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The Very Beta OpenOffice.Org 3The Very Beta OpenOffice.Org 3

The first public-consumption beta of OpenOffice.org 3.0 has arrived, and while I'm not trusting any production work to it yet I'm still giving it a whirl.&nbsp; There's a whole catalog of <a href="http://marketing.openoffice.org/3.0/featurelistbeta.html" target="_blank">new and improved features</a>, but from the outside it still looks and works like the same program.&nbsp; That may be the best feature right there.</p>

Serdar Yegulalp

May 12, 2008

3 Min Read

The first public-consumption beta of OpenOffice.org 3.0 has arrived, and while I'm not trusting any production work to it yet I'm still giving it a whirl.  There's a whole catalog of new and improved features, but from the outside it still looks and works like the same program.  That may be the best feature right there.

First, the beta-ness.  Right now OO.o 3 is definitely not something you're going to want to use as a substitute for the existing stable builds of the program.  It's bombed out on me on two separate machines while doing some fairly ordinary operations -- just trying to save a file caused it to blow up.  But again, they call it beta for a reason, and most of my attention was focused on the visible changes.

A couple of major additions seem designed to lure in existing Microsoft Office users: support for VBA macros (something a lot of people complained about, and which actually has actually been present in previous editions), and read/write support for Office 2007 / OOXML documents.  This is something I'm going to want to test out in detail when the final version ships, since while I do use Office 2007 regularly, I'm trying to wean myself from depending exclusively on it.  So far I've been able to do that by replacing Excel 2007 with OO.o Calc, but Word is another story entirely.

That brings me to one thing that hasn't changed a whole lot: the look of OO.o.  When Office 2007 was rolled out, the ribbon interface divided users deeply: people either loved it or hated it, with very few middle-of-the-road feelings.  I personally loved it, since it allowed me to concentrate on my work rather than the program's interface.

There hasn't been anything nearly as radical with OO.o.  Part of me is deeply grateful for that, for two reasons: one, reworking the program's interface would probably have taken time and attention away from making the rest of the program better; two, a new interface would have created the kind of divisiveness over the program that Office itself experienced, which is not what OO.o needs.


From the outside, OpenOffice.Org version 3 hasn't changed visibly

(click image for larger view)


From the outside, OpenOffice.Org version 3 hasn't changed visibly.

I've gotten into lively discussions (read: arguments) with other people about whether or not OpenOffice.org needs a snazzier interface.  I don't think it's a question of pizzazz, but just good, logical design.  If people have a good sense of what the consequences of their actions will be in a program, and find their way around without a great deal of spelunking -- something that happens a little too often with the Office '07 ribbon -- then nothing too fancy is required.  There's plenty of room to improve the look of OO.o without scrapping everything and starting over.

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Serdar Yegulalp

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