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back to article OpenOffice 3.2 - now with less Microsoft envy

OpenOffice 3.2 - now now available for Windows, Mac and Linux - boasts faster start-up times than before. But the really big news is that now - finally - this open-source suite offers full compatibility with files created using Microsoft's Office 2007. If you've ever tried opening or converting .docx and other Microsoft Office …

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Compatible with MSOffice7

until the next MS update I would guess.

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More like "already incompatible" in a few areas

First of all, even 2.x has some level of compatibility with MSFT formats. While it refuses to read word 2007, excel 2007 and IIRC ppt 2007 work fine. Also, adapters for 2007 formats were available from Suse as far back as in 2008.

However, all of that is basic compatibility. Works fine, but it is not great where you really need it. There are two places where OO is still not compatible with MSFT as of 3.1.11 (I need to retest 3.2, when the debian backport comes out on bpo):

1. Bibliographical references are broken. OO export/import to MSFT breaks bibliography to bits.

2. Transparency in imported vector objects (Visio and the like) is not handled correctly. OO will display something that is 50% transparent as fully transparent.

Otherwise it has been getting faster since 2.x which is a rare exemption in a world where software is only getting slower. So while clearly "already incompatible" it is a reasonable office suite. If it finally delivers a tolerable diagram tool at least the level of visio 5.5 (1999) I will be able to finally stop using MSFT for text editing altogether.

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Native Client

A major advantage of Google's Applications is that business people can stop carrying a latop around. Just go to the next browser, log in with your Google Email address and have access to all of your spreadsheets and other documents, including full-text search and versioning.

As the article pointed out, JavaScript is not up to the task of running a complex, full-blown office suite. But Google's Native Client could help here the capability to safely execute the traditional compiled C++ code.

So Oracle should port OpenOffice to Native Client and run OpenOffice inside of a browser. Oracle should offer the server part as a service or as the tradionally licensed software that companies can run on their own hardware (still accessible over the internet, of course). That would address confidentiality concerns many have about the "cloud".

The Native Client concept is basically simple and rock-solid. Look at this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgng4C18nNk

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The next browser is 70%+ infected with next spyware

If the next browser is on a PC belonging to a corporation it in 95% of the cases has a keyboard logger and a screen capture utility run by whoever owns the PC.

If it is not a PC in a kiosk 95% of the cases it has a keylogger hooked up straight to a gang stealing credentials.

If it is a private windows PC, 20-30% of the cases it has spyware, trojan and a keylogger of some description.

So allowing your users to use them on "any PC with a browser" is not an advantage, it is a first degree idiocy.

As a sysadmin with 15+ years of experience I understand the desire by some "business people" not to carry a laptop around. It is inconvenient, large and uncomfortable to hold on top of your engorged manhood in a strip bar expensed as "entertaining customers". However, business is not only getting the customer drunk and enjoying strippers together. It actually involves doing work (bad word I know) and communicating with your company in a manner that does not jeopardise the company's financial and intellectual property.

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Not until hell freezes over

"Just go to the next browser, log in with your Google Email address and have access to all of your spreadsheets and other documents, including full-text search and versioning."

And so can anyone else who hacks the website, or finds the USB sticks with the backups that some numpty left on the train. No business person in his/her right mind is going to trust their office docs to a fluffy feelgood cloud service. The biggest users of that sort of service are the same tw@ts that tweet their breakfast to their facebook friends. It's only a matter of time until some bozo gets caught keeping their kiddieporn spreadsheet on it, and then people will drop off it faster than shit off a shovel.

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Anonymous Coward

Naive trust in 3rd parties

"Just go to the next browser, log in with your Google Email address and your customer will have access to all of your spreadsheets and other documents, including full-text search and versioning."

Fixed that for you.

Assuming you're at a customers.

You can replace "your customer" with "your competitor" or "everyone" appropriately.

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why would someone convert from 2007?

In general most business stepping over to openoffice have/had at least office 2003. In that case converting is no problem.

When a business wants to step over to openoffice from ms-office 2007 it will be planned way a head. This gives time to use ms office 2007 to save the office formats to the 2003 formats. So no problem either.

In any case, converting documents is never a good idea when these document could be use in any kind of legal dispute. After converting the trustworthy of a document is just nog that high any more. In this case you don't wan't to convert the documents but only want to be able to read it. This can be done using the free ms-office readers from ms.

In short, don't get why its such a big deal that openoffice is late with the converting tool... there should be no need for it when applying document management.

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It's because...

...and you'll be astonished by this - OTHER people might have gone for Office 2007 instead. I know you'll find it hard to believe, but sometimes we receive documents from outside the company! Wowzers. What an age we live in, eh?

