Reviewed: OpenOffice.org 3.2

Apps

There's a new version of Linux's grandest office suite, but is it a major step forward or just another humdrum release with little to show? And most importantly, does it finally get the startup time down to an acceptable level? Read on for all the gory details...

Office suites lack glamour. They're perfunctory, practical and prosaic. They remind us of real work, mundane chores and things that need to be done. But that's also why they're essential and why OpenOffice.org is a vital part of the free software ecosystem, whether it innovates or not.

OOo 3.2 is a step in the right direction. Firstly, it's a lot faster. Version 3.2 of Writer launched more than 50% quicker than 3.1 in our tests, down to 3.4 seconds from around 7 with a fresh reboot. That alone makes a big difference, but the UI also seems to be more responsive. We used Writer exclusively over the last couple of weeks, and there's an almost imperceptible improvement in the on-screen typing latency, which can really help if you create a lot of words.

OpenOffice.org 3.2

Massive speed improvements and a new slant on enterprise integration put OOo in a great position for the upcoming GUI overhaul of Project Renaissance.

The second big focus for this release is file formats. OOo claims improved compatibility with Microsoft Office 2007 formats and the new ODF 1.2 specification, but we tested Microsoft Office 2007 conversion with a variety of documents, and there was no obvious improvement over the already reasonable support in version 3.1. The big difference is that you can now load password-protected files as well as spreadsheets that include OLD objects, form controls and pivot tables, but .docx still doesn't appear as an export or save format, despite a vague reference to this addition in the new features list.

The Open Document Format fares much better, and .docx compatibility might become less of an issue if and when Microsoft finally integrates support into the next version of its office suite. The big improvements made to chase ODF 1.2 compatibility include the ability to add something called RDF metadata to your documents. This is a sober addition intended for serious projects and big sets of documentation.

Board the Enterprise

RDF is short for Resource Description Framework, and is a method of data interchange more commonly found on the web. What its inclusion means for your OOo documents is that you can now add descriptive information to your data, such as labels and categories, that make your documentation more portable and more interchangeable with any other RDF-compatible systems you may use. A good example is a document that deals with patient records for a doctor's surgery, where RDF is used to insert elements from XML data containing the results of a physical examination. It's a complicated concept to grasp, but it has the potential to pull OOo into more governmental and enterprise-based roles, which can only be a good thing.

Rounding up the remainder of the new features is easy, because there are hardly any to speak of. The thesaurus in Writer has apparently become smarter, now using stemming and morphology techniques to suggest better words, but we couldn't detect any difference in results from the British dictionary. Calc can now generate Bubble Charts, where X, Y and bubble area are mapped to three values, and the SQL editor in Base can now perform search and replace tricks. There's also support for PostScript-based OpenType fonts. And that's about it. These are small additions, and overall this is a modest update, but we're still overjoyed at the speed issues finally being addressed.

Our verdict: Still the best, most comprehensive office suite available on Linux. 8/10

Features at a glance

OpenOffice.org docx import

MS compatibility OOo works extremely well with .docx files output from Microsoft’s Office 2007 suite, and now support passwords.

OpenOffice.org chart Bubbles

Bubbles A new chart option in Calc enables you to make bubble graphs out of your tables of statistics.

First published in Linux Format

First published in Linux Format magazine

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Your comments

Resource Hog?

Is OOo still a resource hog? I've been using AbiWord on openSUSE 11.2 (KDE) the last few months because of that...

brill hope they continue he

brill hope they continue he project

RE:Resource Hog

I've had Google Chrome, Firefox 3.6, Banshee and Openoffice writer 3.2 open for the last 3 hours and OOo is hovering about the 6% CPU mark whereas Chrome is 13.6%, Firefox 4.3% and Banshee is 12%.

This is on Ubuntu Karmik, 1gb memory Intel Celeron single core processor.

Ugh, Firefox and Chrome are

Ugh, Firefox and Chrome are such resource hogs - if only Opera was FLOSS, then more people besides me would use it ;)

(and hopefully 10.50 will come out for Linux soon, the GUI redesign has really delayed the non-Windows ports quite badly)

Small step in the right direction

Being stuck at work with a W machine, and that at home I run a bunch of Linux machines I like the same - un, well, nearly- office software. We only sneaked Ooo in under the radar at work as we were dealing with docx's and xlsx's and our tight fisted managers didn't want to buy the latest version of bloat from M$. Oo3.2 speed increase is welcome, but it's not there yet. Some of the formatting is still flaky, it's not rendering some of the incoming docs correctly and they've still not fixed cut and paste in Spreadsheets (it's a pain!).

Thanks!

Hey thanks for listening to my advice and trying OpenOffice 3.2. :)

One thing ye forgot to mention is that the highlighting of text is much better and looks alot nicer too!

