April 4, 2003 11:06 AM PST

OpenOffice gets programming kit

The OpenOffice.org group on Friday announced a kit that lets programmers build new modules for open-source alternatives to the Microsoft Office suite.

The free software development kit lets

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programmers add features such as new spreadsheet calculation formulas. It includes program samples and a 900-page guide that describes components such as macro programs that automate word processing tasks and the standard interfaces that add-on modules can use to plug in to OpenOffice.org.

The move is a step toward making OpenOffice.org a more mature product and a stronger competitor against Microsoft Office. Sun Microsystems, which released the OpenOffice.org source code in 2000, and sells a commercially supported derivative called StarOffice, is among the strongest backers of the software.

OpenOffice.org, unlike some open-source office software suites, can read and write Microsoft Office file formats, a key requirement in fitting into a landscape dominated by Microsoft. Though analysts say the conversion process is imperfect, it's enough to tackle most documents.

Sun, along with Linux sellers Red Hat and SuSE, is working on efforts to make Linux more viable for limited-use computers in some corporate settings.

The company acquired the StarOffice products in 1999.

OpenOffice.org runs on computers that use Windows, Linux or Solaris. A survey of OpenOffice.org developers found that Linux and Windows versions "are almost equally important to OpenOffice.org developers," the project said in a statement.

OpenOffice.org plug-in modules can be written in Java or C++. Java modules work on several different operating systems without having to be changed for each one.


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