OpenOffice 4.0 arrives

OpenOffice 4.0 arrives

Summary: It may be trailing LibreOffice, but OpenOffice is still alive and kicking -- now with better Microsoft Office Open XML support.


Perhaps OpenOffice should adopt a new slogan from Monty Python and the Holy Grail: "I'm not dead yet!" While LibreOffice has supplanted it as the default office suite for Linux distributions, the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) announced the immediate availability of OpenOffice 4.0 on July 23.


Of course neither OpenOffice nor LibreOffice are Linux only. Both are available on multiple platforms, including Linux, OS X and Windows, with additional third-party ports to other operating systems. Neither, however, have delivered on a long-promised, software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud version.

That said, OpenOffice 4.0 comes with a new, more modern user interface, improvements to Microsoft Office interoperability, enhanced graphics support and many other enhancements. For office workers, the most significant of these may be its new Microsoft Office Open XML (OOXML) support. It now includes support for docx outline levels, support for table background color from table style in docx files, more bullet and numbering support in docx, and support for font color in pptx files.

"Microsoft Office interoperability is a very high priority for the project," said Juergen Schmidt, Apache OpenOffice Release Manager, in a statement. "We are working hard to ensure that our users can successfully exchange documents and document content with colleagues who continue to use Microsoft Office. Moving forward we plan to continue our focus on OOXML document interoperability."

The user interface also now includes IBM's Lotus Symphony Sidebar user interface. While IBM is no longer developing its Symphony OpenOffice fork, its coders are still at work on the main OpenOffice.

Apache claims that "the new Sidebar makes better use of today's widescreen displays. Users may easily edit their document properties in-context, with the most-frequently needed controls available in panels in the Sidebar.  Panels may be expanded or collapsed as needed."

"IBM is proud to see its source code contribution of IBM Lotus Symphony coming to fruition with the release of Apache OpenOffice 4.0," said Kevin Cavanaugh, VP of IBM Collaboration Solutions. "The time is right for wide-scale enterprise adoption, especially with the upcoming end-of-support for Microsoft Office 2003. By choosing Apache OpenOffice, enterprises will free up resources for their cloud and mobile infrastructure investments."

 "With Apache OpenOffice  we are making major improvements to our user experience by introducing the Sidebar, the first radical improvement to the OpenOffice user interface in years," said Andrea Pescetti, Apache OpenOffice's VP.

Pescetti continued:

"Together with major new improvements in Microsoft Office interoperability, enhancements in graphics and color palette management as well as improvements in Calc, Chart and Draw editor modules, Apache OpenOffice 4.0 adds up to a compelling new release. With a rigorous quality assurance testing process, we wholeheartedly recommend our user community begin to upgrade.  Innovation happens at Apache and is immediately available to everybody who wishes to build upon the OpenOffice source code." 

In addition, OpenOffice now has a new framework that enables application developers to build extensions to the Sidebar interface.  This is meant to allow programmers to integrate business application data,  seamlessly integrate with cloud and mobile document editing environments, and automate common document workflow tasks. These extensions, like all of OpenOffice, are under the Apache License 2.0. They can be downloaded from the new version of the Apache OpenOffice Extension Repository.

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Topics: Enterprise Software, IBM, Open Source, Software

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  • More of the same

    Still behind the game, as always.

    Still lacking fundamental features that MS had years ago. Until OpenOffice and LibreOffice include basic functionality that's been available in MS Office for years, they aren't serious contenders.

    The goodies on the inside don't count if the basic features aren't there.
    • Basic features are there

      Maybe there are some differences but it's a complete product. The main question is, how much money worth MS office extra features/usability (if better).
      • 95%+ of the features are there

        the major problem is compatibility. and they could be a little lighter too.
      • Define complete!

        It's not complete if it lacks features that a substantial group of users needs.

        And, according to all reviews, except by open-source fanbois, it lacks in many of the basic features that a modern office software suite needs.

        But you don't need to believe me on this.

        All you need to do is check out the GUI on these archaic pieces of software. It's Office 97 all over again!
        Ian Easson
        • "All reviews, except for..."

          In other words, anyone who would disagree with such a claim is an "open source fanboi".

          Personally, I think the Open/Libre Office UI suits my needs just fine. I actually find the modern MS-Office UI to be rather confusing.
          John L. Ries
        • lack of nobody knows what

          >>if it lacks features that a substantial group of users needs.
          So name those features first, we can talk.
          I will tell you the features MSO lacks though
          1) availability for most OS'
          2) open source code (NSA's backdoors will better fit MSO)

          As far as the UI is concerned, MS got the ugliest and most boring of all I know.
        • are you sure?

