New features in OpenOffice.org 2.4.0 - OpenOffice.org Ninja

New features in OpenOffice.org 2.4.0

Posted by Andrew Z at Thursday, March 27, 2008 | Permalink

OpenOffice.org 2.4 is now released and ushers in new features, bug fixes, and performance improvements.

Chart 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.

OpenOffice.org 2.4.0 Chart screenshot: Display equations for regression lines

In a double axis bar chart, the bars can be drawn side by side (instead of overlapping).

Chart with the new OpenOffice.org 2.4.0 feature 'Show bars side by side'

Usually the higher a bar reaches in a bar graph, the higher its value. However, sometimes an upside-down chart better represents the data.

Screenshot: OpenOffice.org Chart 2.4.0: Four possible combinations of reversed and normal axes

Can't decide between showing the value and showing the percentage? Show both.

screenshot: OpenOffice.org 2.4: Chart: display both values and percentage

As the amount of information in a data label grows, it may be necessary to move some onto a separate line.

Chart: display each part of data label on separate line

Tweak the position of data labels.

OpenOffice.org 2.4.0: Flexible placement of data labels in chart

Choose any number format independent of the data source.

OpenOffice.org 2.4: Chart: specify number format for data labels

Guess which pie chart uses the new Best fit placement option and which uses Outside.

Pie chart using outside position OpenOffice.org 2.4.0: Pie chart using best fit position

3D slide transitions

Impress 2.4 enables extensions for slide transitions, and an extension will soon be released with ten 3D OpenGL transitions.

Rectangular selection

Certain layouts in Writer, such as OCR scans and tables made with tabs, benefit from selecting text in block mode.

OpenOffice.org 2.4.0 screenshot illustrating the new block selection mode in Writer

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.

The diagram illustrates how the regular expression with backreference substitution works (OpenOffice.org Writer 2.4+)

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.

OpenOffice.org 2.4.0: PDF export dialog shows the PDF/A-1 option

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.

OpenOffice.org 2.4: PDF Options dialog in the Links tab

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.

OpenOffice.org 2.4: Screenshot depicting Writer's new context menu with language selection

Insert picture as slide background

Instead of invoking arcane incantations, just right click to set the background picture for a slide in Impress.

OpenOffice.org 2.4.0 Impress: set background for slide

Convert text to columns

Calc can split delimited text into multiple cells. Start with this:

Screenshot: OpenOffice.org 2.4.0: Calc spreadsheet with comma separated values

Apply the Text to Columns command. Then, end up with this:

screenshot: OpenOffice.org 2.4.0 Calc: Finished results of Text to Columns

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.

Screenshot: OpenOffice.org 2.4 Calc: enhanced formula input

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.

Extensions

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.

An extension is fully integrated into the help system

When OpenOffice.org automatically checks for OpenOffice.org updates, it also checks for updates to extensions.

Screenshot showing the a popup message indicating updates for extensions are available

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.

The new extension update dialog shows an extension with a display name, a publisher link, and a link 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.

OpenOffice.org 2.4 shows custom properties imported from Word

Move cells using drag and drop

Hail new shortcuts for moving, copying, and linking cells in Calc.

Localization

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.

Looking forward

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.

Competition

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

Download

Download OpenOffice.org 2.4 now directly or through BitTorrent.

Related articles

Most any of the pictures above lead to more information.

23 comments:

What is Open Office? said...

I just discovered oooninja, and I cannot believe how much info you manage to pack in. Thank you. The videos were especially informative. I hope to see Ubuntu Ninja, Firefox Ninja, and some others in the future.

Some notes:
1) "will soon be released with ten 3D OpenGL transitions OpenGL". I think that the last "OpenGL" should not be there.
2) "but don't tell that that" should be "but don't tell them that".
3) StumbleUpon for OOo?!

Thanks.

Andrew Z said...

What is Open Office:
Thanks! I fixed the typos. The StumbleUpon extension is just an early April Fool's joke. :)

Anonymous said...

Still waiting for easier automated chart exporting, with python I get a crappy PDF with a page number at the bottom :(.

Also waiting seamless import of vector graphics like PS, PDF and EPS. I need to make presentations and I can't have them making bitmaps of my pretty graphics :(

Anonymous said...

Still competition = Stiff competition

right?

alicia said...

Very cool!

http://no-effort-money.blogspot.com/

ifup.org said...

Re: Can't decide between showing the value and showing the percentage? Show both.

Wouldn't it make more sense to have the check boxes say "Show number" and "Show
percentage" "Show value as..."

silberj said...

Lots of good improvements, but.....does it print envelopes yet???

willfe said...

silberj: It's always printed envelopes:

1) Set document size to "Common #10" (or whatever envelope size you're using)
2) Set page to Landscape
3) Fill in document as desired, and print it to your printer. Read your owner's guide (or experiment with some sliced up paper that's the same size as your envelopes :)) to make sure you know which way to load the envelope into the printer.

Works just fine for me on an old Brother HL-1650 laser.

Gordon said...

I did exactly what you said and when that didn't work I did dozens of more things... I never got an envelope printed right. Epson RX595 is my print and after three hours (and forty-two envelopes) I gave up, hauled out my old computer and printed it using MS Word.

CH!LL said...

Loved the reference to Ms Steve, Developers Developers Developers!!!

Aidan said...

Your analysis of OO.o 2.4 is very informative. As an academic my most heavily used features of OO.o are the bibliographic functions and I've been trying to follow the development of the new bibliographic functionality for OO.o 3.0.

Would it be possible for you to give a roundup of the development of 3.0 features that people, like me, use? Those being bibliography and styles. For instance, in OO.o 3.0 will the bibliography be available from Impress and will the bibliography UI be improved.

William U Regan said...

I got open office download March 27th/08 had it working within 3 hours. today 24 hours later i pasted copied text from the open office intructions to set up my outlook express and pasted the text into an open office text file, saved the file and when I saw this blog i printed the file i saved on my laptop. i printed over a wireless connection to a printer kyocera mita fs1800=kx. it work as smooth as usual no propblem

Neff said...

I can't wait for the Impress 3D extension... when it's going to come out?

ross brunson said...

Great article, excellent level of detail, you're now on the blogroll at http://opsamericas.com, where we help people take advantage of SUSE Linux in enterprise environments.

RossB

Anonymous said...

You would not believe how many times I still start a formula with '+' in OO. Old habits die hard. That, together with the "text in columns" are the two things that I missed most in Calc!

Well, the ASCII import already had the functionality of the text columns, but you had to save as text and then open the file just to do the same..

Great Work!!!!!!

Patalo said...

It's out of topic, but who is the author of the music of the video about 3D transitions, please ?
Sorry for my bad english, if there's mistakes...

Andrew Z said...

Patalo: Above the video is a link with the answer: 3D OpenGL transitions

Patalo said...

Oh, ok, thank you very much !

Anonymous said...

Thx
Enhanced data input
ok super
but maybe
Ctrl + Enter ->
New Line,jump first cell
.
Optionaly set up...
Customise section...
OO is the Best!
Thx

The Faust said...

Open Office is the best competitor for Microsoft Office. Thanks God its FREE =)

Anonymous said...

OO Impress since its very beginning has NOT been able to play a SINGLE piece of background music over the transitions of several slides. (eg. 3 minutes of music played as background to 20 slides. Each slide must have its own piece of music.)
THIS ONE SINGLE FEATURE is the major difference why MS Office PowerPoint is a superior product.

Andrew Z said...

Anonymous: Playing sound over multiple slides was added in OpenOffice.org 2.3 :)

curs valutar said...

i think showing the percentage is the best solution