The latest release of OpenOffice is right around the corner, and it promises to close the gap on a lot of features found in rival apps. Here's what you have to look forward to.
Since birth, OpenOffice has tried to pull users away from Microsoft Office. Unfortunately, features have been missing. But starting with the 3.3 release -- which is slated for the third quarter of this year -- many of those features will start to trickle in. Here are a few things that are coming down the pipe for the open source office suite alternative.
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1: Rennaisance: Ribbon-style interface (3.3)
When the Microsoft Office suite moved to the "Ribbon interface," most people had a lot of difficulty getting used to it. But as usual, everyone did get used to it. Now a lot of end users prefer the Ribbon interface to the standard interface. This has caused OpenOffice to seem outdated -- even the latest release. This will change as the new Renaissance Interface arrives in the upcoming releases.
2: Thesaurus in right-click context menu (3.3)
If you are a writer like me, you need your writers' tools and you need fast access to them. Having a context menu that contains those tools is a real boon because it cuts down on the time you spend dragging your cursor around the desktop.
3: FindBar: A new search-specific tool bar (3.3)
Searching, especially in larger documents, is a key function of the OpenOffice tools. With the next release, OpenOffice will gain a search-specific toolbar for Writer that will greatly enhance the power of searching in documents.
4: 3D slideshow transitions for Impress (3.3)
Let's face it: The transitions in Impress are lagging behind. With the release of 3.3, users will get to enjoy new three-dimensional transitions that will really add punch to their presentations.
5: Custom colors to sheet tabs in Calc (3.3)
This may seem trivial to many users, but to spreadsheet power users, being able to edit the color of your sheet tabs can make navigating around those books much faster.
6: XHTML Import filter (3.x)
Most people will think the ability to import XHTML into OpenOffice makes little sense. However, OpenOffice does include an HTML editor. But without the ability to work with XHTML, the OpenOffice HTML editor is fairly outdated. This will bring OpenOffice HTML editor up to snuff.
7: Distributed SCM (3.3)
This will mostly help the developers and those testing nightly builds. The migration from the current CVS code repository will do wonders to clean up the code used in the repositories, which will have numerous long-term advantages/effects.
8: SVG Importer (3.3)
SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) is one of the most requested features for OpenOffice. Yes, OpenOffice does have an external implementation of this feature, but the dependencies are enough to send average users running to their safe place. Once OpenOffice has the internal implementation working in 3.3, SVG graphics editing will be smooth sailing.
9: Animations in SWF export (3.4)
Presentations can be saved as Flash animations, but no animations can be added to the Flash exports. As of 3.4, five common animations (belonging to the entry, emphasis, and exit groups and a set of slide transitions) will be built in. This will give Web-based presentations much more "flash" (pardon the pun).
10: More, more, more (3.x)
More fonts, more templates, more clipart, more file filters. Within the 3.x updates, you will start seeing a plethora of additions, which will mean more of everything. Although many may consider this "bloat," some would say it's necessary to keep up with the competition. And if this more isn't enough for you, you can always search for additions on the OpenOffice.org site. Some of these additions will be in the form of extensions, which (with the upcoming releases) will allow OpenOffice to reach beyond that of the typical office suite.
OpenOffice continues to march on in an attempt to sway users from the competition. When 3.3 is released, features will be added to OpenOffice that will make it on par with the competition. But does OpenOffice have all of the features you need? What would YOU add to it to make it work for you and/or your company?