OpenOffice.org launches first native Mac OS X suite

Unveils final release of 3.0; site still crippled, but download available

OpenOffice.org yesterday released the first version of its open-source application suite written for Mac OS X.

Although the organization's Web site is back online today -- it was knocked offline for several hours on Monday as demand exceeded server capacity -- the version now available is bare-bones. Users can access the 163MB download installer, however.

OpenOffice.org issued a beta of its flagship suite five months ago, but yesterday's release marked the first final code from the open-source project that doesn't require Mac users to install X11, a Unix windowing environment.

The new OpenOffice.org 3.0 runs only on Intel-based Macs; systems powered by the older PowerPC processors can download and run an older 2.x edition that requires X11.

OpenOffice.org 3.0 includes a slew of new features and improvements to the suite's word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and database applications. Other enhancements and additions include support for the new file formats that debuted in Microsoft Office 2007 and Microsoft Office for Mac 2008.

OpenOffice.org is one of the few rivals of Microsoft Corp.'s market-leading Microsoft Office suite. The current Mac version, Office 2008 for Mac, starts at $149. Apple Inc. also sells a suite, dubbed iWork '08, that offers a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation maker. IWork retails for $79 for a single-user license, $99 for a five-license family pack.

Another open-source competitor, NeoOffice, is currently at Version 2.2.5, but Version 3.0 debuts in mid-November to users who have donated $25 or more to the project since late August. The update will be available to all users free of charge on Jan. 15, 2009.

Work on a native Mac edition of OpenOffice.org kicked into gear over a year ago, when Sun Microsystems Inc. assigned company-paid engineers to the project. Sun's connection to OpenOffice.org goes back to 2000, when the company ceded the source code for what had been dubbed StarOffice to the all-volunteer OpenOffice.org project.

OpenOffice.org 3.0 for the Mac can be downloaded from the group's site in English, Danish, German, Italian and Swedish versions.

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