2008-10-13

OpenOffice.org 3.0

OpenOffice.org 3.0 is far more than just the latest version of OOo. It's also the beginning of a new age for productivity suites. Why? Because OOo 3l0 takes a huge step toward the real future of desktop productivity. It uses extensions and it expresses its data in an open standard; these we know, though we are only now beginning to appreciate their importance. And it also works beautifully with the latest suites, including MS Office 2007.

The result is more than an alternative that's free and that frees. It is a new way of doing things, one that builds on the commons held now by tens of millions living everywhere on this globe. It is a way that trusts the wealth of the commons and imagines a world where the impoverishing effects of vendor lockin are a thing of the past.

Vendor lockin means being stuck with the vendor who sold you your application because all your files are in the format used by that application. It means you can only communicate fully with others who share your vendor. It means that monopoly is the most logical outcome.

OOo bypasses that problem by using an open standard, the OpenDocument format. Both proprietary and free applications can use it, and they do. Even MS Office supports it, via a plug in. The net result is a world where the free exchange of information is not just possible but very likely, as it is no longer impeded by proprietary concerns.

OOo 3.0 adds to that freedom by using extensions much the same way that Firefox does: it gives all users the freedom to add new features, functionality. At present, we have a couple of hundred, and they have proved popular. We've also done minimal advertising. I anticipate that in the coming months, as 3.0 gains yet more popularity (all servers are down at the moment), there will be more and more interesting extensions out there.

I can see extensions that radically depart from what we consider "office" tools---and why not? OOo is an integrated set of tools based on fairly conservative conceptions of office software. But there is no compelling reason to stick with the conservative past, and every reason to be creative.

So, let's be creative together.