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OpenOffice builds extensions for v2.3

Everyone-hates-Redmond week

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It's been a good week for anyone praying for the demise of Microsoft Office. Google unveiled its long-awaited, web-based PowerPoint competitor. IBM took the wraps off the free Lotus Symphony, a complete suite of MS-battling tools. And now we have a new version OpenOffice.org.

Version 2.3 popped up on the OpenOffice website while no one was looking.

"OpenOffice.org 2.3 incorporates an extensive array of new features and enhancements to all its core components, and protects users from newly discovered security vulnerabilities," the home page reads. "It is a major release and all users should download it."

What new features and enhancements? Most notably, version 2.3 ratchets up the use of OpenOffice extensions, software add-ons reminiscent those that hook into Mozilla's FireFox browser.

"I think the most important thing I can emphasis [about version 2.3] is that we've made it much easier to add and manage extensions," project leader Louis Suárez-Potts told us.

Extensions have long been available for the suite, but according to Suárez-Potts, the new release makes them much easier to deal with - and it's the only version that works with the entire library of software add-ons. At the moment, the library includes about 20 extensions, including a blog publisher and a gizmo that automatically exports files to Google Docs.

What's more, an army of open source coders have completely rewritten the OpenOffice Chart Wizard. "This has been done is a very through and intelligent way," Suárez-Potts insisted, "so it's much efficient and more capable." And they've beefed up Writer, the suite's word processor. Supposedly, it's faster and far more adept at handing languages other than English.

Suárez-Potts thinks the new release will appeal more than just open-source fanatics. "The Writer enhancements will appeal to consumers, but the Charting and Calc improvements will appeal to business people - and scientists," he said. "We're directly addressing small and medium-sized business as well as the enterprise market."

Versions 2.3 is available for Windows, Linux, and Solaris, but Mac mavens won't get an update until sometime next year. "Mac users will soon have something that's better than, say, the Redmond competitor's product," Suárez-Potts said. "Just to cite an example."

Like we said, it's been that kind of week. ®

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