OpenOffice 2.0 focuses on interoperability

The preview release of OpenOffice 2.0 claims to have improved compatability with Microsoft Office, which could encourage businesses to migrate to the open source application

The preview release of 2.0 includes a number of fixes designed to improve interoperability with Microsoft Office.

The preview release, which is meant for testing only, was made available for download at the end of last week. The final version of 2.0 will not be completed until April or May 2005, according to Michael Meeks, an developer.

There are various features in 2.0 that should help retain the formatting of MS Office files when loaded or saved in "Interoperability should be substantially better in 2.0 -- there are lots of bug fixes," said Meeks.

One important interoperability issue that is difficult to resolve is converting proprietary MS Office fonts into a similar font in, said Meeks. This an issue for those who use on Linux, as only Windows users have access to the same font pool as is used by MS Office.

The copyright for many of the fonts used in MS Office are owned either by Microsoft or by the AGFA Monotype foundry, which means that open source developers cannot use the same font, and must create a similar one that is metrically compatible.

Interoperability with MS Office will continue to be a focus in future releases of A group of developers are currently working on macro interoperability, so that individuals can port macros from Microsoft's Word or Excel to's Writer or Calc respectively. Macro compatibility is important for businesses, which often have specially formatted spreadsheets for business functions such as annual leave or expenses. 2.0 also contains various changes to Impress, the presentation application, and Base, the database app, which both now have improved usability.

"The presentation application was previously very clunky to use," said Meeks. "Substantial work has gone into reworking it, for example, on the left-hand side there is now a list of slides that you can flick through very quickly."

Base also has a new application layer that Meeks claims is similar to the MS Access shell. The application layer allows users to create forms, reports, queries, tables and views. is an important application for businesses that are considering a move to open source on the desktop. The City of Munich, which plans to migrate 14,000 desktops to open source software, is due to start migrating to in the first half of next year and will later shift from Windows NT 4.0 to Linux. The Ministry of Defence in Singapore has already installed on 5,000 PCs, and may switch from Windows XP to Linux in the future.