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OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

By Bruce Byfield on October 13, 2008 (3:00:00 PM)

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OpenOffice.org 3.0, which is being released today, is not the great leap forward in look and feel that version 2.0 represented, but it justifies its label as a major release with dozens of changes, some major, some minor, but in all more than can be easily summarized.

A new start dialog, support for reading version 1.2 of the Open Document Format, limited support for importing Microsoft VBA macros, increased language support, easier use of multiple languages in the spell check, native support for Mac OS X, OOXML support -- these are just some of the across-the-board changes in version 3.0. However, the largest changes are specific to the major applications. Here's an overview of some of the most important changes.

New in Writer

Writer benefits from several major revisions. Two of the most basic are in the Zoom view. Not only does the status bar at the bottom of the editing window have a slider bar, allowing you to set the zoom as you like rather than relying on preconfigured settings, but by selecting View -> Zoom -> Columns, you can now set how many pages to display at once. Previously, the only way to view multiple pages together was by using Print Preview, which opened in a separate window, so this simple change is a major step forward for those who use Writers' desktop publishing tools, since most page design is based on a two-page spread.

Collaboration also gets a boost, in the form of a complete overhaul of the Note system. Instead of forcing users to hunt through documents for the smear of color that used to designate a note, Writer now displays notes in a side panel on the right of the editing window, with a line leading to their location. You can also use basic formatting in notes, such as bold or italic weights. When you are finished, you can not only easily delete the current note -- something almost impossible to do in previous versions, since it required careful selection with the mouse -- but all notes or all notes by the same user if you choose. Although you may have trouble with the note changing position if you enter it at the end of your typing, in general the new note feature is a significant improvement on the old one.

Probably the largest advance is with cross-references. In earlier versions of Writer, setting up cross-references was a cumbersome affair, requiring you to set the source of the reference, then add the reference itself. Nor could you refer directly to headings, as you can in most word processors, despite the fact that most cross-references are generally to headings. But in version 3.0, you can select your reference from a list of headings, making it far more efficient. Now, if OpenOffice.org would only include an easy way to add the text that introduces a cross-reference, so that you could avoid continually typing phrases like "For more information, see" without fiddling with macros, AutoText, or AutoCorrect, its cross-reference functionality would truly be state of the art. But, for now, the changes are a good start.

New in Calc

Of all OpenOffice.org's applications, Calc probably benefits the most from the improvements in the latest version, with countless minor tweaks to default behavior and to functions. Also, more than any other application, Calc benefits from the ability to add custom error bars, regression equations, and correlation coefficients to charts.

A small but useful change is that highlighting in Calc is now transparent, rather than being an impenetrable black. As basic as it is, this change is enough to enhance your work flow considerably, since you can now see what is selected without interrupting the selection process.

Another small change in Calc is the addition of an options button in Printer Setup, which gives you the option of suppressing blank sheets when printing, or printing only selected sheets. If you have ever tried to print a spreadsheet in a readable form, you may appreciate this extra degree of control.

A larger change in OpenOffice.org's spreadsheet is a revised Solver for formulae. The revised tool now allows you to set the Condition to Integer or Binary, as well as less than, greater than, or equal to, and includes a setting to limit the time spent solving for various variables. It also seems to include an option of choosing a solver to use, although for most people, the only choice will be the one that comes with version 3.0.

Perhaps the largest change in Calc is the increase in its scope, with 1,024 columns supported instead of the 256 in previous versions. If you're using that many columns, you should contemplate switching to Base or some other database, but many seem to prefer to stay with spreadsheets, and, for them, the increase puts Calc on par with Microsoft Excel.

New in Impress

In early releases, OpenOffice.org 3 appeared to be following the lead of Microsoft PowerPoint by removing its initial wizard. Given users' growing familiarity with slide shows, such a move might have been justified, but, in the end, OpenOffice.org stuck with the wizard.

The most important change in version 3.0 is that Impress finally gains the ability to add tables without the kludge of assembling separate text frames. Tables still cannot be nested to create complex layouts, and Impress gives them a background of the default color, which means that you probably have to edit them as soon as you create them, but this handicap can be overcome by creating a master slide or two for tables, then saving the file that holds them as a template. What matters is that, with the addition in recent versions of the ability to add sound across all slides from the Slide Transition pane, Impress has finally achieved total parity in features with PowerPoint. If it could only be shipped with an assortment of usable templates, then free software users would have very little left to ask.