          IBM apparently disagrees with you. Do you question IBM's knowledge of the enterprise needs? Their opinion of OpenOffice vs. Microsoft Office?
          • IBM is a bit player - now - whats their recommendation worth ??

            There was a saying - in fact a reality some years ago, "In the world of computers IBM is the Universe." Where are they now?

            Apple had to get to #52 on the Fortune 100 list for IBM to wake up to the power and potential of the PC market.

            It was only when they saw that if they add Apple's revenue to theirs that it would put them in the first spot of the Fortune 500 list that they woke up.

            When they woke up they were sluggish and dropped and lost the ball.

            Other companies managed to turn a personal computer / dedicated word processor into an intelligent device in the IBM digital environment almost a year before IBM could get it right.

            They were using a XT as a dumb terminal when the Lannier 1000 was able to get it's hard drive to become a fully functional part of the LU 6.2 networking infrastructure under PROFS and DISOSS.

            (IBM Distributed Office Support System, or DISOSS is a centralized document distribution and filing application for IBM).

            Wang nailed IBM in the distributed documentation / office space. They never recovered and limped out of this space.

            From being "The Universe" in the computer world to just being another frog in the pond makes their view on AOO not worth much.

            What did they do with Symphony? From being the first mover and architect of Distributed Office Support Systems - where are they today? Where is Symphony today?

            They are so far behind the curve that they are on the next page.

            Please don't let the word "enterprise" blind you.

            Now initiatives like Ubuntu-Edge (and market place competitor responses that will be ignited) are going to put them 2 pages behind the curve.

            AOO had to catch up and save face. Using the IBM side panel code base, IBM has to say something.

            They are happy to see another lame duck project being put to good use.
          • Re: Where is Symphony today?

            In Apache OpenOffice, apparently. Soon, to be in LibreOffice etc.

            IBM lost the PC war with Apple, but the point was different. IBM has always made their money from enterprise consulting and licensing... whatever.

            It's just their opinion. Might matter to some and not to others.
          • Since you ask...

            An overview of IBM's document editor strategy is here:


            IBM Docs is the cloud-based collaborative editor which works well with Apache OpenOffice via extensions. If you are still staring at Symphony (or Wang?!) then you are staring at where the puck was, not where it is now.
          • People should make their own decisions

            What works for IBM may or may not work for you.
            John L. Ries
        • A substantial group of people don't use half of the features they have

          Also many feature users use, are because they are just there, they are not needed - some responsible for the likes of "death by powerpoint".
          Actually it's more like Office 2003 :P that is quite nice I must tell.... like windows XP that is installed in 30% of all PCs or so.
          • Each feature is used by a large group of people

            That's the idea behind office suites. For example, quite a lot of people need an equation editor, but not enough to justify learning a different open-source application to do that.

            On the other hand, easy linking to specialised comprehensive open source applications (maths, graphics, science...) may be a good and useful way of diverging from M$, which ought to be supported by governments.

            Daddy Tadpole
          • lot of people need an equation editor

            You tell me about MS Equation. No, don't this was just awful when I used it: buggy, sluggish, non-intuitive, mouse-driven only.Thanks God, I discovered (La)TeX more than 10 years ago. However, the LO/OO analog to MS Eqn is pretty good when I checked it out last time.
          • Equation editor: there's a LaTeX extension

            eulampius: That's a reminder to get the recent extension, which lets you incorporate LaTeX equations in OO.
            Daddy Tadpole
    • What are they?

      The fundamental features that MS had years ago....

      Please tell us what is missing.
      • Just a guess

        This is just a guess, but I suspect the essential, basic, missing feature in question is the Microsoft logo and license fees.
        • and a possible backdoor

          a gift from NSA
        • you almost guessed it

          What is missing is the commission bribe, which goes to whoever dupes their corporation into buying lots of Microsoft licenses.

          You see, you can't take a percentage of the price of OpenOffice, as it costs $0. You need to just work for your salary... no rewards from the vendor. Sad times for those who invested in IT skills. /s
      • Statistical functions that give correct results?

        Or has Microsoft finally got around to fixing that? After a few years I stopped paying attention -- it was taking *way* too long.

        Admittedly, MS Office *does* have the monopoly-supported dominant position, the PR and marketing, the Wizz-Bang special "features", and the faux "standards" that aren't actually standards except on paper (and usually aren't followed anyway, despite being their own contrivance) and "interoperability" that isn't actually interoperable except with their own other products (and sometimes not even that).

        And then MS has the nerve to charge top dollar for this cr@p. If MS's interoperability sabotage affects someone's particular usage badly enough, they might not have any choice. Other people are facing lock-in scenarios, and breaking out isn't always easy. But most people could manage just fine with OpenOffice or Libre Office, or even some less-known, standards compliant office suites.