OpenOffice.org 2.0 Beta 2 is a significant improvement, although as of this writing it is still unstable and requires more bug fixes. It now looks and behaves like any other application — on Windows XP it looks more like Office or any other Windows application (although it certainly does not look like the as-yet-unreleased Office 12), and on Linux it uses the same user interface widgets as GIMP or Evolution. Beta 2, as of this writing, does not yet include a native-looking Mac OS X version; the Mac version still uses the X11 user interface.
Beginning with version 2.0 OpenOffice.org uses the open standard OASIS OpenDocument XML format as the default file format. OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications is a document format that protects content, whether it is an 800-page airline specification or a legal contract, from being locked into an application- or vendor-specific file format.
Beta 2 offers CustomShapes — shapes that can change their size and appearance — which are very similar to Microsoft’s AutoShapes (which, fortunately, are now imported and displayed correctly). The developers took pains to make OOo more compatible with Word by letting you create tables within tables (nested tables), and more compatiblle with PowerPoint by supporting more animation effects and slide transitions. It also includes a WordPerfect filter developed by the open source community. A new Table Wizard makes it easy to create database tables, and the embedded HSQLDB database engine, based on Java, lets you create database documents with table definitions, data queries, forms, and reports all stored in one XML file.
It is ready now, and the developers are asking the community to download it, test, and file bug reports. To learn why 2.0 represents the future of productivity suite technology, read the Features page.