OpenOffice 3.3 Beta: The Shape of Things to Come?: Page 2

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Similarly, the most noticeable enhancement is in the cross-program Chart sub-system. In 3.3, the default chart size is larger, and so is the default font -- it is now 10 points instead of 8, which for many users should be all the difference between squinting and readily easily. Lines on charts are also thinner, and details like the floor shading have been enhanced, resulting in a more modern business look for charts in general.

If you need to, you can also add drawing objects directly to a chart. This enhancement eliminates the need to group the object with the chart so that you can move them both together, a task that can sometimes be finicky.

In individual programs, the majority of enhancements are found -- as usual -- in Writer, the most heavily used OpenOffice.org program. They include the ability to compare tables as tables when you compare documents.

However, most of the Writer enhancements are concerned with language. Using the Tools -> Language -> For Selection sub-menu, you can now automatically reset the default dictionary.

Even more importantly, after eight years of being able to change selected text only to upper or lower case, the Change Case feature in the Format menu now includes additional options. In the 3.3 beta, in addition to switching between upper and low case, you can also choose sentence case (capitalizing the first word after each period), capitalize every word, or toggle case. As an interface improvement, each option is suitably illustrated in the sub-menu.

What We Can Expect

Those expecting major changes are likely to be disappointed with the 3.3 release. New features and enhancements are few, and, although the interface changes seem universally for the better, their style has yet to transform every dialog -- and, anyway, Linux users are more likely to use OpenOffice.org for its features than its interface. Still, from the examples in 3.3, by the time Project Renaissance is finished, fewer people will be able to convincingly argue that OpenOffice.org appears ugly or obsolete.

What is less clear is whether 3.3 and the previous two releases are typical enough that we can know that they are what we can expect from an Oracle-controlled OpenOffice.org. On the one hand, any number of major changes would improve the office suite -- everything from table styles to the ability to associate an object and its position with a page style -- and such features should not be forgotten.

On the other hand, there are enough interface improvements and feature enhancements needed that OpenOffice.org could justifiably focus on them for several releases to come. And, while it seems that is what Oracle plans on doing, perhaps it is still a little early to know if that is how the company plans to deploy its new acquisition.

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Tags: Linux, Linux desktop, OpenOffice.org, OpenOffice, Open Office

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