Free productivity suite updates: Openoffice Org 2.0 Beta

If you're thrifty and you use an office suite, it's hard not to like, the open-source set of office productivity tools. Version 1.0 does most things Microsoft Office can do (including smoothly trade files with users of Word, Excel and PowerPoint). Plus, it's free. So what's to improve in version 2.0? 2.0 adds a database creation application similar to Microsoft Access.

Beyond that, many of the small improvements are nice to have, but probably won't radically change how you work.

In addition to Base, the database application, 2.0 includes a word processor, a spreadsheet application, a presentation program, an application for creating mathematical formulas, and a nifty drawing program much more powerful and more fun than Microsoft's Paint. The beta version is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac machines.

Writer now has an easier-to-find word count tool that will tell you simultaneously the number of words in the whole document and the number in a specific selection of the document.

Calc, the spreadsheet application, now supports just as many rows of data as Excel, which eliminates one problem major number-crunchers had with the previous version. And if, heaven forbid, you're a fan of transitions and sounds in between the slides of your presentation, Impress now has buckets of them. Be warned: the version I tested really is only a beta. I experienced crashes, especially in Base, and the file recovery system had some glitches.

VERDICT: A final edition of version 2.0 (no release date yet), should prompt lots of people to ask themselves why they pay so much for Microsoft Office with such a good, free alternative available.


PRICE: Free to download (78MB), on the cover CD

VENDOR: community (open-source)


SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: Pentium-compatible PC; 64MB RAM or greater recommended; 250MB free hard drive space; minimum display of 800x600 resolution (with at least 256 colours); Windows 98 through to XP


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Edward N. Albro

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