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There's been a lot of controversy about the Renaissance project to develop a new user interface for OpenOffice.org, with some users thinking it will be too similar to Microsoft's ribbon interface. Leaving aside copyright questions and discussions about the popularity or otherwise of ribbon interfaces, the apps in the beta have the traditional menus and toolbar interface rather than something radically different. However, icons have been redesigned and the menu and toolbars have a shaded, 3D look that's much more attractive than the old-fashioned look of previous versions. If you want to try out several different interface styles that are being considered, you can run a Java prototype.
In fact, Impress, the presentation software in OpenOffice.org — which is where the user interface and experience team is concentrating their efforts — does show the first fruits of the Renaissance work. The team refers to its approach as 'thinning out' the Impress interface, the goal being to 'make the selection, positioning and editing of all objects and slides as easy and as efficient as possible'. When you insert slides from the Presentation toolbar you now get a preview gallery of preset layouts and you can change the layout of an existing slide in the same way, instead of having to use the task pane.