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Linux

Why? Plenty of reasons...

When you get sent documents saved in .docx format (which I do), being able to convert them is invaluable. Especially when the MS Office readers don't work for me - being on Linux and all.

But seriously, try saving all of a working business' documents from one format to another. You will end up suicidal, so therefore it is much better being able to read those documents at the client end, rather than have to convert them all to a different format beforehand (which STILL isn't OpenOffice's default format, and is probably also reverse engineered...).

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@Greg J Preece

Which companies? Most of the places I've worked at in the last 3 years have stuck to XP and Office 2003. No one in their right mind has chosen 2007, especially with that "Ribbon" thingy that seems to have eaten up all their beloved menus. Not to mention Vista, which I've seen in only 2 corporate PC' in that same timeframe; and those PCs were new. In fact, I suspect new PC acquisitions have been frozen in most corps *thanks* to Vista. Woo!!!

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Fluff, AKA sheeple food

"If Oracle can provide a first-rate connect-anywhere, edit-anywhere online office suite, it might have finally found something that can break Microsoft's stronghold on business productivity tools."

I've been connecting to my private network from "anywhere" to edit files that make my personal businesses a pleasure to run for a couple decades now ...

Here's the thing that most folks are missing ... I do most of my text editing with a text editor (I'm partial to vi, YMMV), usually typ(o)ed on an IBM model M keyboard, attached to a 3151 monitor. The combination allows my brain+fingers to put ideas into ASCII faster than anything else I've ever tried writing with.

Once I have the basic concept on-screen, editing it a trifle to make my thoughts more coherent is trivial ... and if I have to format the result of that editing to make it "frilly" (to separate money from people who think that fonts and colo(u)rs and graphics and dancing sheep are more important than the core message that is easy enough to convey with good old ASCII), I can still edit the frilly bits with good old vi ...

Microsoft has been separating sheep from their money for a long time. I don't buy into it.

I won't buy into it if Oracle's Sun division tries to fleece the sheep, either ...

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Pint

3151

My god! One that still works!

These terminals had the most unreliable video system I have EVER seen. The brightness is the thing that fails most, leading to having to peer at the screen with all the lights off. Then there is the flyback supression that lead to ugly left-to-right, bottom-to-top diagonal lines. The power switch breaks, and the clips/screws that hold the mainboard to the case appear to come undone. The built in tilt foot breaks, and the tilt and swivel base (if fitted, it was an extra purchase) would fall off whenever yo picked up the terminal.

And this is just the hardware!. The 3151 used IBM specific terminal codes (i.e. not compliant with ANSI X3.64, Wyse 50/60 or any other terminal I came across). Whilst they worked, there were some real ugly features like not being able to turn on or off the bold/underscore/flash capabilities independently. IBM addressed this by having 'compatibility cartridges', which definitely did NOT do what they said on the can. The cartridge for AIX compatibility was supposed to work with AIX (surprise), but in reality, because there were multiple versions, most of which were broken in different ways, it was useless. You had to tweak the termcap/terminfo entries to get them working at all.

And don't get me started in the stupid cables that were the official way to plug them into a PC/RT 6150 or RS/6000. 10 pin MODU or RJ45 to 25 pin D-shell, straight through 25-25 pin serial cable and then a Serial Interposer (that was wired differently from a standard null-modem) that stuck out of the back of the terminal just begging to be broken. (later RS's used 9 pin D shells, a major step forward).

The only good feature was, as jake said, that they came with Model M keyboards (a real class act), but this was spoilt by having a stupid RJ11 connector on the end of the cable that meant that the keyboard could only be used on 3151s without hacking them around. I also agree with vi (pronounced vee eye not vye or 6 [think about it!]), but would say that if it suits you, Emacs still works very well on non-graphical terminals.

Thankfully, the 3152 and 3153 were better, but they were still worse than DEC/Wyse/HP and any number of small company alternatives.

My favorite was a small company set up by some ex. Wyse engineers, called Falco. These were amazing terminals, with good keyboards, readable screens, dual serial ports with separate terminal sessions on each, good ANSI X3.64/VT220 (amongst a host of others), and to cap it all, good Tektronic 4014 emulation. And they were cheap! They were the perfect compliment to System V systems, allowing all of the AT&T goodies such as S, graph, sag and the tek backend to diTroff to work. The only thing that was better, I found, were the Blits (5620/630/730), but these were in a different price league from any other terminal.

Oh well. It's mainly all boring history now, as my work colleagues keep reminding me. Where's the Boring Old Fart icon! I guess a beer will have to do.

