A Brief Look at NeoOffice 2.1

Last week, NeoOffice recieved an incremental upgrade to version 2.1. Notable new features include support for Office 2007 OpenXML Word documents with support for Excel and PowerPoint OpenXML in a future release. Support for Excel VBA macros is reaffirmed – important because this will be the only tool on the Mac with this feature once MS Office 2004 is discontinued. The default icon set is now Akua, and version 2.1 gains more support for native Aqua widgets.

The first thing I noticed is that NeoOffice 2.1 launches in about one-quarter the time version 2.0 did on my MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, the application is still modular with no way to select which module opens upon launch. I’m poking through the application package to see if I can find an easy workaround for this. I’ll make a new post if I can come up with a solution! OpenOffice for Windows is treated like a suite of applications, so this derivation should be able to emulate that feature.

As advertised, NeoOffice looks much more like a Mac OS X application upon launch, and the Akua toolbar icons look right at home.

The close widget still does not behave correctly when a document has unsaved changes, though, and dialog boxes as well as contextual menus still look like the are emulating aqua. They are close to being right, but the difference is noticeable. (This is true for drop-down menus and tabs too.)

so close yet so far…

Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents all seem to import just fine. The only problem I’ve had with opening Word documents is if the document uses non-standard bullets. With PowerPoint files, sometimes image formatting and transitions may be lost or altered. I haven’t been able to test macro support as I have no documents requiring that feature. As far as Open XML Word documents go, I’ve downloaded three sample documents and none of them have opened correctly. However, like Excel macros, this may not be a feature I’ll use often enough to miss.

Overall, this update does little to make NeoOffice 2.1 more compelling than version 2.0. It’s still as reliable as it ever was, but it still feels slightly out-of-place on Mac OS X. That said, it does make for a compelling (free) alternative to MS Office 2004, and the performance gains alone should be enough to encourage existing users to upgrade. Especially if you are an Intel Mac user tired of Office’s Rosetta-dependent performance lag, download NeoOffice, and give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.