October 20, 2005 6:00 AM PDT

OpenOffice celebrates turning 2.0

Programmers released version 2 of OpenOffice.org on Thursday, a major overhaul to an open-source software suite that has recently become a more serious rival to Microsoft Office.

OpenOffice.org includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation creator and--with version 2.0--a database. Project organizers had hoped to release the upgrade last week, on the fifth anniversary of the creation of the open-source project, but a last-minute bug derailed the plan.

Advocates have ambitious hopes for the software. "OpenOffice.org is on a path toward being the most popular office suite the world has ever seen," Sun Microsystems President Jonathan Schwartz said in a statement. Sun is the primary sponsor of the project, but other programming help comes from Red Hat, Novell, Intel, Propylon and independent developers.

OpenOffice's roots lie in Sun's $73.5 million acquisition in 1999 of Star Division, a German company that built an office suite called StarOffice. Sun kept the StarOffice product line, but in 2000 also released it as the open-source OpenOffice.org project.

Nearly 50 million copies of OpenOffice have been downloaded, but only recently has the software become a more serious threat to long-dominant Microsoft Office. Version 2.0 brings some significant new features, and Google has pledged to help distribute OpenOffice through a high-profile pact with Sun. But perhaps more significant, OpenOffice.org uses the standardized OpenDocument format that stands in stark contrast to Microsoft's proprietary formats.

Microsoft is adding support for one open file type, Adobe's Portable Document Format, in the upcoming Office 12. But Microsoft Senior Vice President Steven Sinofsky said earlier this month that it would be difficult to add OpenDocument support to Office and that "we've had no demand from our customers for this feature."

Massachusetts has required support of OpenDocument, and Bob Sutor, IBM's vice president of standards and open source, has urged computer users to pressure software companies, governments and corporations to support OpenDocument.

OpenOffice runs on Windows, Linux, FreeBSD and Sun's Solaris. Programmers are working on a version that will use Mac OS X's native user interface as well.

Among the other features in OpenOffice 2.0:

• The user interface has been changed. People can use the software with a multipane view that divides the user interface into tool and work areas, while toolbars can be customized.

• Password-protected Microsoft Office files can be opened, as long as the password is known.

• A mail merge wizard is designed to make it easier to create different versions of the same letter intended for a large number of recipients.

• There are more-sophisticated options for export of files into Portable Document Format.

• The Calc spreadsheet software supports twice as many rows--65,536, the same number as Microsoft Excel.

• The Java-based HSQLDB database is included.

• Documents can include digital signatures.

• WordPerfect files can be imported.

• There's support for different operating systems' native installation formats--MSI files for Windows and RPM files for Linux, for example.

29 comments

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Microsoft Office will catch up
I mostly use Office 2000, but I think later versions of Office can, for example, display styles and formatting in a separate movable window, making the app a bit less "mouse-intensive". This is a feature OOo and FrameMaker have always had. Next, MS Office will have native support for PDFs (as OOo has always had).

Now all Microsoft has to do is add support for Open Document Format and give Office away for free and it will be almost as good as OOo.
Posted by Eggs Ackley (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Get a proper Office version
I was under the impression draggable Tools and reorganisation in the Tools was a feature in Office 2000 rather than XP? Eitherway, something OpenOffice has always had doesn't stand in particularly impressive stead, if it has always had that; StarOffice gave it to it, in which case OpenOffice cannot be proud of the feature. Not only that, but the sort of organisational features in Office XP and above are considerably superior to those in OpenOffice, even 2. Support for PDFs seems to be a loved thing for OpenOffice users, probably because it is the only thing OpenOffice has that Office hasn't. If anybody is after a laugh, go to the features page of the OpenOffice website and look through their greatest achievements. I'd list some of the more humourous; but their site is down! Funny, eh?
Posted by Lord Kalthorn (86 comments )
Link Flag
If There Are No DCFROR,IRR, ERR Functionalities...
integrated in programs such as OpenOffice, MS Office et cetera then these so-called productivity suites continue to be pieces of "crap" (after all these years) even after copying several features from "Lotus SmartSuite" which in fact should have been "the Office Suite" to be positioned within the open-source communities. We have been "down" this road several times before, haven't we!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
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Those capabilities are there
Anyone that wants the perfect IRR calculation simply runs it as an add-in (XLL, etc.) for Excel, or whichever spreadsheet they use.

