Following on from my piece on whether OpenOffice.org can do the job I have remembered that OpenOffice.org 3.0 is due for release in September. So--with my comments on 2.3 in mind--let's see whether the new version will address my needs.
I'll look at the features given by Sun in a presentation at last years OOoCon and examine whether they'll be useful for my users. Of course, I'm judging this on a promised feature list rather than an actual product so I won't be able to judge how well they work.
Personal Information Manager
Sun call this an "Outlook replacement" and it addresses one of the main <strike>excuses</strike> reasons for not migrating away from MS Office to OOo. Although we use Outlook here it may not be for much longer anyway as I am getting fed up with those oversized .pst files. I am instead looking at some web-based collaboration tools (a topic for a future column me-thinks).
This will come in handy because--even if we migrate to OOo--there are plenty who will continue to use MS Office and we will no longer need to ask them to send it in .doc format. I note it says import and not "import/export" but that's not a big issue for us.
Native Mac OSX version/Vista integration
We don't use a Macs but from those I know who do--this is a good move. Many say to me they can't wait to drop NeoOffice for OOo on Mac. We don't use Vista either and have no plans to do so.
PDF Import--PDF hybrids
This will be very useful. As a charity we are often asked to submit funding applications on PDF forms which we then print out but are not permitted to save the changes to. Draw 3.0 will be able to import PDFs "for layout preservation". If this means even partial editing/additions are possible, we can open these PDFs in Draw, add our text and save the new PDF as a hybrid. Hybrids will be a PDF with embedded OOo content.
Improved Pivot tables and Solver in Calc
Any improvement to Pivot tables will be welcome but I'm not sure we push this feature far enough to notice really. My finance team may get some use out of the solver but the rest of my users tend to treat spreadsheets like flat-file databases really--not that there's anything wrong in that of course (he says in case they are reading).
Report builder and Chart
Ever since Crystal reports hit the scene, business users seem to have have clamoured for the ability to build reports from various data--my users included. The new report builder--using the JFreeReport engine--and revised Chart features could prove invaluable in helping us produce the kind of eye-candy reports that funders seem to want.
Details are sketchy on this but it seems to be a way of registering a Web2.0/blog/wiki submission URL with OOo so that OOo content can be published directly. The details--such as whether the publishing format can be defined-- need firming up really before I can comment further. It could prove its worth if we can link it up with our CMS though.
Multi screen support for Impress
I can see us using this as we give a fair number of presentations. Being able to have different/additional content on the presenter's screen will be a bonus--even if it ends up being seldom used through lack of experience.
OOo can already be extended--a report builder is already available--but 3.0 promises improved extension management, double-click installation, integrated help, online-updates, single format deployment. Hmm now I wonder where they got those ideas from ;o). Some of the features listed above are already extensions for OOo. If you haven't already looked at the extensions, do so.
Wot--no mail merge?
You'll notice the list does not include my particular beef--the mail merge process. With the guidance of some of the comments to my other OOo post, I've come to see how we can by-pass the mail merge wizard so it's less of a concern now. I'd still like to see some kind of improvement to the whole process though--but now I'm starting to repeat myself.
I've not mentioned some of the promised features: improved interface, sticky notes or that 3.0 will build on the features of 2.4--out in March 2008 so don't read this list as exhaustive. Still it's nice to see that OOo is moving onwards. Now remind me, when is the next release (not bug fix) for MS Office scheduled?