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Happy

I agree

In fact, I go one better and use only cuneiform on clay tablets. IBM have been separating sheep from their money for far too long ...

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WTF?

Strange as it may be, not everyone likes editing text files through a terminal application, and there is no need to either for mere mortals. Even the most ardent open source person can enjoy the likes of Open Oiffce, Eclipse, Gedit, Abiword, KWord etc. That doesn't stop someone dropping to the command line and there may be occasion where doing a quick change merits firing up vi

It also doesn't stop masochists raging at 30 years of UI advances, calling people "sheeple" etc. while hammering angrily into their terminal editor. You are using an editor to voice your response? Or at least lynx? Or at least wget? I'd hate to think you were voicing your anger about modern word processors while using a modern web browser. That might be ever so slightly hypocritcal.

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@Peter Gathercole

"You had to tweak the termcap/terminfo entries to get them working at all."

Uh ... your point was ... what, exactly?

;-)

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@DrXym. WYSIWYG!!!

I have always found it to be a real benefit thinking about the content first, and then making sure it is pretty afterwards. Using a text editor is ideal for this. This is not a UNIX bigot's point of view, it's from long experience of writing technical documents using both ways of working.

I have seen too many supposedly good technical writers spend more time fiddling with the format rather than thinking about what they were writing, and then turning in hurried and poorly thought out technical documents just in time for their deadline.

I believe that WYSIWYG was the worst thing to happen to office productivity. Let a text formatter work out how to fit the paragraphs and pages together. They are generally better at it than you and I (at least in the technical arena), and as long as you can tweak it to remove the worst of the uglies, the documents will not look any worse (and may look much better!). And don't talk about style guides. Word's habit of keeping the style when cutting and pasting has led to more font/paragraph inconsistencies in documents I have been given than I can count.

The only time WYSIWYG is useful is if you are after the full DTP experience for full page layout, like magazine articles or advertising, and you would not be using Office or Open Office for this, unless you are forced to, or are a masochist.

But then, I am from the Troff/MM/MS macros era. My documents may lack some of the niceties (although with tbl, pic, grap, and eqn it's a close call), but they will be consistent from beginning to end, and I can concentrate on making the content correct. This is far more important in my line of work.

BTW. How do you know that the text was not written using vi and cut and pasted! And I would not call this comment window I'm typing in anything more than a simple text editor, more like notepad, wordpad, EDT/EVE or any number of simple text editors than Word or Oowriter.

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Unhappy

@jake

My point that 3151's were not good terminals. You would not get Vi working on a 3151 with a 'bad' compatibility cartridge and the out-of-the-box termcap/terminfo entries on AIX (or any other UNIX variant).

Sorry, my post wandered from the initial thread.

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@Peter Gathercole & @DrXym

Peter: Just digging you in the ribs, I know you've been around the block a time or two ... Yes, they have a bad reputation, but my 3151s seem to be working fine ... I got a pallet load of them from Wierdstuff Warehouse about ten years ago for $25.00 ... most of them were/are unused, and in their original packaging ... I was mostly interested in the Model M keyboards, and planning on recycling the terminals ... but on a whim, I plugged one into a Slackware box. It worked without any issues, so I kept 'em.

DrXym: Yes, that was typed on a text only terminal attached to a serial port on this laptop's docking station. Save to ~, shift keyboards, and copy/paste into the browser. I do most of my writing that way ... at least anything longer than this post. And no, I'm not angry. Not even vaguely irritated. More puzzled than anything else. Why does it take longer today to generate a document than it did back in the days of VisiCalc and Wordstar? More to the point, why are people generating so much static, defending so-called "productivity suits" that are anything but productive? Rather than me reinventing the wheel, re-read Peter's commentary, above.

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mail merge

In older versions mail merge was the one part that meant my clients couldn't move from MS. once they make it as easy to do a mail merge (and im not just talking about addresses) then IMHO we can start moving away to OO

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Exactly right!

They should put the emphasis on the database part and the connections from the rest of the applications to the data. That would make it instantly useable as a MSO replacement.

The people who are addicted to Excel are never going to be using something else anyway, as a matter of fact, in many cases, it's the ONLY thing they are able to use.

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I found (e)mail merge in OO

easier and more robust than MS-Office. There are some weirdnesses to get round at the start, but at least it will talk to a (standard compliant, authenticated SMTP) mail-server, which MS-Office refused to do.

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FAIL

To hell with the cloud!

I have just returned from a long trip that took me to the US and the UK. No internet when away from Spain, unless I want to pay something like 10€ PER MEG. I pay in Spain 12€ per month for unlimited access (cellphone only).

