OpenOffice.org 2.0 Beta Review

I recently downloaded the OpenOffice.org (OOo) office productivity suite, version 2.0 Beta. The suite includes Writer (word processor), Impress (presentation), calculator (spreadsheet) or other parts that I don’t use yet. Given that it’s a Beta, there are still some minor issues – e.g. the application gets hung-up sometimes, but not often, and you have to close it from the Windows Task Manager [All of my comments are for the Windows version].

Overall I would say the OOo is ready for prime time, especially once release Version 2.0 becomes available in the next few weeks. The interface is much more intuitive, especially for those used to applications like MS Word or WordPerfect. This recent version continues from previous ones with its ability to open, edit and save in Microsoft formats, or in the less bulky OOo formats. Saving docs as PDF’s is even easier, and you now have more compression options. If you have documents in an older version of OOo you will have to save them in the new format in order to use all of the newer functions, something I learned in OOo Impress with its newer and better slide sorter.

A great new feature with Writer includes the ability to open WordPerfect documents. I noted that Writer 2.0 also handles MS Word tables much better now, which was my primary complaint with OOo 1.x.

Those used to MS PowerPoint’s multiple layout options and clip art galleries may not like OOo Impress, but there are always open source image galleries like Wiki Commons available. You should also note that the new format (.odt, .odp, etc) is not backwards compatible, so if you save a document as "xxx.odt", someone with OOo Version 1.x will not be able to open it.

I have previously recommended OOo to my more computer-literate friends but now can wholeheartedly endorse it for the average home or business user. Remember that it’s free; you can install it on as many computers as you want; and there is no Microsoft End User License Agreement requiring you to give up "quiet enjoyment" and various other rights. If you think that saving a lot of money and having greater flexibility with your office applications is a good thing, then get OOo 2.0.

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