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Monday, 13 October 2008 20:39

OpenOffice 3.0 released, ready for download

Finally out of the beta and release candidate versions, Sun Microsystems' 3.0 has been released for anyone to download and try for themselves. Here's my "first look" at this brand new Office suite!

Ok, so I'm writing this article in OpenOffice 3.0's “Writer” app, and aside from the nice new colourful icons in the toolbar, the first thing I noticed is that the red underline for misspelled words was not appearing.

Looking through all the settings, I could see that the spell check “as you type” was on, so I then decided to change the language setting from “English Australia” to “English USA” - and it worked.

Now, I didn't tell OpenOffice that I was in Australia, it obviously picked that up from my Windows Vista regional settings, so I guess I'm going to have to download an Australian English dictionary plugin for OpenOffice 3.0 to make it work, although it's a shame it wasn't included in the package.

The OpenOffice site seems to be playing up – trying to get to the News page took a long time, and the “Press” page still won't load at all, but actually downloading OpenOffice 3.0 was no problem. I guess if you're going to have site problems on the day of launching your new office suite, the download part is the one part you want working no matter what!

I can see that as I type certain words, OpenOffice will automatically fill the word in for me. This seems to work for longer words – every time I start typing in “the” I'm given the choice for the word “themsevles”.

You can see the rest of the word highlighted in blue, and if you want the choice OpenOffice is giving you, just press enter.

This also happens when I type OpenOffice – I just type Open, and “Office” is ready and waiting. Of course, if you press the space bar, the choice goes away. I don't remember seeing this in OpenOffice 2.0, and if you don't like it, I'm sure there's a way somewhere in the option to turn it off.

Everything seems quite snappy, and so far, it all looks quite impressive. I've had a quick look at the presentation and spreadsheet tools, although OpenOffice also offers a drawing program and a database, as longstanding OpenOffice users would know.

What are some of the key new features, which languages is 3.0 available (and for what platforms), and where can you download a free copy from? Please read on to page 2.

One of the key features of OpenOffice 3.0 is compatibility with Microsoft Office 2007 files, meaning you can open those .docx, .xlsx and .pptx files instead of needing to save them as Office 2003 .doc, .xls and .ppt files first.

Other new features include Mac OS X support without needing X11, which means the Mac version of OpenOffice “behaves like any other Aqua application”.

There's also ODF (OpenDocument Format) 1.2 support built in, a solver feature for “solving optimization problems where the optimum value of a particular spreadsheet cell has to be calculated based on constraints provided in other cells”, something that Office 2008 for Mac apparently lacks.

Also included are chart enhacements in the spreadsheet, an improved crop feature in Draw and Impress, a spreadsheet collaboration through workbook sharing feature, 1024 columns per calc sheet instead of 256, and the ability to display multiple Writer pages while editing.

There's also an improved notes feature in Writer, those previously mentioned “fresh” new icons, a new “Start Centre” from which you can go to any of OpenOffice's applications, native tables in the Impress application and enhanced XML support and updated XSLT based filters.

Minor updates are listed as follows: PDF/A support (the “archival” version of PDF files), a new chart component, some VBA support for many VBA macros, programmability enhancements, transformation of CSV data inside cells into columns within Calc, a language selector in the Writer toolbar, larger page sizes for Draw, enhanced PDF support, and multiple monitor support for Impress.

Miscellaneous Features are listed as:

    * Microsoft Vista Support
    * Columns and Rows in Spreadsheets Can Be Moved via Drag and Drop
    * Autosum button for cell ranges in Calc
    * Named ranges in Validity lists in Calc
    * Easy-To-Use Print Dialog in Calc
    * Playing a Sound File During a Full Slide Show in Impress
    * Custom Animation Paths in Impress
    * Support for Access 2007 ".accdb" Files
    * Improved Pivot Table Support
    * Autokerning Enabled by Default
    * "Queries within Queries" Feature for Base
    * Improved HTML Export for Spreadsheets
    * Block selection in Writer
    * Language auto detected in paragraphs in Writer
    * Preview in Navigator for all modules
    * Online update for OOo and extensions
    * Java installer under Linux

Version 3 is currently available in Danish, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Swedish, with other language versions still in 2.x mode.

All 3.0 versions are available for Windows and Linux, while Mac OS X gets 3.0 versions in Danish, English, German and Swedish.

More 3.0 support for lanugages and platforms is comng soon. The Windows version of OpenOffice 3.0 is only 142mb in size.

Download it now from the OpenOffice website!



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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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