OpenOffice.org 3 Edges Towards Release - InformationWeek

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9/9/2008
08:20 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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OpenOffice.org 3 Edges Towards Release

OpenOffice.org's first release candidate for version 3.0 hit the tubes yesterday. It's an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, edition of the open source office suite. It isn't to OO.o 2 what, say, Office 2007 was to Office 2003 -- but it's solid, and most importantly, noticeably faster.

OpenOffice.org's first release candidate for version 3.0 hit the tubes yesterday. It's an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, edition of the open source office suite. It isn't to OO.o 2 what, say, Office 2007 was to Office 2003 -- but it's solid, and most importantly, noticeably faster.

If there was one complaint I heard about OO.o more than any other, it was "It's too slow!" Slow to get started, mainly, but actually not all that slow when doing other things (at least not in my experience). On Windows, RC1 of version 3 opens all of its apps pretty snappily even without the Quickstarter running in the system tray. A well-engineered program shouldn't need a crutch like the Quickstarter in the first place, so I disabled it to see how well things worked without it.

Another major addition is native (if not feature-complete) support for Microsoft Office macros, something enormously useful to people trying to make a jailbreak from the Office but find they can't due to the need to support legacy macros. Financial houses and law firms seem to be two types of folks most heavily dependent on Office VB macros -- so maybe some success stories from their side of the fence will compel those with far less ambitious needs to make the jump, too.

One of the big selling -- er, using points -- for me has been OO.o's native .PDF support. Version 3 adds in the ability to import and edit .PDFs via a plugin, and a much more detailed and powerful .PDF export dialog. (Nominally I use a print driver to do .PDF export, but anything that exports natively within an app gets precedence.)

Version 3 also reads Office 2007's OOXML documents pretty transparently -- none of the Word docs I opened with it gave me problems -- but on the whole I'd rather convert to and use the standard OASIS document format to avoid any cross-compatibility issues. On that note, since OO.o 3 uses the most recent version of the OASIS document format (1.2), don't save anything as 1.2 if you intend to also open it in older versions of OO.o. You can force saving documents in the older version of the format through the Tools | Options | Load/Save | General menu.

I still see myself running Word 2007 for now; that part hasn't changed. But I see much more of a reason to use OO.o as a replacement for many other MS Office programs -- mainly Excel and PowerPoint, which I ditched almost two years ago and haven't missed once since. Each subsequent edition of OO.o has given me that much more of a reason to lean in that direction, and I'm hoping by version 4 Word will be gone entirely.

Next mission: replace Outlook if possible -- not just email but calendaring, to-do lists, all of it. For that I'm looking at Thunderbird 3, still in early alpha but which will be getting a lot more attention from me when the non-email components start getting rolled in. Tiny steps ...

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