It's always been there.
Posted by KTLA_knew (385 comments )
Link Flag
OOO borrows heavily from MS Office
The look/feel of OpenOffice is very similar to MS Office. You won't find a bigger proponent of OOO and OpenDocument than me, but let's be honest here - OpenOffice sure looks and feels an awfull lot like MS.
Posted by shoffmueller (236 comments )
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MS Also Borrows
Seems to me that Word owes something to WordPerfect and Excel owes something to Lotus123. Many feel that MS is more about immitation than innovation. Also, with a very different interface Oo.org would be difficult for most users.
Posted by (1 comment )
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wouldn't know
I wouldn't know if it had the look and feel... I can't affort $400 for a broken down piece of "Shaving Cream"
Posted by qazwiz (208 comments )
Link Flag
Open Office needs to be much better
in order to get ahead of Office. We all know there isn't much incentive for business to switch to Open Office if the two products are similar. In the end, it will cost more converting to Open Office. Word Perfect Office cost next to nothing and has gone nowhere.

However this could all change when Microsoft tries to convert users to their next Office Interface.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
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MS-Office is better than OpenOffice indeed
Hi folks,

I am loyal OOffice user and I can garantee that MS-Office has much more functions tha OOffice, it's faster and it's easier to install.

But MS-Office costs $400 and a small company can't afford to install it on 10 or 20 machines!! That is the point. Even with discounts and other incentives...

The real questions are: Is OOffice is ready for daily use? Is it possible to switch from MS-Office ???

Certainly it is!!
I drop MS-Office on more than 30 small enterprises (80 machines) and people are happy!!
Posted by josir (4 comments )
Link Flag
The Over-arching Issues Will Be....
... how well do these so-called Productivity Office Suites inform our "financial", "economic" and "technical" decision-making processes so that the world would not have other experiences like the E-N-R-O-N fiasco!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The issue?
What makes you think that will be the "over-arching" issue?

I doubt that will be even a tiny issue. That problem is not tackled by spreadsheet developers, and it shouldn't be, that would be assinine.

There's been a SOX add-in for Excel since SOX came out, I'm sure OO has a similar one. People that author those can have an impact.

You're barking up the wrong tree, spreadheet developers should make s heet that can calculate real books, cooked books, my kid's little league batting average, all with as perfect-as-reasonable-accuracy.

No, you're "over-arching" issue won't even be a footnote.
Posted by KTLA_knew (385 comments )
Link Flag
come on? ENRON?
you really think paying $400 for a new printout would have prevented the ENRON fraud?

Liars will lie no matter what software they use.
Posted by qazwiz (208 comments )
Link Flag
Don't be over-dramatic
Enron would not have used any Office Suite to organise its financial data. It would have used a custom built application; no company that large is going to organise its monetary situation in Excel, it simply does not give the power, or the cells, required.
Posted by Lord Kalthorn (86 comments )
Link Flag
A good value for the money
OpenOffice has all the features that most people (95%+) will ever want or need in an office suite. Why shell out another $200-400 to Microsoft (on top of your payment for Windows) when OpenOffice 2.0 is free? If you've never used it, OpenOffice is definitely worth a try.
Posted by Get_Bent (534 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another bonus
No macro viruses that office users get for free.

Who say MS never gives anything away? :)
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
Money cheerfully refunded!
I personally will refund the purchase price to anyone who tries the free program but decides to pay microsoft $400 instead(less delivery costs of course)
Posted by qazwiz (208 comments )
Link Flag
Mac OS X Native
Open Office 2.0 is incredibly good. On Windows. I can't get the X11 version of OOo to work on my Powerbook. Open Office needs a version that would be native for OS X. Neo Office does some work, but it's not nearly as good as OOo and now it's behind by one full version number. And Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac really kicks butt. (My goodness, I can't believe I just said that about a Microsoft product).
Posted by yfan (26 comments )
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Works fine for me
Just tried OOo 2.0 on my PB 17", no problem. You do have X11 installed, right?

The X11 version is kind of clunky and un-Mac-like. A native version would be a big help.

But it does work.
Posted by Jim D (1 comment )
Link Flag
Export to PDF with weblinks now supported :D
Cool, I can now export to PDF with weblinks :)
Posted by wakizaki (44 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I can't understand this Open Doc hysteria...
I use both Office XP and Office 2003 but I never save text files in DOC format - I (and many people I know and work with) always save in RTF (Rich Text Format), which is an open spec (see <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.biblioscape.com/rtf15_spec.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.biblioscape.com/rtf15_spec.htm</a>).
Posted by aemarques (162 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You may refer to this
www.oasis-open.org
Posted by wakizaki (44 comments )
Link Flag
MS Office for Mac
It really is a fine piece of software. I would say MS's finest. But it's
probably the only package that's fine... certainly better than the
Windows version.
Posted by mgreere (332 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't think so
If you like form over function... maybe, but no way does Office for Mac perform better than on PC in my humble opinion.
Posted by jastbury (4 comments )
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