OpenOffice.org 2.4 is now released and ushers in new features, bug fixes, and performance improvements.
Six months ago, OpenOffice.org 2.3.0 introduced the rewritten "chart2" module with the promise it would be the foundation for future development. Now OpenOffice.org 2.4 delivers on that promise with 9 new chart features.
A click adds the regression equation to a regression curve.
In a double axis bar chart, the bars can be drawn side by side (instead of overlapping).
Usually the higher a bar reaches in a bar graph, the higher its value. However, sometimes an upside-down chart better represents the data.
Can't decide between showing the value and showing the percentage? Show both.
As the amount of information in a data label grows, it may be necessary to move some onto a separate line.
Tweak the position of data labels.
Choose any number format independent of the data source.
Guess which pie chart uses the new Best fit placement option and which uses Outside.
3D slide transitions
Impress 2.4 enables extensions for slide transitions, and an extension will soon be released with ten 3D OpenGL transitions.
Certain layouts in Writer, such as OCR scans and tables made with tabs, benefit from selecting text in block mode.
More powerful regular expressions
To search for complex text patterns or transform volumes of text with automation, turn to regular expressions. In 2.4, regular expressions get a boost with backreferences, referencing a group in the subject from the replacement field. Applications include changing the formats of dates (see illustration below) and redacting Social Security Numbers.
PDF export enhancements
OpenOffice.org is renowned for its powerful, integrated PDF export, and version 2.4 broadens PDF capabilities even further. PDF/A-1 is the new standard for long-term document retention, and OpenOffice.org supports it. Impress and Draw export page names as PDF bookmarks.
When publishing to the web, CD-ROM, or a local network, export URLs relative to file system is handy for creating relative links. Export bookmarks as named designations creates anchors to reference specific places in documents (such as chapter 5 in Writer document) from other documents (such a web page). Convert document references to PDF targets facilitates reuse of the same links by converting ODF file name extensions to PDF only in the PDF. Finally, the Cross-document links defines the behavior for links clicked in PDF files.
Easier selection of language for spell checking
Polyglots will delight in three new ways to quickly switch the language for spell checking. Pictured is the new context menu (which pops up after a right click) in Writer.
Insert picture as slide background
Instead of invoking arcane incantations, just right click to set the background picture for a slide in Impress.
Convert text to columns
Calc can split delimited text into multiple cells. Start with this:
Apply the Text to Columns command. Then, end up with this:
Enhanced formula input
When filling out Calc spreadsheets, efficient typists can't stray from the number pad. Yeah, it's only 30 cm away to the = symbol, but don't tell them that. Instead, point out Calc now accepts formulas that begin with the + symbol instead of the = symbol.
Enhanced data input
I like to tell people that a word processor is not a type writer, but now I can say Calc is a type writer—well, a little bit. After data is typed horizontally, the return key—surprise—returns the cursor to the column where the typing started.
Learning from Firefox's success, OpenOffice.org 2.4 continues to polish extensions to attract more developers, developers, developers. Now extensions fully integrate into the help system.
When OpenOffice.org automatically checks for OpenOffice.org updates, it also checks for updates to extensions.
When updating extensions, OpenOffice.org will launch the web browser to the appropriate web pages for more convenient updating. Extensions can have non-geeky-looking display names, but if the publisher omits the display name, the geeky-looking filename is used instead. Extension publishers can include links to their sites and to release notes.
Custom Word properties
It didn't take Microsoft releasing its documentation for binary formats to add this feature: custom properties defined in Word documents now import and export.
Move cells using drag and drop
Hail new shortcuts for moving, copying, and linking cells in Calc.
When you can't think of another word that means синоним, just check the new Russian thesaurus. The 2.4 release also adds 10 languages, several locales, the new Bolivar Fuerte currency, and support for Farsi and Persian numbering. When a document (such as a broken .RTF), does not provide the locale, OpenOffice.org will assume the system locale.
Breaking recent precedent, there will be no bug-fix release 2.4.1 in 3 months. It may be released out of schedule while developers will focus on preparing OpenOffice.org 3.0 for final release September 2008. Version 3.0 will include Microsoft Office 2007 file format support, ODF 1.2, improved notes, and PDF import, and performance improvements.
OpenOffice.org continues to face stiff competition. Despite the radical interface and file format changes, Microsoft Office 2007 enjoys strong sales and support from third-party developers. A first step in denting Sharepoint's enterprise dominance, Google recently expanded its software-as-a-service Google Docs suite with JotSpot, a wiki service, and is laboring to push Google Apps from the web to the desktop with Google Gears.
Still, OpenOffice.org stands out on price, license, broad platform support, OpenDocument file formats, robust PDF export, and rapid development. Where it took Microsoft four years to make Office 2007, OpenOffice.org comes out every three to six months.
Links for OpenOffice.org 2.4
- Press release
- OpenOffice.org Wiki: New Features (release notes)
- OpenOffice.org Wiki: New Features in Chart
- Issue Tracker queries
- 1560 All issues fixed
- Defects found in 2.4
- Feature Freeze Testing 2.4 (mainly for QA people)
- Performance improvements
- Votes analysis
Download OpenOffice.org 2.4 now directly or through BitTorrent.
Most any of the pictures above lead to more information.