Discovering the New Features of OpenOffice.org 3.0
Better Start Center, Native OS X, MS OOXML
Just after our how-to series on OpenOffice.org (OOo) wrapped up, OOo 3.0 was officially released--more specifically, on Oct 13, 2008. Most of the tips and tricks covered in the series, based on version 2.4, will still apply. Though there's a big jump in the version number, there's not a huge difference in the office suite. However, as you can guess, there have been some improvements. This tutorial will introduce you to some of the new features and functionality. Now let's get started!
Start center and new look and feel welcomes you to OOo
The changes made from OOo 2.4 to 3.0 aren't as all eye popping like from the changes Microsoft made from Office 2003 to Office 2007. OOo 3.0 still has the traditional file menus and toolbars--no Ribbon here. The open source developers madeover many toolbar icons to give them a more modern look. Plus when OOo is opened without a document, a start center (see Figure 1) is displayed instead of a blank application. This center makes the office suite a bit more user friendly and inviting. You can hit the buttons to start or open documents, manage templates, or browse Extensions.
Installs on Mac OS X (without X11)
Though you could install OOo on Mac OS X machines in the past, you could only do it with help from X11. This is an implementation of the X Window System, that makes it possible to run X11-based applications in Mac OS X. Starting with OOo 3.0, you can install the suite without this dependency.
MS Office 2007 documents can be opened
Don't celebrate yet; you can only open and view the new XML-based documents with OOo, not save any edits made to them. You can however, save these documents to the MS Office 97-2003 or OOo format, and then make changes as you wish. Just as with opening the Office 97-2003 documents, some items may not show correctly or convert well when opening the 2007 documents in OOo. During our tests, the new SmartArt, Charts, and Building Blocks in Office 2007 didn't convert well, or at all. We're happy to report, though, the headers and footers stayed in tack; which wasn't the case with OOo 2.4. It's out with the old and in with the new compatibility issues.
Here are a few techniques to keep in mind when working with both MS Office 2007 and OOo 3.0:
- Try to use only basic formatting and features, and especially stay away from the new or improved features Office 2007 offers, such as the SmartArt, Charts, and Building Blocks.
- Though not perfect, these new Office 2007 features convert much better in OOo when the Office 2007 document is first saved as a Office 97-2003 document using Word 2007, and then it is opened with OOo. Then you can directly make and save changes to the Office 97-2003 document.
- To edit Office 2007 documents not first converted to the 97-2003 format, you can click File > Save As and choose the old applicable MS or OOo format. Then you can make changes and save the document.
- Keep in mind, you can export Office 2007 documents in OOo to a PDF file. This is useful if you just need to make a few changes to the document--remember you can make edits, you just can't save them--and then can print or distribute/save it in PDF format.