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Apache releases new OpenOffice build, promises faster upgrades

New graphics focus and more to come from IBM additions

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The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) has released an updated version of the OpenOffice free software suite, with enhanced graphics and better encryption support.

Version 3.4 of the office suite has had major changes in the graphics capability of the package. OLEObject handling has been improved, thanks in part to volunteer coder Armin LeGrand, as well as support for scalable vector graphics and better chart rendering. Line cap graphics have also received an improvement that should improve the look and feel of the code.

Other new features include a speeding up of the boot process and better support for ODF, notably ODF 1.2 encryption, as well as multiple images within the format. The entire software suite is now also under the Apache License 2 regime.

This is the first major revision to the OpenOffice code since Oracle handed OpenOffice over to the ASF, and will go some way towards regaining ground on its rival LibreOffice. OpenOffice Podling Project Management Committee member Donald Harbison told The Register that more revisions were coming soon and the team is already considering additions to the version four release.

"We wanted to make sure we had a really clean and stable built for version 3.4," he said. "Within six to eight weeks we should be in a position to get to version 3.4.1 out and then we'll be working on version four with the help of code from IBM."

IBM is due to hand over a chunk of its Symphony code for the OpenOffice project, which had been on hold until version 3.4 was released, and other companies are adding features. SugarCRM is working on integrating sections of its code base and SourceForge has been helping with extensions, although these are outside the Apache license, as well as adding a new distribution channel.

The releases will go some way to making OpenOffice more relevant for users, after much of its support has moved to LibreOffice, a similar suite set up by defectors from OpenOffice who left when Oracle started sticking its oar into the project. LibreOffice is now on version 3.5 and is included in most of the major Linux distributions, as OpenOffice used to be, and is gaining both developers and customers in government and enterprise.

It's not all cut and thrust in the open source office suite world however. Plenty of developers code for both packages – indeed the new work on line caps was done by a female German academic who has a foot in both OpenOffice and Libreoffice.

Harbison said that so far demand for the new build of OpenOffice was strong, with a significant spike in downloads so far, and Apache would be bringing in new features like a British English dictionary and application control features, with future releases. ®

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