OpenOffice 1.1 promises big things

By   |  August 25, 2003

With the long-awaited OpenOffice.org 1.1 just days away from full release, Tectonic took the most recent release candidate (RC3) for a spin to get an insight into what users can expect:

OpenOffice.org is perhaps one of the most important desktop offerings of the open source world – alongside perhaps the likes of Evolution – and as such the forthcoming release of OpenOffice.org 1.1 is something to look forward to.

I\’ve been using OpenOffice for a good year now and while I was not always been a fan, the office suite has of late become my preferred word processor for those times when I\’m looking to type up more than just a quick to-do list or design a web page. (For those there are much better tools available.) The previous versions of OpenOffice had a number of great features. But the suite also had a number of failings that this version goes a long way in resolving.

The highlights:

Export directly to PDF. This is a great feature that is long overdue and while most platforms have a range of PDF creators available to them, being able to export directly to PDF from OpenOffice is so much simpler. Conversion appears to be very reliable and works across all the suite\’s applications from the word processor to spreadsheet and even presentations.

Export to Flash: Not being a great fan of Flash this is a dubious highlight but for those that do like a little bit of Flash on their websites this is probably a great addition. Initial tests suggest the \”export to Flash\” option appears only work with the presentation tools and suffers a few font-related issues which probably have more to do with my font selection than with the exporter.

Speed: Perhaps the most annoying feature of previous OpenOffice versions was the time the application took to start up. Staring at that never-ending splash screen every time I opened OpenOffice was enough to drive me crazy. Start-up with OpenOffice 1.1 is noticeably faster and with the addition of a progress bar start-up is not nearly as annoying as before.

Separate file closure: I\’m not sure what to label this but it is one of the better additions to this release. With previous versions if you only had one document open the only option was to close the entire application when closing the document. With this release the final document has its own \”close\” button (much like the Microsoft Office suite) which closes the specified document and not the entire application, avoiding the still somewhat slow load times mentioned above.


Interface: A number of interface enhancements make the OpenOffice.org 1.1 look more \”contemporary\” although there is a small part of me that feels it looks just a little too much like the Microsoft Office product that I have for some time being trying to escape.

Languages: The version I tested came with dictionaries installed for both English(UK) as well as English(USA) by default which is an improvement on being forced to use either give in to American spelling or download the UK dictionary separately.

The downsides

Words: My perennial bugbear – the lack of a selection-based word count – is still lacking in this release. For many users, me among them, the ability to select a portion of a text document and do a word count on it is crucial and perhaps one of the biggest failings of OpenOffice for a full time writer. Others that don\’t write for a living, however, may feel this is a minor point.

Options/Configuration: Something that has always puzzled me since the early days of OpenOffice is the dual options \”Configure\” and \”Options\” under the tools menu. I cannot work out why these two are separate and regularly choose the wrong one when I\’m trying to change settings.

Conclusion

As a preview of what is to come OpenOffice.org 1.1 is very encouraging and in general the suite looks like being a real contender for the desktop. And with greatly enhanced compatibility with the likes of Microsoft Office document formats most users could very seriously consider a switch to OpenOffice for their daily work.

Comments

One Response to “OpenOffice 1.1 promises big things”

  1. Bogdan B.
    November 15th, 2003 @ 12:00 am

    ie:
    1. It starts way faster than 1.0
    2. *Always* use the quicklauncher own(win)/oooqs(lin)
    3. Options/Memory – a resonable value(way over 9MB)

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