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Talking OpenOffice

RDN talks with OpenOffice.org's John McCreesh.

Microsoft is busy tracking the Office 2.0 phenomenon, but it's not alone. The popular OpenOffice.org open source productivity software suite is also moving toward a more open and flexible future. We spoke with OpenOffice Marketing Program Lead John McCreesh, who offers a sense of how OpenOffice might itself be entering the 2.0 space.

What's next for the OpenOffice.org suite? What major new features or capabilities would you like to add to the suite, and what challenges exist for your team in making that happen?

We have two more point releases in the 2 series: 2.3 due for release in the next month, followed by 2.4 in Q1 '08. The next major release, [version] 3.0, will be about a year from now. We have some substantial new features under development, such as a new charting module, a new report designer, support for new Microsoft Office file formats, and a long-awaited native Mac OS X version. Our design philosophy has always been to develop cross-platform -- as you may imagine, a native Mac OS port stretches that concept to the limit.

We're also working hard to open up OpenOffice.org even more. This is in two parts. We want developers to be able to add features more easily to OpenOffice.org as extensions. To the user, these will appear just like part of regular OpenOffice.org, but as extensions that can just be downloaded and run. This will open up OpenOffice.org development to a whole new class of developer.

The other part of 'opening up' is to make OpenOffice.org componentry available to developers, systems integrators, etc. We have production-ready components for everything from handling ODF files to drawing superb three-dimensional charts. As an open source project, why shouldn't we make these available to other developers for use in their applications?

The Microsoft patent imbroglio earlier this year largely targeted the Linux developer community, but OpenOffice.org fell into the crosshairs as well. Is there any impact on your group?

Looked at from the other side of the Atlantic, nothing in the U.S. patent arena surprises me anymore. The bottom line for OpenOffice.org is that we know where our code has come from. All our code is open source for anyone to inspect; we have nothing to hide. If someone believes we have to stop coding because they have a patent on how developers click a mouse, then that's fine by me -- I'm afraid I've been in the IT industry too long to worry unduly about FUD.

Google Apps has taken a less-is-more approach to productivity software. Are there lessons to be learned from what Google is doing?

Google Docs & Spreadsheets works well for a niche market. I'm a user -- I've uploaded OpenOffice.org files into Docs & Spreadsheets to do cooperative editing with colleagues, and then pulled them back down again to finish off the more 'serious' editing in OpenOffice.org.

As an open source project, we hate to see developers reinventing wheels. As part of our 'open up OpenOffice.org' activity, we'd be delighted to see developers integrating OpenOffice.org components on an application server, and delivering them over the Web for people to use in browsers. I wonder if any of your readers would like to take up the challenge?

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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