OpenOffice for Mac OS X Pushed Back

Delivery is not on schedule for a Mac OS X port of OpenOffice, the development team announced. Technical hurdles have postponed a native release until 2006, while the X11 release is on track for 2005, following the mainstream introduction of OpenOffice 2.0.

Most Mac users may have to wait a bit longer for a viable Microsoft Office alternative, as the X11 version of OpenOffice is not for novices. While able to run on the Darwin core found in Mac OS X, X11 is a UNIX standard windowing system that does not take advantage of the rich UI functionality available in Apple's operating system.

A public beta of OpenOffice for Mac OS X was finalized in October of 2002, leading to speculation that the software was on track to meet its deadline for completion early this year. The beta release was partially for public use, with developers set aside as the intended audience to lend a hand in squashing bugs and implementing missing functionality.

According to a notice posted on the project's Web site, the delay is largely due to API changes within OpenOffice itself.

"Aside from our compilation efforts, the majority of our work can't be completed until these APIs are in place or at least designed to a point where we can begin figuring out how to marry them to Mac OS X. There is no active coding at this time," read the announcement.

Open source projects achieve milestones based on the work of volunteers, and periods between major releases can be compressed with additional help. This principal was an underlying factor in the decision to hold off on Mac development.

"With limited testing and development resources, it is unwise to spend all of our efforts porting a "dead" API that would not allow our work to be incorporated into newer versions of the software. As such, any delivery estimates here should be considered "relative" to the time the APIs are completed," said OpenOffice in a statement.

Upon completion, the open source office suite will be able to integrate with OpenGroupware, a proposed "replacement" to Microsoft Exchange Server.

Other office suite alternatives such as Gobe Productive currently do not have products for Mac OS X.

In the meantime, Apple enthusiasts have been presented with a December re-release of Standard, Professional and Student and Teacher boxed copies of Office v.X, Microsoft's productivity software for Mac OS X. The re-release bundles the VirtualPC x86 CPU emulation software, and adds connectivity to Exchange servers within its Entourage e-mail client.

Mac OS X Panther, the next version of Apple's operating system, will feature several office-related enhancements including tweaks to the address book and the ability to sync with Microsoft Exchange. An internal viewer for Word documents is also scheduled, drawing Mac users closer toward embracing Microsoft document standards.

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