We better hold on to our native apps and storage for a while: at those prices, the Cloud is nothing more than a few stratospheric cirrus. I hope that, like in the real world, they signal a change of weather.

ps/ Funnily, sending SMS from the UK was actually cheaper than sending them from Spain, though.

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Good News and Bad News

The good. Open Office is moving a little bit closer to being a real alternative to MS Office.

The bad. In view of Oracle licen$ing model, Open Office is not going to be in the open source for very much longer.

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Stop

Once Open, Always Open

"Open Office is not going to be in the open source for very much longer" -- how so?

OpenOffice.org is licenced under the LGPL, which grudgingly allows closed forks (though you must still make available ). But, crucially, it also allows GPL forks -- and GPL is forever.

The Source Code is out there, and always will be so. Look at what happened with the cdrtools package, or XFree86, if you want to see how the Open Source community handles people suddenly turning selfish. The minute Oracle try something nasty with OpenOffice.org, Ubuntu will be shipping a GPL fork.

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Open Source!

It's in the open. I'd have to check with the license, but if Oracle choose to stop developing it, it could be forked.

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re: Open Source!

OOo has been forked for some time. Most Linux users/distros use the Novell backed Go-oo.org version. This tend to lead the Sun/Oracle version by a couple of releases as far as speed and alien imports go.

As most MS Windows users seem to use the Sun version, and most 'nix users don't realise they are using go-oo, there is plenty of room for confusion when making comparisons.

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Office 2007 files

I think it would be fair to point out that there's been a separate plugin that allowed versions of OpenOffice prior to 3.2 to open MS Office 2007 files. With 3.2 that support is improved and comes integrated out of the box.

It would also be reasonable to point out that Microsoft has made something of a dog's breakfast in supporting the new file formats on versions of Office for Mac....

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docx?

I've been opening docx in OOo 3.1 for months already. Perhaps you had an earlier version?

Somehow can't see Oracle taking care of OOo the way Sun did, but let's hope so. Desktop Linux (as in for use in displacing MS from offices and schools, not as in "Abiword and K-office do everything I need") is very heavily dependent on OOo.

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Happy

OOO

"Microsoft Office is - for better or worse - the moving target OpenOffice.org must aim for"

Why such assertions? OpenOffice merely attempts to provide a free alternative to a very expensive suite. If you need all the fancy features that it does not implement or you need to use a proprietary file format which introduces vendor lock-in, they sure, use MS Office.

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Much faster

OpenOffice is a great app but it had appalling startup times. The startup in 3.2 is very acceptable indeed and a welcome improvement.

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Linux

Re : Much faster

"but it had appalling startup times"

Truer to say that the default installation had slow startup - disabling Java and enabling Quickstarter means I can open Calc with a 70k spreadsheet in <8 secs over wireless network with a fairly wimpy laptop (mobile Celeron 1.5MHz)

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Office 2007

To be honest, considering that very few of my customers use MS Office 2007 and the few that do only use it marginally and all save their documents in the good old Office XP/2003 format, I have had no problem using OO 3.1 when working with them. Note: those are the same customers that still use XP and IE 6 (or sometimes 7) as standards in the enterprise.

Now that MS are coming out with Office 2010, they will probably want to push their customers that are still on Office 2003 to upgrade and I reckon this is when we will see a massive switch from .doc, .xls, ppt to .docx, .xlsx, .pptx and the like. So I would say that OpenOffice has full support for those just in time for the watershed. Incidentally, such a shift will probably be the source of an interesting headache for a lot of IT departments that will be asked to convert all their old documents to the new formats, which may be a golden opportunity for Oracle and IBM (with Lotus Symphony) to suggest to those customers that they might as well migrate all their documents to ODF and their software to an open source office suite that is actually less of a learning curve for users than going from Office 2003 to 2007/2010.

And any improvement in performance is always welcome.

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Oulook grim...

Now if only they had a completely compatible e-mail client. Without a viable replacement for outlook, (that can back onto an exchange server and offer all of outlook 2007's major features,) then open office is sadly not something I'll get a chance to deploy widely.

Too bad...Open Office 3.2 has proven pretty good. It’s now on most of my home systems.

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Go

I agree

It's Outlook with Exchange that is the clincher. Even if OOO came up with an Outlook alternative, wouldn't there be licensing issues with connecting to Exchange unless you wanted to use pop3 or something.

The only way I can see this happening is if OOO start doing an Exchange alternative as well, because lets face it, Exchange is how hugely bloated as well. If there was a free to use email client & server solution that was actually any good, I'd jump at the chance to implement it.

Maybe there already is, anyone know of one?

