As I noted in my free software page and my entry “5 Ways to Protect Your Computer for Free,” is one of the most ambitious and fully-featured open-source programs currently in development. It’s a free alternative to Microsoft Office, which costs between $150 and $400.

After slogging through months of 1.1.x bugfix releases, work on 2.0 is finally drawing to a close. Once the splash screen was selected, the developers rolled out a beta candidate.

Besides a whole host of GUI revisions and added features (in addition, of course, to the core changes) is OOo’s adoption of a new set of XML-based file formats. Formerly, for instance, the OOo Writer module used an XML-based .sxw file extension. The new OASIS standard is .odt.

Comparison of office file formats
File type Microsoft extension Old XML format New XML format
Word Processing .doc .sxw .odt
Presentation .ppt .sxi .odp
Spreadsheet .xls .sxc .ods
Database .mdb n/a .odb*

*The new “Base” module is a database manipulation program that can deal with Microsoft’s Access format, SQL, and dBase databases. It also can create it’s own XML format.

One interesting note about the XML format is how much space they save. I did an impromptu comparison of file sizes using a variety of text saved in several different formats. The first data set was “a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z” repeated for 300 pages. The second was the entire text of James Joyce’s Ulysses as hosted on Project Gutenberg (732 pages). The third was 10594 words of Lorem Ipsum text. All files were created from pure text with no formatting. Two numbers are reported in each cell: the exact number of bytes and the rounded size as reported by a Windows 2000 SP4 machine on an NTFS file system.

Comparison of file format sizes
Corpus ASCII text MS Word 97/2000/XP MS Word 2003 XML OOo Old XML OOo New XML
Alphabet 1,388,998 bytes 2,813,440 bytes 1,417,974 bytes 13,118 bytes 13,422 bytes
Ulysses 1,546,194 bytes 3,765,760 bytes 2,350,089 bytes 745,423 bytes 745,727 bytes
Lorem Ipsum 72,168 bytes 158,208 bytes 94,340 bytes 31,723 bytes 32,031 bytes

There are negatives, of course. For starters, OpenOffice 2.0 relies more heavy on the Java Runtime Environment than its predecessors. The database engine is entirely Java, in fact, and many features rely on it. Java scripting is notoriously slow, and so far as I’m concerned, it’s better off without it, but the same company that donates source and funding for OOo, Sun Microsystems, is the inventor and proprietor of the Java language, so its inclusion is more or less inevitable.

Secondly, OOo is a bit slower than MS Office. My sources tell me that GCC, the open-source C library used to compile the program, has a bit of trouble with larger applications. Still and all, I expect the final version to be even faster than the beta version I tested, and given the price and functionality, OpenOffice 2.0 promises to make a big splash in FOSS computing.

§520 · March 2, 2005 · Tags: , ·

2 Comments to “Open Office approaches 2.0”

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  2. […] while ago, as 2.0 approached completion, I compared the file sizes of Microsoft Office’s binary format against OpenOffice’s new […]

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