OpenOffice 3.1

The latest version of the open-source office suite OpenOffice.org 3.1 has just arrived, and it's a good one.

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OpenOffice 3.1

Pros

  • Free, can match Microsoft Office in many areas

Cons

  • Impress is not as good as PowerPoint

Bottom Line

We've been using OpenOffice for years now. With these performance and appearance improvements, we can see more users moving to this free office suite. In particular, we think anyone who does spreadsheets every day owes it to themselves to compare Calc and Excel. You'll be impressed.

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OpenOffice 3.1: What's cool about it?

OpenOffice 3.1, like the Mozilla Firefox web browser, can use extensions to increase its functionality. For example, Writer's existing grammar checker framework can now be augmented with extensions like LanguageTool.

It won't significantly improve your writing, but it will save you from some of the more idiotic grammar errors. We've been waiting for this feature since OpenOffice.org first showed up. (Although we did encounter some Java run-time errors when we tried to run it.)

In Calc, OpenOffice 3.1's answer to Excel, performance has been given an incredible boost. (Complicated spreadsheets that in the past allowed me to take a five-minute coffee break while they finished their calculations now run in five seconds.) In the past, we kept a copy of Excel around for taking care of heavy-duty spreadsheet jobs. We won't need to do that anymore.

OpenOffice 3.1: What needs to be fixed?

It's not all good news. Much as we dislike sitting through PowerPoint presentations, we know that many people rely on PowerPoint every day to get their points across. Impress, OpenOffice 3.1's presentation manager, is good, but it's not PowerPoint good.

There are some improvements, thanks in large part to anti-aliasing making the graphics sharper, but it simply doesn't offer as many features. If you just do presentations once in a blue moon, Impress is fine. If you make your living with PowerPoint, you won't be impressed with Impress.

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