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Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 20/10/2005OpenOffice.org 2.0 is here. It's been around in late beta and latterly a release candidate for a while, and I've already written 45k words in it.

Thursday 20/10/2005

OpenOffice.org 2.0 is here. It's been around in late beta and latterly a release candidate for a while, and I've already written 45k words in it. It's a landmark for lots of reasons — that famous OpenDocument format which upsets Microsoft so much, a new database module, lots of new features (some of which you might actually use) et cetera. But most importantly, it's got a new interface that, on the word processor module at least, looks very much more like a certain popular other office product than it did before. Things are where you'd expect them to be if you've spent a lot of time in that other office, functions fall to hand easier and you'll spend less time flipping through menus and more time being productive.

It's hard to overstate the importance of this, or of the feeling that yes, another way is possible. That feeling is multiplied tenfold if you watch someone with no computer knowledge at all beyond what they do at work all day sit down at a non-Windows machine and get busy without even noticing. For most people, that starts to become possible with Firefox and OpenOffice and a sympathetically configured windowing system on top of, well, anything really. Convenience is a force multiplier, and OpenOffice 2.0 is big on that.

No doubt, this is why Sun continues to be the major sponsor for the project — so much so that it's not really a good advertisement for open source community development. There are lots of places involved, but the lion's share of the work comes from one place and the hoped-for swarms of independent contributors working hard on a corresponding swarm of features hasn't really happened.

Normally, I'd worry about how that might affect the future of a project — but with OpenOffice 2.0, it may be getting close to feature complete. Just as Microsoft Office did years ago, even if they have to keep pretending otherwise to keep the cash coming in. Perhaps we can all move on now from the dull stuff.

Oh, if you'd like Microsoft to adopt OpenDocument you can sign this petition and take it up on its promise that it'll include the format if enough people ask.