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I know what you're thinking. Bell bottoms were definitely cool the first time around, but their re-release at the beginning of the century was a fashion bust. You may even have a similar experience with that favorite band of yours. Their first album was beyond compare–and then along came album number two. They changed their sound, got a new bass player and the whole experience put you off. So sure, OpenOffice.org 1.0 was a good office suite, but based on your experience, 2.0 is going to resonate about as well as shoulder pads after 1987. Well, you'll be surprised.

OpenOffice.org is the most popular open source office suite available. According to Wikipedia, "OpenOffice.org has secured 14 percent of the large enterprise market as of 2004. The OpenOffice.org Web site reports more than 61 million downloads."

Equipped with all the usual components of an office suite, OpenOffice.org provides open source alternatives for word processing, spreadsheets, HTML editing, presentation and drawing tools, and a database application. OpenOffice.org is translated into more than 30 languages so if it's not available in your language now it's likely to be very soon. OpenOffice is also platform agnostic, running on all major computing platforms including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and Solaris.

> Looking Back at OpenOffice.org 1.0: OOo Yeah!
One of the most convenient features of OpenOffice.org 1.0 was the integrated export to PDF which allowed you to save documents in a standard, read-only format accessible with any operating system. That functionality is obviously much enhanced in version 2.

You didn't have to worry about training and ramp-up time gouging your business productivity. OpenOffice is intuitive with a familiar look and feel to other competitive products. Any employee or individual accustomed to other office suites will find exactly what they are looking for exactly where they look for it.

If you've still got doubts, here's an important fact: OpenOffice.org reads all major file formats from other office products and can coexist with other suites. Long gone are the days of keeping a dark closet full of antiquated machines just so you can read your old, dusty files. If you have a 25-year-old document, you can open it up like it was created yesterday.

> OpenOffice.org 2.0: OOo Baby!
Even though OpenOffice.org was a smash hit with version 1, version 2 is even better with several enhancements and new features. Among those new and enhanced features are:

  • an improved and extensively customizable interface with new multipane views, menus, floating toolbars and native desktop integration
  • a cross-platform database application comparable to Access that allows you to create self-contained, portable and crossplatform database applications that are immediately portable to users on any operating system supported by the OpenOffice.org office suite.
  • complete XForms support so it is now easier to create, edit and use forms inside documents. Using XForms, documents can be more interactive with links between them and data. (XForms is the standard defined by the W3C for Web forms.)
  • support for up to 65,536 rows of data in a spreadsheet
  • major improvements to the spreadsheet and database DataPilot feature which enables advanced analysis of data
  • native installers so you can install OpenOffice using .MSI, .CAB or .RPM files depending on your operating system
  • digital signatures so you use standard digital certificates
  • much more

Linus Torvalds, author of the Linux kernel said, "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." That said, hundreds of thousands of users have participated in the beta testing of version 2, flushing out defects and validating it as an enterprise-quality piece of software.

As for the PDF export enhancements, version 2 now gives users more control over the quality and size of the PDFs that are generated. It also includes support for links, indexes, forms, thumbnails and presentation transition effects.

"The OpenOffice.org project mission statement reads: "To create, as a community, the leading international office suite that will run on all major platforms and provide access to all functionality and data through open-component based APIs and an XML-based file format."

Apart from all the other new enhancements in version 2 is the adoption of a new open standard format that will help users around the world communicate better for years to come. OpenOffice.org 2.0 is the first office suite to incorporate the new OASIS OpenDocument format (ODF) which is a set of XML-based standards for document creation. Let me explain.

OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) is a not-for-profit, international consortium that drives the development, convergence and adoption of e-business standards. Distinguished by transparent governance and operating procedures, OASIS expressly promotes industry consensus and unites disparate efforts. Founded in 1993, OASIS has more than 5,000 participants representing more than 600 organizations and individual members in 100 countries.

