Apache OpenOffice 4.0 review: New features, easier to use, still free

Lagging slightly behind Microsoft Office in features, Apache OpenOffice has a lot of functionality and flexibility

By Ian Harac, PC World |  Open Source, OpenOffice

Apache OpenOffice is a full suite of office applications: word processor, database, spreadsheet, presentation, and graphics. Each of them is full-featured and robust. Though not always matching Microsoft Office in terms of maximum bells and whistles, each application goes far beyond the basics in its class. Not bad for a free suite.

Apache OpenOffice is a long-standing competitor to Microsoft Office, with the roots of its code going back over ten years. It is a free, open-source product under the auspices of the well-known Apache Software Foundation, with regular updates, maintenance, and bug fixes.

Like LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org, Apache OpenOffice "forked" from Oracle OpenOffice (which grew from StarOffice) in 2010. The sidebar interface was based on Lotus Symphony, which was donated to Apache Software in 2012. Despite the multiple code inputs, Apache OpenOffice feels smooth and cohesive--important in an office suite.

The individual applications in Apache OpenOffice have a good level of integration. The menu and toolbar for each window are relevant to the current document, but you can always go to the "File" menu and create a new document of another type, which will then open in its own window. Including information from other applications, such as database rows in a Writer document, is not particularly difficult.

Writer offers a long list of functions: document templates, frames, mail merge, a style manager, section-based headers and footers, and much more. The sidebar docking feature introduced in Apache OpenOffice 4.0 is very useful if you have a wide monitor, as it's easy to place multiple panels so that all controls are visible and accessible.

The layout and design options are flexible, but not quite at the level of Word 2007. For example, if you select a 'banded' table style, and insert or delete rows, the banding does not automatically adjust; you must select the table and re-apply the style.

Base provides a functional set of database design and formatting tools. Some of the interface elements, such as query creation, are not entirely intuitive. There were some oddities that are sensible in retrospect, but don't call themselves out to a user: For example, switching a text field from "single line" to "multi line with formatting" disconnected it from the underlying database field (a long text field), because formatted text requires a binary field. I'd have appreciated a warning or error message.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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