OpenOffice 4.0 arrives

It may be trailing LibreOffice, but OpenOffice is still alive and kicking -- now with better Microsoft Office Open XML support.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

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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