OpenDocument Format (ODF) This consortium of thirty-five vendors and individuals (including IBM, Sun, SAP, Oracle, Novell and Adobe) got together and decided to standardize basic office suite capabilities including saving and exchanging the office documents you know and love like memos, reports, books, spreadsheets, databases, charts and presentations. This standard, called OpenDocument Format (ODF), is publicly accessible and can be implemented–royalty free–into any open source or closed proprietary product.

ODF was created specifically to provide an open alternative to proprietary document formats so organizations such as yours could avoid vendor lock-in. It also enables document portability which lets you open documents created with different office suites on different platforms. Perhaps the most significant business benefit ODF offers is the preservation of older documents. Given a document's lifecycle can last years and years, there's a risk that very old documents are unreadable by newer office suite versions; however, since each document format is based on the same set of standards, they can be preserved, opened and edited indefinitely.

Though many office suite applications support the OpenDocument Format, not all have agreed to play. Regardless, in a research document dated May 12, 2006, Gartner predicts that by 2010, ODF document exchange will be required by 50 percent of government and 20 percent of commercial organizations.

Productivity applications such as OpenOffice 2.0, Sun Microsystems' StarOffice 8 and IBM's Workplace support OpenDocument. Microsoft, however, is not supporting OpenDocument and instead is seeking ISO standardization for its own Office Open XML formats.

Dawn Kawamoto–
CNET News.com

ISO/IEC Good news came May 3, 2006 when OpenDocument Format was ratified by members of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). While ISO defines itself as a nongovernmental organization (NGO), its ability to set standards which often become law through treaties or national standards makes it more powerful than most NGOs, and in practice, it acts as a consortium with strong links to governments. Participants include several major corporations and at least one standards body from each member country.

Some ISO standards of interest include the following:

  • ISO 6709: Standard representation of latitude, longitude and altitude for geographic point locations
  • ISO 9660: CD-ROM file system aimed at supporting different computer operating systems
  • ISO 7001: Public Information Symbols standardized the icons for locating toilets, car parking and information throughout the world.

I'm thinking of suggesting an ISO standard myself; one that eliminates big pointy collars, anything made of polyester and any band reunion that doesn't include all the original band members.

With adoption of ODF by ISO/IEC, software that implements the standard will now become more attractive to those European and other government purchasers for whom global adoption by ISO/IEC is either desirable or required.

Dawn Kawamoto–
CNET News.com

So, OpenOffice.org aims to provide the same functionality as Microsoft Office–emulating its look and functionality where suit-able. It can also read and write most of the file formats found in Microsoft Office and many other applications. The ability to read and write Microsoft Office documents is an essential feature of the suite for many users because they exchange documents with organizations throughout the world that still use Microsoft Office. This exchange becomes seamless. OpenOffice.org has been found to be able to open files of older versions of Microsoft Office and damaged files that newer versions of Microsoft Office itself couldn't. Hmm.

OpenOffice.org Easter Eggs
  1. In Calc, enter =Game("StarWars") into any cell and get a playable version of Space Invaders
  2. In Calc, enter =Game(A1:C3;"TicTacToe") into cell A4 for a playable version of the game

OpenOffice.org 2.0 includes CALC, a spreadsheet application like Excel. Calc delivers additional features such as Visual Basic Macros and pivot table support; lending to a familiar and thorough spreadsheet experience for your bean counters. If your end users don't experience parity when switching to the new office suite, the transition might be painful. With the addition of Visual Basic Macros and pivot table support, everyone is happy, all the time.

Another feature new to v2.0 which will really knock your socks off is the native widget toolkit. These native widgets match the theme of OpenOffice.org 2.0 to whatever operating system you are using with the help of icons and typeface-rendering libraries. If you're on Linux, OpenOffice will adjust to match attributes of Linux, and the same goes for other platforms. The benefit of native widgets is a consistent experience for the user. Without this toolkit OpenOffice might stand out like a pair of red socks, against the rest of your applications. But with them, you experience nothing short of a consistent, streamlined power suit!

