engine thats also designed for use with JDBC (Java DataBase Connect). As such, its a database designer tool, not an office-worker tool.
To make HSQL useful to office-users, OpenOffice 2.0 will include a user-friendly front end, OpenOffice Base. With this, users can access existing dBASE, Microsoft Access and MySQL databases, among others. It also can be used to create databases. OpenOffice Base also includes easy-to-use report, form and query creation wizards.
OpenOffices developers have been working on making OpenOffice even more compatible with Microsoft Office file formats than it has been before. Recent enhancements include improvements in how OpenOffice Writer handles Word document floating screen objects and tables.
This compatibility with Microsoft applications is one of OpenOffices design goals. According to Suns StarOffice/OpenOffice.org “Q” Product Concept document, a comprehensive, high-level overview of the office suites, this next version is “centered around the main theme: migration [from Microsoft Office] to “Q.”
To do this, OpenOffice 2.0 is being designed to “lower cost of interoperability with Microsoft Office.” Thus, “by providing better interoperability with Microsoft Office, Q will significantly decrease the cost of conversion between the two applications.”
The new OpenOffice will use the OASIS Open Office XML Format as its default file format. Despite its name, this is not OpenOffice-specific.
The format is a new standard, based on OpenOffice formats and supported by OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards). This is meant to be an open standard for office documents.
This prebeta version of OpenOffice 2.0 is available on the Linux, Solaris on x86, Solaris on SPARC and 32-bit Windows platforms. The true beta release, which had been scheduled for December, is now expected to be released in January 2005.
If all goes well with the beta testing, Sun will roll out the OpenOffice 2.0 release candidate in February and the final version in March. The next version of StarOffice, which will be based on OpenOffice 2.0, will then quickly follow.