NeoOffice 3.0 Beta Offers Improvements Over OpenOffice.org
NeoOffice 3.0 beta was released Thursday to users who donate $25 or more to the open source project's coffers. The beta incorporates code from the popular OpenOffice.org office suite (currently in version 3.0.) into NeoOffice's long-established, stable and fast native Mac OS X code. While still in beta, this version offers many user experience improvements for Mac users.
OpenOffice.org released version 3.0 back in October with native OS X support for the first time in the project's history (previous versions relied on the X11 windowing system). Users faced the choice between sticking with the fast and stable, but older, NeoOffice suite, or moving to OOo 3, with its new features. At the time, I recommended sticking with NeoOffice and waiting out the development process for NeoOffice 3.0. Soon Mac users will have the best of both worlds: OOo 3's newest additions and NeoOffice's renowned Mac-only features.
According to NeoOffice project contributor and forum regular, pluby, this NeoOffice release "really is only an upgrade of the NeoOffice's underlying OpenOffice.org code." Pluby indicates the extensive work required to replace OOo 3's existing Sun Microsystem OS X code with NeoOffice project code prevented the team from releasing additional Mac-specific features, and complications with OOo 3's Universal Access support forced them to leave the feature out of NeoOffice 3.0's beta. Still, NeoOffice 3.0 sports a laundry list of enhancements over 2.2.5.
OOo 3 features included in NeoOffice:
- New view layout and zoom interface
- Updated notes interface puts comments in document margin
- MS Office 2007 import filters
- 1024 columns in Calc sheet (previously 256)
- New chart component
NeoOffice exclusive features:
- OS X services support
- Magnify and swipe trackpad gestures
- Media browser support
Extensions bundled with NeoOffice 3:
- Presentation Minimizer Extension
- Report Builder Extension
- Presenter Console Extension
- PDF Import Extension
Perhaps the biggest advantage NeoOffice provides over OOo is speed and stability, especially for older PowerPC Macs. NeoOffice forum regular OPENSTEP says, "Patrick has spent a lot of time focusing specifically on PowerPC performance, and we do consider severe PowerPC performance issues our users have as bugs, not as things to shrug off (like some other large vendors have done). [...] We've spent a lot of time over the years making Neo fast on older computers...and we'll continue to do so as long as feasible or possible."
NeoOffice fans eager to try out version 3.0 can check out the Early Access Program. Understand, however, that this is a beta version and testers will experience bugs. Less adventurous users will have to wait until March 31, when NeoOffice 3 is officially released.