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07 May 2009, 15:39

OpenOffice 3.1: The new features

Better anti-aliasing, crisper charts

by David Dangel

Compared to its predecessors, OpenOffice 3.1 offers a whole range of new features. Instant eye catchers are the improved anti-aliasing for graphics, better chart functionality, and the new text highlighting in Writer. However, inconspicuous new features like custom document property fields and the OpenOffice User Feedback Program are just as interesting.

With half a million new lines of code, the OpenOffice developers have invested considerable time and effort in improving the office suite's anti-aliasing capabilities. Pixelated drawings, charts and characters are now a thing of the past: compared with previous versions, the latest edition sports noticeably smoother edges.

It is worth mentioning that the anti-aliasing feature technically only works with vector graphics. Resizing raster graphics, whether imported or created in OpenOffice, will still result in the typical quality loss. Since all the objects, charts and characters drawn in OpenOffice are vectorised by default, however, this only really affects bitmaps. The anti-aliasing feature can be enabled/disabled in the "Options" dialog under "" by checking or un-checking "Graphics output/Use Anti-Aliasing".

Custom properties

One feature which has so far not received much attention, has a lot of potential: From version 3.1, OpenOffice documents can be assigned one or more document property fields whose field names and values are freely customisable. Custom fields are available in four different types: text, number, date, and boolean (yes or no). This is useful if OpenOffice is to work in close co-operation with other applications. It allows OpenOffice to be tailored, for example, for document management indexing or local search systems.

The release candidate still contains a few minor bugs. Empty text and boolean field are saved as empty fields, but the program quietly deletes any empty number and date fields. Fields that are not empty, on the other hand, are saved smoothly for all the field types. This can cause problems when creating templates, which may by nature contain empty fields. Custom document fields can be added via the "file/properties" menu on the "Custom Properties" tab.

Next: Improving OpenOffice

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