In addition, tables are now available in Draw, which shares much its code with Impress. In Draw, the addition of tables enhances the application's ability to serve as a basic desktop publishing tool.

Beyond the default packages

Since version 2.0 came out, OpenOffice.org has developed a thriving extensions community. Those who want to look beyond the standard code will find that browsing the extensions repository well worth the effort. Many users already swear by tools such as Sun Report Builder and Sun Presentation Minimizer.

However, along with the release of version 3.0 come at least two extensions built specifically for the version. PDF Import Extension, which Linux.com has already reviewed, opens PDF files in Draw, allowing you to edit or recover PDF files. If you frequently deliver slide shows, you should also appreciate the Presenter Console Extension, which allows you to view your notes and the next slide privately while delivering the presentation.

Once you have the extensions of your choice installed, you'll also find that version 3.0 has an automatic updater, just as Firefox does for its extensions.

Conclusion

One disappointment in version 3.0 is that no comprehensive effort has been made to improve interface consistency, or to revamp the dialog windows, which have a 1990s feel about them and look increasingly outdated and cluttered. Possibly, lack of attention to such concerns reflects the fact that the same code is used for StarOffice, Sun's commercial version of OpenOffice.org; in the marketplace where StarOffice operates, enhancements are bound to be greater selling points than an overhaul of key features. But, whatever the reason, those who want the interface cleaned up may have to wait at least another two or three years until the next major release.

At least OpenOffice.org's frumpy interface is familiar. And with all the changes in version 3.0, most users will probably discover at least half a dozen ways in which their office productivity is suddenly easier.

OpenOffice.org is available in English and a few other common languages from the project's download page. Versions for other languages should become available over the next few weeks.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for Linux.com.

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on OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

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Impress parity in features? A myth...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 200.40.101.170] on October 13, 2008 04:07 PM
If you write too many lines in a PowerPoint slide, the font size will automatically become smaller, so all of the text will fit -- Impress doesn´t have this ability, which forces the user to manually adjust every slide, each time text is added or deleted -- an ugly usability problem. Even worse, according to the OpenOffice bug reports, this has been reported several times now and has been in the queue for years with no attention from the developers. So, "Impress has finally achieved total parity in features" is still a myth.

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Re: Impress parity in features? A myth...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 131.111.10.87] on October 13, 2008 06:47 PM
Automatic rescaling of fonts like this is a nightmare. Text wobbles in size between slides and it encourages cramming of more and more text into the slide.
I'm not a MS PowerPoint user, but I've suffered slideshows from people who are. I want constant size (large!!) text forcing brevity in the slides.

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Re: Impress parity in features? A myth...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 220.255.106.45] on October 18, 2008 06:16 PM
hehe... i'm a seasoned powerpoint user (certified MS Office Professional) and I hate the auto resizing of type size when you type too many words. Thank goodness impress didnt take it up

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OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 87.119.183.10] on October 13, 2008 04:43 PM
In Word one can change case by pressing Shift + F3. Sadly in OO one must customize it (Tools>Customize>Keyboard) and have to assign different function keys one per function. Ex. Shift + F3 for Uppercase and after releasing Shift + F4 for lowercase. I just wish it would be same as in Word. Just Shift + F3 and rotating.

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OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 172.28.171.101] on October 13, 2008 04:43 PM
> 1,024 columns supported instead of the 256 in previous versions. ...
> the increase puts Calc on par with Microsoft Excel.

No, it doesn't. Excel now, I believe, supports 16,384 columns. 1024 puts it, I think, on a par with Excel 97.

Not that important a point, but should be corrected in the article.

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Re: OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.36.168.234] on October 14, 2008 02:30 AM
Excel 2003, actually. Calc is not yet on par with Excel yet, but Excel is a poor example anyway. There's been discussion on the forums for this, since a minimum of Excel file support is a must.

Excel was limited to 256 columns through version 2003, and only in the 2007 version did it increase to 16,384 columns. Although most alternative spreadsheets followed MS's poor example of only 256, Corel's QuattroPro has had 18,000+ columns since at least version 9?, ~2002? KSpread on the other hand has 32k columns, for those wanting width, though length is only 32k rows as well.

The utility of these limits probably only affects a few. I'm one that finds >256 useful on occasion, when a database isn't a convenient alternative. A database certainly seems as plausible a preferred solution for >32k rows (KSpread) as 256 columns (Excel 2003). Nonetheless the demand for rows has always been high: Excel 2003 (and others following) with 65k rows and QuattroPro 9 with 1M rows, followed by Excel 2007 with 1M rows (actually Excel is following QP). User-defined limits make the most sense, actually.

