OpenOffice.org 2.4, the latest version of the free productivity application suite, was released Thursday and is now available for download for a number of operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.
An open source project backed by Sun Microsystems, OpenOffice.org is widely regarded as the leading competitor to Microsoft Office. It is also the most prominent software to support Open Document Format (ODF), a set of open standards that challenges Microsoft's proprietary Office file formats.
This release is mostly an incremental upgrade, however, and isn't likely to do much to heat up the competition in the productivity applications market. It incorporates mostly minor new features and bug fixes for each of the applications in the suite, including Writer, Calc, the Base personal database, and the Impress presentation software.
The real sparks won't start flying until the next major milestone for OpenOffice.org, version 3.0, scheduled to ship in September. That version is expected to bring long-awaited support for Microsoft's Office 2007 file formats, which will make it easier for current Office users to migrate to the alternative suite. In addition, it will bring support for ODF 1.2 and user interface improvements, among other features.
A version of OpenOffice.org ships with most desktop Linux distributions, and current Linux users may wish to wait for their distribution maintainer to offer a version of the 2.4 upgrade that has been specially tweaked for their flavor of Linux. Windows and Mac OS X users can download installers from the OpenOffice.org distribution site.