OpenOffice suite goes 'live'

The free office tools suite for the first time doesn't need to be downloaded and installed thanks to Ulteo's online desktop.

The free office tools suite for the first time doesn't need to be downloaded and installed thanks to Ulteo's online desktop.

In its browser-based version, now offers online collaboration and can be used without being downloaded and installed on a client PC. The hope is that the move towards a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model will broaden the suite's user base, the organisation behind the suite said in a statement last week.

"This is an interesting development for people who want to try out without having to download and install the software," said's marketing project lead, John McCreesh, in the statement. "If you're wondering how compares to your current office software, this is a convenient way to see in action in a browser on your desktop."

Florian Effenberger, co-project lead with McCreesh, said the move would allow everyone to use the suite from any connected PC at any time. "You even can work together on documents online and collaborate with others," he said. "This especially is an interesting option for trainers and work groups."

Ulteo is a new Linux distribution that was initiated by Mandrake (now Mandriva) Linux creator Gaël Duval. It was made available as an online desktop in September, and is now its most notable feature. According to's statement, the collaboration with Ulteo makes "the de facto best online productivity suite".

Both Ulteo and the SaaS are still in beta. Fifteen thousand beta users from Europe and North America -- where the Ulteo servers are based -- have been invited to test the suite.

However, at the time of writing, the service was unavailable due to "too many users at the moment".

McCreesh told ZDNet Australia sister site on Tuesday that Ulteo had been "completely overwhelmed with the volume of interest" in the release, but said new servers were being added to meet demand. incorporates several open source-based alternatives to Microsoft Office, and includes applications for word processing, presentations, spreadsheets, calculations, drawing and database creation. It uses the ISO-approved OpenDocument Format (ODF) by default to read and write documents, although it also works with the document formats used by rivals like Microsoft.

Microsoft is itself gearing up to enter the online services market, but the most notable player in that field is currently Google, with its Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) suite.

Although the SaaS model does require constant connectivity, its advantages for users include enhanced security -- data is not stored on a stealable laptop -- as well as location-free access and the potential for multi-user collaboration.