OpenOffice 1.1 Takes Aim at Microsoft Office

The final bits of OpenOffice 1.1 are now available for download. OpenOffice, the core of Sun's StarOffice 7.0 offshoot, is a free and open source alternative to Microsoft Office. The suite comes complete with a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software and other components, while continuing its tradition of utilizing an XML-based file format.

Several enhancements as well as new features have made it into 1.1, but other concepts missed the cut and are destined for the next milestone: OpenOffice 2.0.

Some of the new items added to OpenOffice 1.1 include native one-click PDF (Adobe Acrobat) export, Macromedia Flash export for presentations and drawings, in addition to accessibility support. Accessibility support is a prerequisite for government usage.

The new release improves product load-time, includes enhanced Microsoft Office file compatibility and sports a smoother look and feel. OpenOffice is also set to integrate with OpenGroupware, a proposed replacement to Microsoft Exchange Server.

In a statement to BetaNews, project spokesperson Sam Hiser remarked, "I would simply say that, with the new 1.1 release, OpenOffice.org is pleased to be able to offer Windows users an open and future-proof file format that creates options; it allows them to keep their old hardware and not change their old operating system while gaining functionality that MS Office does not have -- export to Adobe PDF and Macromedia FLASH -- features worth $1,000 at retail. That's not to mention OOo1.1's over-90% perfect compatibility with all MS Office file formats."

Mac users must wait until later this quarter for an OS X port, following news of a delay in its development. Solaris for x86 and FreeBSD customers will also have to exercise patience for their respective ports.

While "Q-Concept" -- a public document -- is the working spec for OpenOffice 2.0, Hiser went on to offer BetaNews detail on the direction that 2.0 will take.

Tentatively speaking, 2.0 will follow "more in 1.1's general direction of look and feel," according to Hiser, with faster load time and a "user-friendly database modular front-end."

"I'm expecting it to be mind-blowing toward late 2005," said Hiser.

Donning a more technical cap, Hiser continued, "With OOo 2.0 I would generally say that it will be clearer to users what the next-gen office suite will look and feel like: a 'canvas' onto which styles and programming tools/widgets may be 'dropped.'"

The vertical position Hiser outlines follows the trend of Office 2003, which is being positioned by Microsoft as a platform for developers.

Acknowledging this trend, Hiser took a directed blow at Redmond, saying, "look for tools that make it easier for users to switch AWAY from MS Office, because if 350 million (legacy MS Office users Windows 2000 and below) users don't do it on THIS upgrade they'll definitely pay up to get out in '05 & '06 when the trap is more apparent to them."

According to the terms of its open source licenses (LGPL & SISSL), OpenOffice is free for all to use, improve, modify and to redistribute. Version 1.1 is immediately available for download for Windows, Linux, and Solaris operating systems in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese (simplified & traditional), Korean and Japanese.

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