OpenOffice.org Opens 2.0 Doors

By Jim Wagner
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The latest version of the open source office suite is now open for business and possibly offering small businesses more reasons to consider reducing or severing their reliance on Microsoft products.

In beta testing since the spring and more recently available as a release candidate, OpenOffice.org 2.0 is now finalized and ready for download, according to officials at the open source project.

Developers have taken great pains to make OpenOffice and its components more easier to use and more recognizable to novices, as the new version is a major upgrade both in terms of look-and-feel and functionality.

You no longer have to extract the zipped installation package after download and hunt for the setup executable among the other files. Instead, the program auto-installs when it's double-clicked.

Program names have been given a face-lift, as well. In a new twist, customers who upgrade can import their settings from previous editions of the software suite.

Text document, Presentation, Spreadsheet and Drawing in version 1.1.5 are now called Writer, Impress, Calc and Draw, respectively.

Version 2.0 features a database as one of the main components of the product suite. Officials said database tools were in previous editions, but were hidden deep within the program. You can use the program, Base, to view MySQL, Access, ADO and Adabas D database files.

As a first-time component of the OpenOffice suite, it's not a full-featured database, but it lets you create new tables, maintain indexes, view tables and edit records.

The software suite now includes default support for the OpenDocument standard. Documents, presentations and spreadsheets in the software suite were previously saved by default in the OpenOffice 1.0 file format.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently instituted an IT policy that requires all documents used by its government agencies to be saved, by default, in the OpenDocument standard ratified earlier this year by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS).

The move essentially cut Microsoft Office out of the commonwealth's government office as Microsoft said it is not currently supporting OpenDocument in the upcoming Office 12. It also placed a spotlight on the office suites that do support the standard, currently OpenOffice.org, StarOffice, Linux- and Unix-based KOffice and IBM Workplace.

One of the biggest draws to OpenOffice in the past has been its compatibility in opening and viewing Office documents, whether it's a PowerPoint presentation, Excel file or Word document.

Officials said version 2.0 contains significant improvements in compatibility to features found in other office suites. The latest version also includes import support for Corel WordPerfect documents.

Other feature enhancements in OpenOffice.org 2.0 include:

  • Digital signatures can be applied to documents
  • The word-count feature has been moved to the Tools section and expanded
  • The (PDF) export function now lets you link, index and use transition effects. Size and quality can now be modified upon export
  • Calc now supports up to 65,536 rows of data and includes more data-analysis improvements to its DataPilot feature

"OpenOffice.org is on a path toward being the most popular office suite the world has ever seen; providing people with safety, choice and an opportunity to participate in one of the broadest community efforts the Internet has ever seen," said Jonathan Schwartz, Sun Microsystems president and CEO, in a statement.

Sun develops a commercial version of OpenOffice called StarOffice.

Adapted from Internetnews.com.

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This article was originally published on October 21, 2005
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