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OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

Posted by: DylanMcCall on October 13, 2008 06:10 PM
The only important improvement for OpenOffice will be when it stops trying to play catch-up with Microsoft Office.

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OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 207.73.139.82] on October 13, 2008 06:51 PM
3.0 and it still lacks basic functionality.

i.e. Try going back to the previous animation in an Impress slide show. You will go to the previous slide. This isn't a feature, this is basic functionality!

This software still sucks and by the time it is equivalent to office 2003, we will probably want more. I guess I still need office in a virtual machine :(

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Re: OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 220.255.106.45] on October 18, 2008 06:20 PM
what u expect? its free. Go buy MS office please.

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OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.241.11.135] on October 13, 2008 07:08 PM
I've been waiting this for more than 2 months..... :)
Tomorrow i will start compiling OOO3 on my FreeBSD

Great News

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OpenOffice.org 3.0 != Microsoft Office?

Posted by: Scott Dowdle on October 13, 2008 07:40 PM
<sarcasm>Yeah. You guys are right. Because OpenOffice.org doesn't have every feature of Microsoft Office, they should just quit trying. Who cares that the average user only uses about 10% of the features? Who cares that Microsoft Office costs a substantial amount of money? Microsoft Office *IS* kind of multi-platform: Windows AND Mac OS X. Yeah, I guess you are right. Who are we kidding? I really should run a full Windows virtual machine just so I can access Microsoft Office on Linux. That would be very efficient.</sarcasm>

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Re: OpenOffice.org 3.0 != Microsoft Office?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 207.73.139.82] on October 13, 2008 10:05 PM
My guess is that the average person doing presentations would greatly appreciate the ability to go back a previous animation instead of going back a whole slide because they go too far or get asked a question. Screwing up a presentation and going back a whole slide could potentiality cause someone to lose their job, or fail a graded presentation.

I am sure it must work great for your use of enlarging happy faces and drawing pictures, but for the rest of us who actually do presentations for work, such a program is unacceptable.

It seems like instead of fixing the basic problems of openoffice, many just claim that they don't exist!

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Re(1): OpenOffice.org 3.0 != Microsoft Office?

Posted by: Scott Dowdle on October 13, 2008 11:45 PM
Who is claiming OpenOffice.org doesn't have any problems?

I find it hard to believe that someone would get fired because they had to go back a "whole slide". I have never even put a animation in a presentation so I don't think the issue is going to affect me.

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Re(2): OpenOffice.org 3.0 != Microsoft Office?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.36.168.234] on October 14, 2008 02:45 AM
It would be useful to page through each animation step (yes, a useful improvement), but shouldn't be critical. If you have more than a few steps per slide, your slides probably aren't well designed, and you certainly might lose your job over that. There are always simple solutions if your slide is overly complicated, like replication at intermediate steps. But simpler is better.

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Re(1): OpenOffice.org 3.0 != Microsoft Office?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 142.103.60.135] on October 14, 2008 08:22 PM
And yet some of us would consider not going back through the animations a feature not a bug. Nothing worse than coming up to questions after a talk; someone asks a question about the first few slides and you watch as the speaker painstakingly goes back through every little animation.

Yes, they could open up the show index and find it. But practically, it never happens.

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Re: OpenOffice.org 3.0 != Microsoft Office because of an animation?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.6.174.228] on October 16, 2008 12:16 AM
The only people I know personally(except myself) who "actually do presentations for work" use keynote on a Mac. Nonetheless, what's wrong with just using one animation per slide? You might have to click an extra time on your remote? Heaven forbid! But if you think the almighty MICROSOFT must be the be-all and end-all of defining features, just go ahead and be a Microsoft fanboy (read slave) for life! You can't lose your job for that. As for me, I've been using OOo exclusively since version 1.0, and never looked back. MS Office 97 was the last and only version of Office I ever bought. I think the OOo team are doing a fine job, and if I were to criticize anything, It would be that they follow the Microsoft product too closely, rather than charting their own course. The advantage of the free software model is that the users can decide what features they want, and participate in the development of new versions via actual programming, or testing, or user feedback, rather than just accepting the dictates of the software company.

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Re(1): OpenOffice.org 3.0 != Microsoft Office because of an animation?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 98.115.99.21] on October 17, 2008 12:57 PM
You missed the point that this is an example. But since this is where you want to dwell:

Of course you can do work arounds, but one animation per slide for engineering, or economics would result in a slide show with 800 slides, which is not practical at all.

