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A Review of OpenOffice.Org v 3.0 - New Software on the Block

written by: sammy•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 11/20/2008

Since the first beta version came out in April, we get the final release of version 3. Let us find out how it has improved, and how it is different from version 2

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    Start Center Window

    Though it has an installer size of 147.9 MB, and takes up 323 MB disk space, it is fast. If you are upgrading from version 2.0 you will have to finish a quick wizard to transfer user data and register the application. After this the Start Centre window takes you to all the six modules, Writer the Word processor, Calc the spreadsheet Program, Impress the Presentation application, Base the Database manager, the Draw and Paint tool, and Math the formula utility.

    Start Center Window 

    The Start Center is also where users can customize the suite to fulfill their needs. Memory settings involve changing the number of Undo levels. The latest version also has a Mozilla plug-in that opens the supported document in the appropriate OpenOffice.Org module whenever opened in Firefox web browser.

    There is no relevant change in the visual style, which is a relief. The old style toolbars and menu items are kept the same way as it was in the older versions. But it has a new sleeker skin with slightly flashier icon buttons on its toolbar, plus a new feature is added that if you close the current document, the program doesn’t really quit. Instead it takes you back to the Start Centre page all over again.

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    Writer Window

    Now let’s talk about the all new features added in the software. The Writer now supports viewing multiple pages while editing.

    The Notes feature, which previously was just a yellow box, is more user friendly and includes editing date and time. Calc now consists of 1024 columns per spreadsheet, previously it was 256. There is also a spreadsheet collaboration feature, so that other users can easily add data to the sheet, and the owner can integrate it with just a few clicks. The chart enhancements in Calc include custom error bars and regression equations. It also has a solver component which allows solving optimization problems. Impress now comes with native table support. Whereas earlier tables had to be embedded Calc objects, now they can be edited and inserted directly. A new crop feature is also added to Draw which works like the crop feature in MS Office that is to drag and drop the handles on the image to crop it.

    Talking about the performance of the new version, the spell check has a scope for improvement. OpenOffice.Org supports the most popular file formats like proprietary format of MS Office and Coral Word Perfect, as well as Open document formats. The older version released in April 2008, had a few errors that popped up while working with XML file formats. These included problems with the ‘tab’ spacing, page breaks, references, equations, images, and tables. These problems have been solved in the newer version. While the Write could import DOC files without any flaws, there are minor but noticeable changes, when DOCX files are opened. The page number references in the header are not of the same font; also the Math type equation boxes are not visible until double clicked. The same thing happens with all the images, except with the excel charts. Also a few of the paragraphs are out of alignment. The situation worsens when a Word Perfect file is opened as the page number references does not work at all. While opening an ODT file, present no problems.

    In Calc importing XLS and XLSX files didn’t do that badly. The XLS file that was opened retained all default characteristics as well as special symbols, charts and chart attributes, except for the legend bar. There are errors while displaying the result of complex calculations, for instance, while a simple average result appears properly, a more complicated equation with square root functions does not.

    In Impress, working with Power Point files is easy, especially if you intend to share the file with colleagues and friends. There are no hiccups in importing the PTF files, the same however can not be said about the PPTX files. The Slide master elements such as the title slide and images are missing in the PPTX files, and this throws the slides completely out of whack.

    Writer Window 

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    Presentation Window

    Presentation Window Furthermore, the transition effects, though imported correctly, play sluggishly in both the PPT and PPTX files types. Opening ODP file types presents no problem, except for the changes in text box font sizes. Overall the importing abilities of Impress are disappointing; also the Coral presentation file types PRC, are not supported by OpenOffice.Org. While manufacturers like Microsoft and ThinkFree offer Internet storage space, online editing applications, and cloud computing opportunities, the users who choose to go with OpenOffice.Org will have to remain content with using third party services like Goggle or Zoho to share and group edit files.

    Overall if you are an OpenOffice.Org 2 user, then it is time to upgrade to version 3. As far as the freeware goes there is nothing better than OpenOffice.Org version 3, best things are free. But professionals should go for a priced office suite, since they come with better support and online collaboration features.

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    System requirements: Windows XP/2000/2003/Vista, 256 MB RAM, 650 MB free hard disk space

    Mac OS X, Linux Kernel v 2.4 or higher

    Price: Freeware.

    Contact information: Sun Microsystems