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Alien

open groupware server

zimbra?

http://www.zimbra.com/products/email-server.html

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Zimbra.

Zimbra client/server is the closest I know of. Unfortunately the whole thing is in limbo due to Yahoo giving it the boot. It's not feature complete, but some of the major points are there.

Now if only it were stable...

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Unhappy

"Oracle has pledged.....

..... to continue OpenOffice and plans to keep the entire Sun team on hand"

That is until Micro$oft decides to buy Oracle thus killing the opposition in one fell swoop.

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Oracle and OOo

Why do I get the feeling that Oracle will do for Open Office what Novell did for Word Perfect? I certainly hope not, for while Open Office aint as good as it could be, it still shows the potential to be a competitor to office, if not the only one.

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good...

I'm quite surprised that it took so long for straight OO to support OOXML files since there've been read only patches since 2.4, and read-write since 3.0. BUT Good on them nevertheless. Plus speed is always good.

I'll be highly amused if something as large as OO gets turned into some Javascript monster to run in the browser.

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But, can it run vba macro's ?

no ? -> bin. go play somewhere else.

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Happy

But it CAN run VBA macros!

@vincent himpe

Yes, it can.

Keep on playing with OO.....

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Mmm, macros

Because turning a relatively safe text file into an executable script is an excellent idea!

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Grenade

pounding heads against walls ?

"opening or converting .docx and other Microsoft Office 2007 file formats outside of Office 2007 itself, you've likely pounded your head against more than a few walls" ?

Usually the head I want to pound against a wall is the numbskull who sends me such crap. Goes double (both heads ?) for Microsoft Publisher files. Is there anything in the macrocosmic all that can read Microsoft Publisher files, including Microsoft Publisher ?

Also, while I am pounding heads, can this OO 3.2 read .wpd files from WordPerfect ? I actually know someone who uses Corel Office. No names, please, she might pound my head.

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Linux

Re : pounding heads against walls ?

"can this OO 3.2 read .wpd files from WordPerfect ?" -OpenOffice has a rather large list of types it can import including WordPerfect .wpd - I don't have any at hand to try however.

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Anonymous Coward

Ditto Visio!

Head hurts. Must stop hitting wall with it!

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Anonymous Coward

Missing the point?

In my experience, OpenOffice users no longer particularly concern themselves with the degree of compatibility the suite offers respect to its Microsoft counterpart. OO users in a typical MS-less office tend to store their documents in either ODF or sometimes in one of the older MS Office formats, and make PDF copies for emailing or otherwise sharing information outside their immediate environment.

As I say, at least in my experience, compatibility with the latest MS Office comes way down in my users' wishlists. Mostly what they demand is usability (where in certain aspects it does fall behind MS Office) and reliability (it fits the bill here). As my users work in a mixed O/S environment, it is also important that they can transfer seamlessly between MS and Penguin-powered desktops, and this is a big advantage here.

As for OO 3.1 being slow to start... I wonder what kind of computer you have. Again, this has not been reported by any of my users, and neither do I personally feel it is so. This applies both to the virtual Windows installations and the physical Linux desktops, some of which are nearly ten year old machines.

The Cloud? Current demand (which is hardly as much as it is made out to be) points more towards full desktop virtualisation rather than Cloud-specific apps à la Google Docs, so no immediate threats there. More of an opportunity if anything.

All in all, and without detracting from MS Office which is a very powerful suite with some clever ideas and polished design, one has moved on from the times when OpenOffice was nothing more than the "alternative" option for those too cheap or too principled to buy MS Office. Nowadays my users run OpenOffice because it does the job and that's what they want to use, not because that's all they can afford. This article appears to have been written three years too late.

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WTF?

Office 2007 compatibility

I was puzzled by your comments about OpenOffice now being able to open MS Office 2007 files as I have never had problems with these files in older releases of OpenOffice 3. The people who complain about not being able to read them are generally people using older versions of MS Office.

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"...without creating a massive vendor lock-in scheme"

We are talking about Oracle here, right?

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Good title...

...Open Office has finally started to come into it's own. The government in the UK should now force schools to adopt it, thus saving the tax payer hundreds of thousands of pounds in Microsoft license fees every year. There's no excuse anymore, well, apart from backhanders and sheer stupidity!

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Anonymous Coward

Bad News

The gubbermint is pushing MS into schools via their "free laptops" programme.

But I agree, schools should be using F/OSS where possible and saving some of the money from the license fees. They should teach children how PCs and the internet work; the difference between a spreadsheet and a database. Basic skills.

Not "Click Start/All Programs/MS Office/Word/File/Mail Merge; well done Johnny, here's your GCSE".

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