Going back a previous animation isn't a new request (issue 48179 originally opened in 2005), this team is either ignoring the request, has no idea how to fix the problem with the bloated openoffice code, or doesn't think its important.

Using a product doesn't make you a fanboy. I run Linux as an operating system because I think it works better, not because I have some emotional issues with Microsoft. As long as openoffice still sucks, I am stuck with what actually works MS Office. When I can get away with it, I prefer latex beamer class but its just not practical for extensive animations.

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Re(1): OpenOffice.org 3.0 != Microsoft Office?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 220.255.106.45] on October 18, 2008 06:23 PM
You are so right. Most presenters advance to the next slide or animation. How often does one go backwards (and want to show the animation again?).

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OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.237.174.94] on October 13, 2008 08:27 PM
"A small but useful change is that highlighting in Calc is now transparent, rather than being an impenetrable black. As basic as it is, this change is enough to enhance your work flow considerably, since you can now see what is selected without interrupting the selection process."

I don't understand this comment. In 2.x, when I select it inverts the foreground/background colors -- just like most applications have for years. I can see what I'm selecting just fine. Not that I don't appreciate a little more modern look...

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Calculation of date - please, let me switch it OFF and never see it again

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 78.31.159.227] on October 13, 2008 09:44 PM
My complaints are based on 2.x version - is situation in 3.x better? At least I have not seen anything in the article... So:

1. Is it possible to switch off automatic formating and date calculation and words collecting and suggesting
FOREVER?
For example: 1.1=2008-01-01=39448 (Polish locale, after changing cell format into text)
It is a permament OpenOffice Calc and Excel (at least up to 97, later Excels I have not used) horror.
Especially, that Calc has already options for calculations of date in various formats, but without possibility to have it OFF.

2. Another problem:
1=1345 and something - it and many other things have just entered into memory as virus and each pressing "enter" key without screen control may get horrible result, especially if serious data input. All options regarding collecting of words are formally blocked, but no result...

3. I would like have MY data formats in MY sheet, even if I import data from other MY sheets. Just one check box or Format menu item: all autoformat off. Not default on, but just everything off.
I do not want dancing and singing animations or complicated formulas. Just one great OFF.

4. Another dream: place a Calc table into Writer as a table, not as a graphics. It was possible to copy spreadsheet table into text processor between at least since MS Word 2 and Excel 4. When will it be possible in Open Office?

Are they a looser's dreams?
Greetings :-)
Basia

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Re: Calculation of date - please, let me switch it OFF and never see it again

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 211.27.188.193] on October 13, 2008 11:44 PM
4 has existed since openoffice 1.0 and before under paste special.

1 But something that is not noticed is that you can lock formatting settings format cells number section. Same as in Excel if cells are set as type number you enter 1.1 it will stay 1.1. The issue here is that you are not setting the formatting up of your spreed sheet. This leave Calc and Excel to there own devices. It is also possible to turn it off by setting date to a nothing formatting string. I class this is more not knowing how to use calc and excel correctly both are exactly the same in how you deal with this.

2 is why you create forms to insert data to avoid maths processing. You will find openoffice 2.0 and up calc takes that input without issue. There was a processing bug in openoffice 1.0.

Number 3 is about the only complaint that is really valid. I went as far as creating my own macro to turn them on and off in openoffice. Yes its macro solvable so yes a missing feature yes should be done but is not a show stopper if you have someone who can add macros.

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Re(1): Calculation of date - please, let me switch it OFF and never see it again

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.11.104.208] on October 14, 2008 12:02 PM
Thanks for commenting my complaints :-)
I do not consider myself as power user, I am just user :-)

4. After your info I have checked again and yes - Edit -> Paste Special ->Formatted text (RTF) - last possible option...
First possible option ->calc - gives graphics... Well - it is something for people working with UI
Thank you very much for advice.

2. Hm... I feel it is bit complicated to create form just to fill a sheet instead of effective OFF for words replacing.
Perhaps it is necessary to have some standarized sheets to work with - regret it is not my case.
I work with files from various sources.

3. Thanks for comfort...

Best greetings :-)
Basia

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OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.192.13.179] on October 14, 2008 10:59 AM
OOo 3.0 usre got a shiny new face, and some feature improvements. But IMHO it still fails in the Pivot table arena compared to Excel, so for the more advanced number crunching requirements it has still a (long?) way to go.

