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OpenOffice.org 1.0.1 X11 for Mac OS X Final Beta

So OpenOffice.org released the final beta version of OpenOffice.org 1.0.1 X11 for Mac OS X yesterday at MWSF. I'm surprised to have not read about it on any sites yet. I managed to download it pretty quickly off of one of the mirrors (probably because the downloading frenzy hasn't begun yet). My first impression is that it does appear to be very stable, but it's not quite polished enough to replace Office X for the everyday Mac user.

Yesterday Apple also quietly released a beta version of X11 for Mac OS X which is an optimized version of Xfree86's X server that also includes a speedy quartz based window manager. It works much like Orobourosx but much faster thanks to Apple's optimizations. I bring this up because it looks like the new OpenOffice build was unfortunately built before anyone knew about Apple's new X11. After installing OpenOffice.org, a nice "Start OpenOffice.org" icon is created in your Applications folder. Double clicking it the first time asks you what program to use as your X11 server. I choose Apple's X11, but after a minute or too, Console was nice enough to report that soffice.bin had crashed. So no go with a nice double click to start up OOo. I'm sure this will be fixed by the time it is finally released though. Fortunately, I had no problems starting it from within an xterm or adding it to the X11 Applications menu by entering the command "/Applications/OpenOffice.org1.0.1/program/soffice"

On from there it looks to be very stable. The Word and Excel documents I opened loaded perfectly and printed without a hitch. I didn't have to do anything special to make this happen. Just open and print and done. So the basics are definitely there.

Printing is a little confusing though from a user feedback standpoint though, as it does not go through Print Center. And it prints so fast through CUPS (on a TiBook 667) that I wasn't even sure anything had been printed until I went to the other end of the office to check the printer. Maybe if we are lucky it will use Printer Center in the final release.

My last gripes are that as far as being a Macintosh program it's just not there yet. I don't fault anyone for this as this release based on the X11 version does not attempt to be a full fledged Mac program anyway. No attempt has been made with this version to follow the Aqua Human Interface Guidelines of course. And since it uses X11 instead of Aqua, menu bars are of course within each window instead of in the standard menu bar (as with any X11 program running on Mac OS X). All the shortcut key combinations use Ctrl instead of Cmd. This means that you hit Ctrl+S to save and Ctrl+P to print instead of Cmd+S and Cmd+P respectively. I was also not able to hit some of the key combinations such as Ctrl+F7 to bring up the Thesaurus. These problems should of course be addressed when OpenOffice.org completes their native Aqua port which is currently under development.

All and all it looks like OpenOffice.org has built a very solid application that anyone coming from Unix/Linux should feel very comfortable using and save them from having to fork over cash to Microsoft in order to edit Word documents on a Mac. For people that are used to the beauty and consistency of Macs and Mac apps, they are probably still better off spending the money to purchase Microsoft Office X if they need to work with these documents everyday. But for anyone that doesn't spend much of their time in a word processor, perhaps less than once a week, this is definitely a great alternative to spending $500.

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