OpenOffice 2.0 Beta disappoints

OpenOffice 2.0 Beta has been released to mixed reviews.  Some these reviews reflect disappointment in the direction the development of this important software seems to be taking.  This office suite is probably one of the few feasible alternatives to Microsoft Office so the hope is that OpenOffice will become not just a feasible alternative but a preferred alternative to those who don’t wish to or can’t afford to use Microsoft Office (my reason – Microsoft Office is simply too expensive).

I am going to wait for the final version before I attempt the 83MB download (on Windows).  I have downloaded most of the releases since version 1.9.65 or so and I also have the latest stable version (version 1.1.4) installed for when my current pre-2.0 version crashes.  Overall I am not too excited about the Beta version just based on what I have read.  Then again, this software is free and for free software, the guys at Sun have done a great job!

Most sites seem to be quoting the review on Newsforge which published a fairly lengthly review: has always been conservative with
version numbers. Enough minor releases have boasted enough new features
that the current release could easily be 3.0 or 4.0 instead of 1.1.4.
Given this record, it’s hardly surprising that version 2.0, for which
beta code is set to be unveiled very shortly, amounts to a major
rewrite of the software. Although key functionality remains largely
intact, version 2.0 promises dozens, possibly hundreds, of changes.
Many times during our testing of the pre-beta release, we felt we could
almost have been looking at an entirely new piece of software.

Here are a few extracts from the review which is really a bit long to repost here:

By far the longest list of new features is in
Writer, the most commonly used application. They include a word count
on selected text, an often-requested option, and hidden character and
paragraph styles, which allow for alternative versions of documents to
be saved in the same file.

In addition, Writer now offers wizards for setting
up databases and mail merges for letters or emails. Both these wizards
sometimes make the mistake of assuming too much prior knowledge and
could offer more guidance in places, but, by offering a numbered list
of steps, both should go a long way towards de-mystifying two processes
that often puzzle users of office programs.

No feature has been overhauled as much as tables in
Writer. One of the major beneficiaries of the new floating toolbars,
tables are also promoted to a top-level menu item. Those two moves make
using tables much easier.

Moreover, tables now have several new features. You
can now have rows break across a page or column, which improves table
layout by eliminating blank space that marks a row too tall for the
remainder of a page. You can also create nested tables, a feature
especially useful when exporting to HTML, in which tables within tables
are a time-honored way of creating complex pages.

Version 2.0 exhibits a growing dependency on Java.
In earlier versions, new users could easily do without Java. By
contrast, so many of the new features, including the movie player and
wizards, require Java that in version 2.0, it is well on the way to
becoming a necessity. The new support for Beanshell as a scripting
language reinforces the impression. So does the fact that, in recent
developer builds, other data sources such as spreadsheets can no longer
be registered — although probably this is an oversight that will be
corrected before the final release. Java apps are hardly known for
their speed, and these new features take noticeably longer to open than
older ones.

Overall, one gains the impression that users who
want a free system are being pressured to choose between their
principles and key functionality. Considering that
supports a number of free, cross-platform programming languages,
including C++ and Python, I can’t help wondering whether the growing
use of Java is a way Sun Microsystems, the project’s main contributor,
is trying to promote the use of Java.

Yet, even without Java, is still the
most full-featured office application for GNU/Linux, and a major
alternative to Microsoft Office on Windows. Except for Mozilla,
probably no other program has introduced so many people to open source.
Despite my misgivings, the beta promises enough enhancements that I’ll
be using version 2.0 more and more as it slouches towards final release
— just not with Java.

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