OpenOffice 2 review

Likewise, while it did put our chart on a dedicated page, it wasn’t an unlined charting page like the ones in Excel, but an empty-boxed spreadsheet.

OpenOffice 2 review

Conditional formatting holds greater promise. We set up a simple spreadsheet in Excel that would switch the colour of negative figures to red. Opening it in Calc brought forth no surprises. Whether or not you like the way in which you have to establish new formatting rules when doing this from scratch, though, depends on how you feel about style sheets. Whereas Excel presents you with a simple, unified dialog combining a field into which you enter your condition with a standard font and colour picker to define the styling, Calc expects you to have first set up the style you want to use in the Styles and Formatting palette. This is good because it ensures well-thought-out results that will present well when printed alongside other spreadsheets using the same styles, but at the same time it’s inconvenient, as you have to look at more than one palette to define the conditional formatting you want to apply.

Grouped cells import well, and we actually prefer Calc’s implementation to Excel. Where the latter puts the expansion and contraction button for revealing hidden cells in the margin of the last column or row in the group, Calc places it alongside the first. Excel’s implementation lines up your expansion point with the first exposed cell outside of your defined group, which is illogical, whereas Calc very clearly indicates the point at which the group stops as being the border between the last cell in the group and the first cell outside of it. This comes into its own where you have positioned two grouped sets beside each other, in which case with Excel you’re more inclined to open the wrong one.

We were also highly impressed by the Function Wizard, which is more extensive than that provided by Excel, and once you’ve picked your function acronym it matches Excel’s walkthroughs.

impress

Impress is OpenOffice’s presentation module, and we again found little to fault in terms of PowerPoint compatibility. With a reorganised interface, which was something we criticised in the previous release, it even feels like you’re using Microsoft’s market leader. We imported a short presentation using far more styles and transitions than you should ever inflict on a captive audience, and Impress swallowed them without a pause for breath. Previous editions had trouble replicating certain PowerPoint transitions, but even the ‘box in’ and ‘checkerboard across’ wipes were properly imported, and matched the original for speed and orientation. Indeed, the only criticism we could throw its way was the same as for Writer: WordArt was slightly better rendered in PowerPoint than it was in Impress.

Custom animations run to an impressive 51 entrance and exit settings. Like those in PowerPoint, these are separated into plain English categories such as basic, exciting or moderate, to help avoid presentation embarrassments. There’s also a healthy selection of motion paths, since you’re denied PowerPoint’s tool for defining a path of your own.

the visuals

Beyond core features, the suite as a whole has been given a lick of paint, with a new interface that finally makes it look like an accomplished set of co-ordinated apps. Granted, it still isn’t as pretty as Word and Excel, but neither is it as clumsy as StarOffice 7 or OpenOffice 1.

The menus have had a rethink, and the suite as a whole takes its design cues from the OS, so it finally looks like a ‘proper’ Windows application.

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