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Long wait for Mac OS X OpenOffice

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A version of OpenOffice that takes full advantage of Mac OS X won't be ready until 2006, according to a note posted on the OO website. A Quartz version of version 2.0 of the suite - which takes advantage of the OS X display model, rather than the Unix standard X11 - is slated for Q1 of 2006. The reason cited is major API changes in OpenOffice itself.

The news has been met with dismay from Apple aficionados who interpreted the news as a delay, but the announcement needs to be put into context. Version 2.0 is the next major revision version of the open source suite, and the milestones for the X11 are some distance away, too. Version 2.0 for Windows, Solaris and Linux won't be delivered before Q2 2005.

So a lag of nine months isn't extraordinary - especially since it takes about nine months for an instance of the application to load.[*]

A native version dispenses with the need to run an X11 client (in whacky X11 terminology a client is... er... a 'server' as in 'display server') and gives the application access to the much richer imaging Quartz model and other UI services. For example, OpenOffice could use the dysfunctional native Open/Save dialogs instead of its own.

NeoOffice, a research project to create a Quartz version of the suite has claimed some impressive progress this year.

Apple is making stealthy progress to making OS X a more friendly corporate client in Microsoft environments. The next release is expected to boast Exchange server compatibility out of the box, and the Text Edit application will open and read Microsoft Word files. But that stops short of a full-blown office suite. Apple already provides two corners of the square itself: with its Keynote presentation software and FileMaker database app. So you could argue that it doesn't need a full suite, as a contingency measure, merely a competent word processor and spreadsheet.

Last week Microsoft 'relaunched' its Office v.X suite, bundling an x86 emulator in one option.

(And we'll have some news on long-lost NeXT applications just as soon as our hosed iBook returns from AppleCare, when I can retrieve your splendid emails - for which many thanks).

[*] A slight exaggeration: the Darwin port of OpenOffice has made great progress; and for many users who can't afford the v.X price tag, and can tolerate the overhead, it's already 'good enough'. ®

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