Robert, http://awasteofwords.com/

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Re: OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.155.168.182] on October 16, 2008 03:13 AM
Which is why OO.o now has extension so contributors can write one of them.

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OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 129.78.149.91] on October 16, 2008 02:21 AM
Missing features:

Calc:
*Good charting. Latest improvements are leaps ahead of the original, but try making scatter plots with >3000 points. It insists on automatic previews, which usually screw up. Igor Pro (proprietary) does a good job of charting this type of data
*Non-linear newton-raphson solver -- a boon to every engineer. Ever.

Impress:
*Proper handling or listing of available video & audio codecs.
*Proper master frame editing - - the current workflow is not good -- try playing with multiple master slides
*RGB editable colours, rather than making a colour in the configuration menu and then trying to use it
*Insert multiple images, insert image via drag & drop
*Improved crop & resize functions. Ability to choose resize functionality
*Bring in code from Sun presentation slideshow minimiser into core OOO. Too often one sees 10 slide presentations > 10MB, which aim to be presetned in 1024*768 on a digital projector
*Font handling between bullet points -- bullet points contiunally try to revert to numbered, or different size bullet points
*Font handling on Mac -- equations are broken for many installs (see google cache of equations for broken examples - -you see a funny glyph rather than actual equation)


Writer:
*Forbid locale changes in text -- enUK spelling continually tries to revert to en:US, particualrly when cutting & pasting

General:
*Better SVG handling

Things OOO does way better than anyone else:
*Format

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Re: OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 129.78.149.91] on October 16, 2008 02:25 AM
Try that again:
Things OOO does way better than anyone else:
*Format conversion
*PDF export
*Styles (word is awful at this)
*Graph anchoring
*Captions
*Floating frames

Things that should be improved:
*Speed. Its *much* slower than its counterparts
*Size: repo sizes are climbing, almost at a slow exponential. This is tricky, and only of moderate importance, but try doing a source compile -- not fun!

Things that should be considered extremely carefully:
*Linking between documents vs copying data -- too often (in other presentations too) someone brings a presentation via a USB key and references other work on their own computer, which it cant find. need ability to "compile" presentations

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Re(1): OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 162.42.126.18] on October 16, 2008 03:33 PM
I am still waiting ... going on 6 or so years ... for OpenOffice to have an outline view that works as well as Microsoft Word's outline view. It's one of the oldest outstanding enhancement requests.

It's the only thing keeping me in the Microsoft world, because I use it to revise and move things on the fly, collapsing and opening sections at will. OO's versions is not acceptable.

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OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

Posted by: sasikumar on October 18, 2008 09:55 AM
From MSoffice created document with table of two pages. When we try to open the file with open-office 2.0 and 3.0. It is opening only one page. it is not showing two pages. but we delete one page or some content it is showing rest of the content.if any one know solution kindly reply me.

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OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 220.255.106.45] on October 18, 2008 06:27 PM
Cant understand why users are demanding so many features from a package thats free. You want those features... please support Microsoft with $$ and get the REAL THING!

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Need for many columns: images

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.191.60.131] on October 21, 2008 03:57 AM
Today I opened an image file in Excel 2007, and tried to save it in a backwards-compatible format. Though the image was just 640x480, it would not let me. Why would I want to do such a thing? Because it comes from a piece of scientific equipment that saves a conversion factor, and an image in a matrix of 10-bit integers, with row and column numbers, all in comma-separated value (.csv) text format. These sorts of "image editing of text output files" are all over the place in the scientific world. They are cumbersome, but allow you to recover the data. Now, how to process these files on windows without the convenient shell-scripting of Linux will be a real trick, and one that I do not have a good answer for yet.

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impress movie object missing when saved as .PPT OpenOffice.org 3.0

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 203.88.135.35] on October 24, 2008 06:31 AM
OpenOffice Impress Movie Object Problem:

in market morethan 90% - 93% people using MS Office and POwer Point. so it is but naturall that you have to save all OpenOffice files in MS Office format and not in OO's native format.

Now in case of Impress, when we work on OO's latest Version 3, if we import a movie object and save it as .PPT and close the file. then open the same file in OO Again or in MS Office again, in both cases movie object is missing !!! Voila !!! what to do? the same if we save in OO's native format, it save and play movie very well at next all openings.
so saving in .ppt creates big problem but to match market if we want to send the same files to clients suppliers or other people who are using MS Office only we have to save it in .PPT.

Any Solution?

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