OpenOffice.org today released version 3.1 of its office productivity suite, with claims of enhanced features, improved performance and better graphics.
OpenOffice is a critical component of the open source ecosystem, providing a free alternative to Microsoft Office for both Windows and Linux users. With the new release, developers are aiming building on the success of the October OpenOffice 3.0 release which generated 60 million downloads, according to OpenOffice.
Among the major changes in OpenOffice 3.1 is an improved look to the office suite, with slicker user interface graphics through anti-aliasing
“The anti-aliasing is one of the most visible changes in OpenOffice.org 3.1, but also one of the most work-intensive,” Florian Effenberger, marketing project co-lead at OpenOffice.org, told InternetNews.com. “About half a million lines of code had to be replaced in the graphical subsystem and many routines had to be rewritten to reflect these changes on all platforms.”
For multi-user environments, OpenOffice 3.1 now has an improved file locking mechanism that enables multiple users to work on the same file. Effenberger noted that OpenOffice.org is being adopted widely and many enterprises run file servers in a network.
“Even with a document management system, there is some risk that two users open the same file at the same time for editing,” Effenberger said. “File locking will prevent one user from overwriting the other user’s changes, or even worse, will prevent file corruption.”
File locking is not entirely new to OpenOffice, Effenberger explained that OpenOffice 3.0 already introduced better mechanisms than its predecessor that are now further improved with version 3.1.
“If the file locking of the operating system fails, there still will be a fallback,” Effenberger said. “In addition, you will see which user currently edits that file, and OpenOffice.org gives you two options: Either loading a read-only version of the file, or open a copy you can edit locally.”
Multi-user environments will also benefit from an improved feature in the Writer component of OpenOffice which enables documents comments to be structured with replies. So one editor can comment on an item and then have another person reply to that comment in document comments.
60 Million and Counting
While OpenOffice officially claims that version 3.0 was download 60 million times, Effenberger notes that those downloads do not include all users. Linux distributions tend to package OpenOffice directly within their own repositories, as such users do not typically download OpenOffice directly from the OpenOffice.org servers.
“As OpenOffice.org 3.1 is also a major upgrade bringing lots of new features, we expect a similar numbers of downloads also for this version,” Effenberger said. “However, forecasting the number of downloads isn’t always possible – we’re keen on seeing how fast it will go this time.”
As for the future of OpenOffice, a bug fix release version 3.1.1 is currently scheduled for August 2009. Effenberger noted that OpenOffice.org 3.2, which will bring new features, is estimated to be available in November 2009, though he added release date have are not yet been finalized.