OpenOffice.org Project gives green light to OpenOffice.org 2.0

The OpenOffice.org Project on Thursday released OpenOffice.org 2.0, adding new features that the group claim will resonate with users from business and governments right down to the home desktop. The product will be simultaneously released for a range of operating systems including Linux and Microsoft Windows.

According to Jacqueline McNally, OpenOffice.org Marketing Project Lead, the suite will be ready for download from 13:00 UTC (11:00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time). "This gives our mirror sites time to get updated." By spreading the load users wont have to face any congestion as has happened with previous releases.

OpenOffice.org 2.0 was developed over the past two years by a community made up of independant programmers and widely known technology companies including primary sponsor Sun Microsystems, Novell, Red Hat, Debian, and Intel.

Advocates of the new version of the software suite point to the applications potential as a serious contender to Microsoft Office. "OpenOffice.org is on a path toward being the most popular office suite the world has ever seen; providing users with safety, choice, and an opportunity to participate in one of the broadest community efforts the Internet has ever seen," said Sun COO Jonathan Schwartz in a statement.

New to the Office suite are the database module called OpenOffice.org Base and native support for the OpenDocument format. The application also sports an overhaul to the user interface.

OpenDocument is an XML file format for saving office documents such as spreadsheets, memos, charts, and presentations. It was approved as an OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) standard at the beginning of this year. OpenDocument, set as a default in OpenOffice, is cited by proponents as a way of fighting vendor lock-in associated with proprietary formats. Already, it is the required office format for internal archives of the US State of Massachusetts.

However, it does not look likely that Microsoft will support the format in its forthcoming Office 12 suite.

"Microsoft strongly supports standards, and will continue to respond to customer demand. To date, we have not heard from customers that ODF is a priority for them," said Tony Wilkinson, Director, Information Worker Business Group Microsoft Australia. "Microsoft's default schema is publicly available and we make it licensable, royalty-free."

Also new to version 2 is BASE. It allows users to manipulate database data within OpenOffice.org. Users can either create and modify tables, forms, queries, and reports, using their own database or BASE's own built-in HSQL database engine.

OpenOffice.org claim the new interface in version 2.0 is designed ease the transition from other office suite packages to OpenOffice.org 2.0; and to make is make it more livelier for existing users. Floating toolbars and multi-pane views are available in this version.

PDF support is extended from OpenOffice.org version 1.1 to provide support for links, indexes, forms, thumbnails and presentation transition effects. The Calc module now supports up to 65,536 rows of data. XForms, an XML format for the specification of user interfaces, are also integrated into OpenOffice.org.

OpenOffice.org 2.0 runs natively on Windows, GNU/Linux, Sun Solaris, Mac OS X (X11). Other platforms are also supported.

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Howard Dahdah

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