Another Microsoft Headache: OpenOffice.org 3.09:05 AM EST Thu. May. 15, 2008
The OpenOffice.org community is now beta testing the next major upgrade to its office productivity suite, version 3.0, and there is enough in it to cause Microsoft some more worry.
For starters, the latest version is offering native GUI support on the Mac OS X platform, where growth rates are far outpacing Windows PCs (another Microsoft headache). That will make it easier for all those folks buying MacBook Air notebooks or iMacs to download it, install it and get to work.
And face it: it's a different PC market with many, many more people working on more than one PC. How attractive an option is it to throw an extra $499 for a second Office license onto a second PC that only runs $399 itself?
Glenn Reynolds, the law professor and "Instapundit" blogger, wrote that he recently needed to write on a new, HP Mini-Note:
But I wanted to put a word processor on it, and I didn't want to go digging for my USB CD drive (the HP is bigger than the Asus, but too little to have its own optical drive), so I just downloaded OpenOffice instead, since I'd been meaning to give it a try anyway. I used OpenOffice's word processor to write my review of Ron Paul's book, and I have to say I really liked it. It's easy and intuitive, and it's much, much closer to my beloved WordPerfect than to Word. Also, it's free. I'd have to try it on something really long, like a law review article with lots of footnotes, to be sure how I feel, but I really enjoyed my testdrive. Using Word always feels like work. Using OpenOffice just felt like writing. And did I mention it's free?
That it is now getting attention in the mainstream, as more, smaller, less expensive and mobile PCs are becoming available, is noteworthy. But whether it was free or not wouldn't make much of a difference if it didn't work.
A quick look at the OOo 3.0 beta on this end was a little mixed. The suite has a friendly, new "Welcome" screen that is icon-based and permits quick navigation to either Writer, Calc, Base or any of the other apps in the suite. According to the release announcement, "Behind the scenes, OpenOffice.org 3.0 will support the upcoming OpenDocument Format (ODF) 1.2 standard, and is capable of opening files created with MS-Office 2007 or MS-Office 2008 for Mac OS X (.docx, .xlsx, .pptx, etc.). This is in addition to read and write support for the MS-Office binary file formats (.doc, .xls, .ppt, etc.)."
Don't underestimate support for Office 2008 or Office 2008 for Mac - - the portability of documents and files between platforms has become more and more solid with each, new OOo release.
OpenOffice.org 3.0 loads on a Vista for Business-based PC in about two seconds, compared with about seven seconds to load version 2.4 on the same system. Opening documents and applications is quick, too. The community has made solid ease-of-use improvements to Calc and Base. (Although Base is still light years behind Microsoft Access.) OOo 3.0 is lighter, faster and, cosmetically, friendlier than earlier versions.
The bad news: The beta crashed a few times while trying to save a text document to the server. (The stable, 2.4 version has never crashed on this PC in more than a month of heavy use so it could be a beta issue. More testing will be needed to try to narrow it down.)
As the 3.0 version gets closer to launch and code stability later this year, we'll have a full-blown review. For now, though, that launch may be shaping up as another Excedrin moment in Redmond.