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New ways to highlight in Writer

The word processor offers a very sophisticated, but clumsily implemented new feature: Writer now uses a transparent colour to highlight text.

What is doubtlessly easy on the eye in the default settings of Writer unfortunately lacks sufficient flexibility in its implementation: The developers neglected to include the option to change the highlighting colour, or its level of transparency. While this makes working with dark text on a light background easier, it turns into a liability when working with a light font on a light background, as the highlighted text becomes almost indecipherable.

Visually impaired users who require a high-contrast display need to be aware of some peculiarities in this context. With low-contrast display settings, OpenOffice uses a fixed transparency value for the highlighting colour. If a high-contrast setting is used, on the other hand, OpenOffice can be configured for either very light, or a very dark, highlight. This setting can be adjusted via "Options for high contrast appearance" in the Options dialogue under "OpenOffice/Accessibility".

Structured comments

The new version of OpenOffice allows users to respond directly to other users' comments. The reply is added to the bottom of the comment, allowing the sequence of replies to remain clear even in long debates. Right clicking on a comment is all that's required to add a reply.

Faster calculations

The spreadsheet developers deserve a big pat on the back: Calc is now appreciably faster when handling large amounts of data.

A first performance test examined the processing speed of common functions: SUMs, divisions, IFs and VLOOKUPs. The new version of Calc finished this test in one twentieth of the time needed by the previous version.

The second performance test used a LOOP function and comparisons (MEDIAN, PERCENTILE, QUARTILE, LARGE and SMALL) to sort the values of an entire column – here, the time required for the operation was reduced from one hour to twelve minutes.

The spreadsheet program has been given numerous minor, but very helpful, improvements. Spreadsheets can now be renamed with a double click; the status bar of Calc now offers a zoom slider. When editing a formula directly in the formula bar, Calc now shows the formula's syntax in a tip help window.

Sorting has also been upgraded: If sorting is initiated via the "Data/Sort" menu, Calc automatically sorts the data in all the highlighted columns using the data in the column that was highlighted last.

The Calc developers have thrown in four new functions: EUROCONVERT converts the old European currencies into euros; GAMMA, CHISQVERT and CHISQINV are new statistical functions. The BETAVERT function is extended to include a "cumulative" parameter; changes have been made to the GAMMAVERT, CHIVERT and CHIINV functions.

Next: Crisper charts

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