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Office software Reviews
15,669 Reviews

OpenOffice 3.1 review

FREE

Manufacturer: OpenOffice.org

Our Rating: We rate this 4.5 out of 5

The latest version of the open-source office suite OpenOffice.org 3.1 has just arrived, and it's a good one.

The latest version of the open-source office suite OpenOffice.org 3.1 has just arrived, and it's a good one.

While some of the improvements to OpenOffice 3.1 are visible to the naked eye, we found that the most important changes were hidden under the hood.

What is it? OpenOffice.org 3.1 is a set of office productivity applications: Writer (word processor), Calc (spreadsheet), Impress (presentation manager) and Base (database manager). It's missing an Outlook substitute, but otherwise it's a complete replacement for Microsoft Office. The suite is available as a free download for Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris, and Windows; there are versions for most major languages.

OpenOffice 3.1: What does it do?

The first thing you'll notice about the new OpenOffice 3.1 is that it just looks better. Thanks to its use of anti-aliasing, the program menus, letters and images it displays are sharper and clearer. (You can see examples at Sun's OpenOffice.org engineering blog.)

We tested the OpenOffice 3.1 suite on a Windows XP system and one running MEPIS 8, a Debian-based Linux distribution. What really caught our attention after a few minutes of using the various OpenOffice.org apps was how much faster this version is than version 3.0.

This was especially clear on when we ran it on a Windows XP system. It used to take about 12 seconds to launch Writer; now it takes just over 6 seconds. We saw similar performance boosts when running the various other applications of OpenOffice 3.1. It's almost like running OpenOffice.org on a brand new machine.

Another good feature, if you're considering OpenOffice 3.1 for office use, is that it now has its own OS-independent file-locking system. Now Jack in marketing, who uses a Mac, can't overwrite a change that was just made by Jill in the (Windows-based) comptroller's office.

We tried to mangle a shared document (that existed on a Windows Server 2008 file server) by editing it from our Linux desktop and also from the XP desktop. We couldn't do it. The file-locking mechanism preserved the document from our best attempts to make a complete mess of it.

NEXT PAGE: what's cool about it, and what's not?

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OpenOffice 3.1 Expert Verdict »

Windows 2000 (Service Pack 2 or higher)/XP/2003/Vista, Solaris 10 OS or higher, Linux kernel version 2.4 or higher, glibc2 version 2.3.2 or higher, Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) or higher with Intel Processor
256MB RAM (512MB RAM recommended, required for Mac OS X)
650MB disk space
1024 x 768 or higher resolution with at least 256 colours
Java runtime environment 1.4.0_02 / 1.4.1_01 or newer
  • Overall: We give this item 9 of 10 overall

We've been using OpenOffice 3.1 for years now. With these performance and appearance improvements, we can see more users moving to this free office suite. In particular, we think anyone who does spreadsheets every day owes it to themselves to compare Calc and Excel. You'll be impressed. Calc aside, OpenOffice.org 3.1 isn't a major step forward. But if you're getting tired of paying for a new version of Microsoft Office every few years, you should try this latest edition of OpenOffice.org. Except for advanced presentations, there's nothing you can't do in the free OpenOffice.org that you can in the ever-more-pricey Microsoft Office.

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