Exchanging documents with others that still use Microsoft Office becomes seamless. OpenOffice.org has even been able to open files of older versions of Microsoft Office and damaged files that newer versions of Microsoft Office itself even couldn't open.

> OpenOffice.org 2.0 Novell Edition: OOo La La
Novell is the number two contributor to the OpenOffice.org project which puts it in the valuable position to be able to address defects found by customers and the community and drive needed enhancements back into the product.

Novell is the #2 contributor to the OpenOffice.org project which puts it in the valuable position of addressing defects found by customers and the community and driving needed enhancements back into the product.

The Novell Edition delivers support for Microsoft Word and Excel password protected files so you can continue to protect your document security. Also included are extra fonts for greater document fidelity and compatibility with other office suites. This makes document exchange fool proof–rendering the same document regardless of the original format.

Another important benefit to boast is the 24/7 technicalsupportforwhichNovellisknown;your enterprise will always have an OpenOffice.org expert to call when something is unclear.

OpenOffice.org Programs

Writer
Similar to Microsoft Word, Writer is the word processor available with OpenOffice.org. With Writer, your end users can author documents, export them to PDF with no additional software, and can also edit Web pages using Writer as a WYSIWYG HTML editor. Familiar functions such as tracking changes, document formatting and mail merge is essentially the same experience.

Calc
The spreadsheet app, which is similar in features to Microsoft Excel, is Calc. It provides several features not present in Excel including a system which automatically defines series for graphing, based on the layout of the user's data. Calc now also offers Visual Basic Macros and pivot table support for a truly seamless spreadsheet experience. Similar to Writer, Calc can save as a PDF file, allowing data to be reviewed by different individuals within your organization without the threat of unauthorized edits.

Impress
A presentation program with a similar experience to Microsoft PowerPoint. Impress has the ability to create PDF files as well as export presentations to Macromedia Flash (SWF) files which allows you to run them on any computer with the Flash player installed. If your end users are working on a presentation, Impress has readily available templates you can download from the Internet.

Base
Base is new to OpenOffice.org 2.0. A database program similar to Microsoft Access, Base enables your end users to create and edit databases and build forms and reports for analyzing your data. Similar to Access, Base works as a front-end to a number of different database systems, including Access databases (JET), ODBC data sources and MySQL/PostgreSQL.

Draw
Comparable in features to CorelDRAW, Draw is a vector graphics editor featuring versatile "connectors" between shapes, which are available in a range of line styles and facilitate building flowcharts and other drawings. End users can use Draw to create graphics that visually define your enterprise products/services.

Math
Like Microsoft Equation Editor, Math is a tool for creating and editing mathematical formulae. These Formulae can be embedded within other OpenOffice.org documents, such as those created by Writer or Calc. With Math, your end users can create documents such as invoices, save them to PDF and send them electronically to your clients.

Macro Reader
Macro Reader is used to automate tasks by recording user actions and replay them later. Similar to Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), Macro Recorder is available in both Writer and Calc. In addition to being based on StarOffice Basic, OpenOffice.org 2.0 Novell Edition supports running Microsoft VBA macros.

If you haven't yet made the leap to the Linux platform, don't despair. A Windows version of OpenOffice.org 2.0 is also available from Novell. This version gives your end users the opportunity to take OpenOffice for a spin and experience the parity. Once they're on board, a decision to move to Linux won't cause delays in worker productivity.


Not just lipstick on a pig, it introduces many notable new and functional features, and brings with it the validation of a worldwide community that continues to grow. So closely tied to its users, OpenOffice.org is regularly improved by contributors such as Novell, incorporating recommendations made by its user community. So, my friend, retire your 8-TRACK, burn those leg warmers and stop lamenting the 2005 tour of Twisted Sister. OpenOffice.org 2.0 is truly a revised version you can applaud! red N



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