OpenOffice.org 3.1 is 65 days away, and developers are finishing up more than 1000 issues targeted for this Microsoft Office killer packing an army of new features, enhancements, and bug fixes.
By far, the most requested feature in this release is anti-aliasing, which smooths edges of diagonal lines. On the left is OpenOffice.org 3.0, and the right is OpenOffice.org 3.1. Both images are enlarged to show detail.
Drawing primitives (including lines, circles, and charts) are antialiased in Calc, Draw, Impress, and Writer. Antialiasing is supported in editing and export modes, but not yet in full-screen mode.
Drawing objects are further improved through the new solid dragging feature. Before only a wireframe was shown; now a 50% transparent copy is painted.
Translucent selections in Writer
OpenOffice.org 3.0 brought eye candy for selections to Calc, and OpenOffice.org 3.1 brings the same eye candy to Writer. Compare the un-highlighted text (top) to selections in Writer 3.0 (middle) and in Writer 3.1 (bottom):
Chart axes and labels
When charting negatives values, Calc would always draw the axes and their labels at the outermost edges. That's unnatural compared to the way we were taught in school: the labels should cross the axes at zero. Now there is a new set of options to place the axes and labels wherever is convenient. Take for example this XY scatterplot (shown in OpenOffice.org 3.0 without antialiasing):
In OpenOffice.org 3.1 set the position of axes and their labels in the new properties dialog tab called Positioning:
The result is a more familiar chart:
Technical writers can now can define outline level and numbering style independently for each paragraph (or paragraph style). This feature is useful for creating a sophisticated table of contents.
Replying to notes
OpenOffice.org 3.0 introduced notes in the margin, and in 3.1 collaborators can carry discussions through these notes. Notice any text that is highlighted when the Reply option is selected becomes a citation (like quoting an email).
Increase font size button
Two new buttons accelerate the process of increasing and decreasing the font size in Impress presentations.
OpenOffice.org 3.1 incrementally improves the grammar checking infrastructure. Version 3.0 allowed the LanguageTool extension to provide as-you-type-your-mistakes-are-underlined-in-blue grammar checking, and version 3.1 extends the spell checking dialog for grammar checking.
You can be "overwhelmed," so can you be "underwhelmed" too? Yes, and likewise to underlining, now you overline characters too. Stranger yet, it turns out overlining has practical uses including repeating decimals, line segments, high energy physics, logic, and electronics
When you type a web site address, OpenOffice.org automatically converts it to a clickable hyperlink. Many people don't know how to convert it back to regular text. (The methods include Undo, CTRL+Z; Default Formatting, CTRL+M; and disabling URL recognition in AutoCorrect.) Now there is a more obvious method: the context menu (also know as a right-click menu) features the new commands Open Hyperlink, Edit Hyperlink, Copy Hyperlink Location, and Remove Hyperlink.
Accept tracked changes
Collaborators will enjoy the new context menu facilitating acceptance or rejection of recorded changes.
Control slideshow media
Before OpenOffice.org would play any movies and audio when the slide opened, but Impress 3.1 can flexibly start, pause, and stop media using custom animation effects.
A - B - C - D - E - F - G. You would think there isn't much left to do with sorting, but OpenOffice.org 3.1 brings no less than four improvements to sorting cells in Calc. They are keeping cell notes with their contents, identifying the default column for the sort toolbar buttons, not sorting column headers, and stable sorting. In previous versions, the unstable sorting would yield random results in certain situations.
There is a new option to determine how missing values will be handed in charts.
Macros in Base
OpenOffice.org Base gets a huge boost now that OpenOffice.org 3.1 allows macros in .odb files. Furthermore, Base macros can be bound to events. Helping it compete with Microsoft Access, Base developers will save time and enjoy new possibilities such as creating navigation forms (called switchboards in Access).
SQL syntax highlighting
SQL is a first-class citizen in Base. In OpenOffice.org 3.1 the SQL editor highlights SQL syntax, which is helpful for finding typos such as a missed quotation mark.
Relative database paths
The paths of spreadsheet and dBase files serving as databases can be stored relatively in .odb files. This feature makes it easier to share these databases across machines, networks, and especially across operating systems.
People whose native languages are Hebrew or Arabic will delight in OpenOffice.org 3.1's the RTL improvements. Foremost, controls can now be RTL. Also, prominent new buttons on the toolbar (next to paragraph alignment) make it easy to mix RTL and LTR text. RTL settings are honored throughout OpenOffice.org—now including charts text elements, HTML export, Impress slide view, and page preview. See also "RTL related issues fixed in OpenOffice.org 3.1".
Each OpenOffice.org includes performance improvements.
Some 1000 bugs were fixed in OpenOffice.org 3.1. One such bug, serious for office networks, was introduced in OpenOffice.org 3.0. The new file locking didn't work with OpenOffice.org version 2, Microsoft Office, or any application other than OpenOffice.org 3, so OpenOffice.org 3.1 reintroduces the file locking at the operating system level (in addition to its own file locking system based on hidden files).
UPDATED: Download the final version from http://download.openoffice.org.
Warning: This is still an alpha quality release. Keeping in mind it may eat your data, download the OpenOffice.org 3.1 developer snapshot and try all the features for yourself. Find the closest mirror with the extended directory (not all mirrors carry it). Then, open the developer directory, and find the latest directory starting with DEV300.
Report any bugs you may find.
The final release
is expected April 30, 2009 was released May 7, 2009. The release has been delayed to fix bugs: thank you to Sun for taking the time to release a high-quality product.