Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

25Oct/05Off

My God, It’s Full Of Toolbars

The 2.0 release of OpenOffice.org slithered its way into the unstable branch of Debian so I've been tinkering with it. I actually have a paper coming up that must be formatted in the accursed Chicago style that necessitates things like footnotes be dug out of the mothballs and have life hammered back into them. I was a little nervous about all of the things I've been hearing about the potential weirdness of the 2.x series.

The big fear is the greater implementation of the dreaded Java. I had the same phobia until I cranked up the new version. It isn't faster but seems to chug along at relatively the same speed as the 1.x OO. I don't think speed was ever really a goal of the OpenOffice folks so as long as it actually runs without making a mockery out of top I'm basically fine with that.

Tool bars -- there are like 1500 of them now. Most of them are utterly useless to me since OO is, for me, an overloaded word processor. The navigation bar is actually pretty useful and would be even more useful if desktop publishing tasks were on your plate. The standard tool bars with a little bit of customization were all I needed. This is mainly because the line spacing controls aren't included on the default bar. This seems odd because all of the crap for setting up bullet points is there in the default settings as well as the highlighting and background color controls. Guess business-folk have more time to fuck around with their documents than I do.

PDF output seems to be improved considerably. You can actually adjust the compression for images now and there are menu entries for sending a document as a PDF attachment in the file menu. There is an identical entry for sending MS Word attachments that is probably more practical than the new PDF features. It might convince a few more people that you can actually exchange documents with other people who don't use the same office suite that you do. I'm not that old but I remember when that didn't sound so far fetched. Granted, if you lard your stuff down with nested tables and things like it the results are a lot less likely to please. But what really differentiates between that and what happens between versions of Microsoft Office? People have already had enough public hysterics about the new Open Document format which is now the default format for OO. Backwards compatibility is a sort of bloody shirt here since I had absolutely zero problems opening my old files or converting them, by saving, to the new format. Yes, you'll probably have to pay a little bit of attention for a while until 2.x becomes more widely deployed and packaged but to get all fearful about it is probably overreaction. You could also save everything as rich text format documents if it's too much for your beady little brain to bear.

The database features included in the new release go zooming right over my head. I think they're primarily intended to compete with Access and since I'm not in the slightest concerned with the recipe card collection disguised as database it makes little difference to me. I looked around a little bit to see if anyone had said anything significant about difficulties with the database features and came up with nothing other than installation quibbles. I think this stuff has always been included in OO but I paid as little attention to it then as I am now.

I haven't needed to do anything significant yet with the new release so I'm sure I'll eventually find something wrong with it. Maybe not. Maybe I'll just keep using it with minimal annoyance and maximum pragmatism like I always have.

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