Openoffice still doesn't look great but I have come to the stage where I badly want to use OO, as the alternative in college is to use the bloody awful MS office 2007. I just can't stand the layout of it!!

Thats why my OO portable goes everywhere with me.

GUI Overhaul?

I don't consider what they call to be an overhaul until they dump the ancient toolkit they are using. It served its purpose but now it's only another abstraction that isn't needed anymore. Yes, it will be time consuming to re-base to another popular toolkit like GTK or Qt, but it will be worth it. Then they won't need to worry about cross-platform compatibility, updating the toolkit, or any number of other issues. It's a win-win.

Do NOT roundtrip, just switch completely

We are investigating OOo at work, but keep running into incompatibilities introduced by MS. For instance a numbered list from OOo gets hardnumbered inside MSO. We've given up hoping it will ever work, as this will kill MS's cashcow.

We now dictate that everybody gets OOo _and_ MSO, and that you edit a document in the format you received it, so no conversion. Part of the good press of OOo is that we promote it as a cure against frozen or corrupt MSO files (there we do rountdtrip it from frozen Word to Writer and then to Word again).

We are now pushing groups to collectively switch to OOo at the same time, with PDF as output for the rest.

@Cas Tuyn

"We now dictate that everybody gets OOo _and_ MSO, and that you edit a document in the format you received it, so no conversion."

Why waste your time with MSO at all? At some point there needs to be a line in the sand saying "Do your document in an open format or we won't accept it". That is how the .doc format gained its dominance. Allowing doc files just keep MSOffice as the de facto standard instead of the OpenDocument ISO standard. Allowing MS .doc files just sends the message that they are "OK" when in many ways they aren't.

Use MSO and OOo for a few hours and choose "honeslty" ...

This week-end I ended up having to use MSO for some basic data jiggling, and having recieved an mdb file I went the easy obvious way.
I use both office suites on a daily basis, but this time round I actually stopped to think about it.
In linux I use OOo because I don't really have a choice ... so it gets the "good enough to (mostly) get the job done." mark. So once the license money argument is out (my employer provides me with MSO, and no it ain't M$) using OOo, from a merely user-experience perspective, is an exercise in self torture.
Forms, wizards, formulas, graphs, and document scrolling is straightforward and feels right, while on OOo I have the constant feeling of working with a an elephant held together with duct tape (working in odf native formats only makes things marginally better).

All these are my subjective, personal opinions of course, but I do hope that Oracle doesn't sink OOo and puts the resources necessary to make OOo into a tool that can compete on functionality and not just price.

Yes, all my arguments don't consider the importance of standard data formats, but then again how many users do?

Chrome a resource hog? Nah.

"Ugh, Firefox and Chrome are such resource hogs"

Firefox, sure, but Chrome? Never before have I seen such a bold statement.

Chrome is fast. Really fast. If there's any CPU hogging, blame Flash or some other plugin that might be running at that point.

it aint perfect

There are still problems with DL envelopes I spent a whole day trying to get it to print correctly this size envelope. The only reason why I tried for so long is that I was unbelieving that it was openoffice. In the end after trying abiword which printed correctly and downgrading to 3.1.1 which printed correctly was I satisfied it was not me. It seemed to recognise on screen the envelope but printing it thought it was dealing with a a4 piece of paper.

Annoying. Openoffice goes to steps forward then one back with every release.

Open office 3.2 crashes

When I am using oowriter and I select Tools ---> option menu option I get this error message " X-Error: BadAlloc (insufficient resources for operation)
Major opcode: 53 (X_CreatePixmap)
Resource ID: 0x40004d2
Serial No: 7106 (7106)
These errors are reported asynchronously,
set environment variable SAL_SYNCHRONIZE to 1 to help debugging" Please let me how can I fix this ?

Open office 3.2 really slow

I've tried calc with doc have 80cols x 1000 rows. It's really really slow to respond user action like hide 1 columns or insert new columns.

Hopefully they will take a big step to improve its performance.

Communications Electrician

While I have been a computer owner and user for many years, I have never had Linux on any of my machines and know only what I have heard from others or on the net. I would like a definitive answer and the proper way to do it to load Windows and Linux on the same machine so I can compare for myself which is better suited for me and the easiest to use.
I do have an earlier version of OO on one of my other machines and found it to be quite good, but I had problems trying to get the same functions to work on the spread sheet application that I was used to on MS Excel.
Thank You

Remove text border

Maybe is time that you remove that text border on Word writer, that belongs to dark ages.

my curiosity

hello i'm a new user of open office! i just wanna ask if what are the difference of the open office 3.0 to the new version of open office 3.2 and if what are the improvements to the new version. Addional i'm curios about to the open office calc, why they are crashing? and if the Microsof Access Data Base can run in Open Office?

Referencing

Is that a good way to do Harvard Referencing or similar in OpenOffice Writer?

@jake

for referencing try zotero

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