Test-driving OpenOffice.org 3.0

With OpenOffice.org 2.4 just released, OpenOffice.org 3.0 (OOo3) has already passed its feature freeze, and is scheduled for release in September. Based on recent development builds, what can you expect? In the Base, Draw, and Math applications, very little change, at least so far. But in the core programs of Writer, Impress, and Calc, some long-awaited new features are arriving. Combined with the improvements in the charting system that are the major feature of the 2.4 release, these new features promise to increase both usability and functionality, although some of the changes do not go far enough.

You can download packages for OOo3 development builds from the /developer/DEV300_m3 directories of the project's mirror sites, or from Pavel Janik's site. The packages can co-exist alongside other OOo installations, but you should not try to exchange files between the development build and existing versions, because OOo3 uses version 1.2 of the Open Document Format, which existing versions cannot read. While recent builds are remarkably stable, you probably shouldn't count on later ones being equally reliable.

The changes

Instead of opening on a blank gray editing window like earlier versions, OOo3 opens on a selection of icons for starting the basic applications -- a much more useful default for beginners, who might not think to open the File menu.