OpenOffice 2.0 released

The new version of the OpenOffice productivity suite is now officially released. The open-source suite now sports a more professional looking user interface and a brand new database module. It also features the ace-in-the-hole – the Open Document file format based on the open-standard OASIS format for office applications.

OpenOffice 2.0 now features a word processor (Writer), a spreadsheet (Calc), a drawing package (Draw), presentation graphics (Impress) and the new database module (Base) as well as Math and Gallery.

Where OpenOffice.org hopes to score with version 2.0 is that it is the first open-source office suite to offer full support for the OpenDocument format. Open Document is an XML file format specification for the full range of office productivity applications including text, spreadsheets, charts, and graphical documents. Already many government and public organisations are looking at OpenDocument compatibility as a way of adding competition to the Microsoft hegemony.

Additionally the OpenDocument format overcomes worries that by using a proprietary format for public sector and government documents, the public at large will need to pay for a proprietary program to read them. Furthermore, an open format is the best way of ensuring that there will be software available in the future able to read these documents, when proprietary formats may well be obselete.

Written in Java and based on the HSQLDB database engine, the Base database module capable of creating self-contained, portable and cross-platform database applications. The result is claimed to be complete cross-platform compatibility and functionality between GNU/Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows and Sun Solaris users that could prove very attractive to organisations with heterogeneous platforms such as academic institutions.

The Calc spreadsheet compatibility has been improved by the extension of the maximum number of rows to 65,536 rows. The extensions will not only please the spreadsheet junkies who like to use vast amounts of data, it also is the same size as Excel that means moving large files between the two is simpler. In addition, there have been a number of improvements to the Pivot table type ‘DataPilot’ enabling advanced analysis of data from spreadsheets and databases.

Overall, OpenOffice.org looks a very credible competitor to Microsoft Office 2003. However, the window of opportunity might be small as Redmond is planning its own major overhaul with Office 12 due next year.

Open Office version 2.0 is available from OpenOffice.org.

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