openoffice office 2007.pngThere has been a lot of buzz in the last week regarding 3.0 Beta. Some people are excited with the new features that it brings to the table, while others are a little disappointed that the interface didn’t get much of a facelift. No matter which way you look at it, this will be a huge release since milestones like this only occur once every three years for

Of all the new things 3.0 Beta there are two features that people really seem to be focusing on. The first is the native Mac OS X support which is something that has been highly anticipated. I haven’t really heard much complaining about this.

The other highly sought after feature is compatibility with Microsoft Office 2007’s new XML document formats (.docx, .xlsx, .pptx). This is obviously something that could greatly ease the Office 2007 to transition for users… assuming it works well. Here’s what PC World had to say about it:

As an experiment, I saved a simple Word 2003 document in Word 2007 format. Office 2007 opened it just fine, but Writer only got as far as the first two lines of the text; instead of skipping the next line, the rest was truncated. An Excel 2007 template fared no better. Calc preserved labels, numbers, and formulae; macros, embedded graphics, and page layout options disappeared. A plain .xlsx file created with the same template yielded identical results.

Ars Technica also noticed that the importing generally worked, but the documents would need a little tender love and care in the formatting department. As for my experience with 3.0 Beta converting Office 2007 documents I would say that it was decent, but definitely needs some fine tuning. Here are the results from my tests, along with how much time it would likely take to correct any issues:

Note: All files used for these tests are my own files that I had created using Office 2007 at some point over the last year. So these are real-world examples of what people might go through.

  • Test: Three different Word (.docx) files that were mostly just paragraphs and bullets
    Result: Some extra line breaks seemed to appear randomly.
    Estimated time to fix: 1 minute
  • Test: One Word (.docx) file that was a resume (extensive use of tables)
    Result: Nearly perfect… only one incorrect indentation.
    Estimated time to fix: Few seconds
  • Test: One Word (.docx) file that was an 84-page report, and included a dynamic table of contents. There were also a lot of images placed throughout the document.
    Result: Many formatting issues, and several blank pages were inserted throughout the document causing the table of contents to be significantly thrown off. Cover page was completely mutilated, and several portions of the document would be unreadable if left unfixed.
    Estimated time to fix: Hours
  • Test: One Excel (.xlsx) file that was a basic spreadsheet with columns and rows being summed.
    Result: Everything imported fine except the custom background color, and once I changed the background color it looked like it should.
    Estimated time to fix: Few seconds
  • Test: One PowerPoint (.pptx) file that was 25 slides long, and included clipart.
    Result: Most of the formatting and clipart were properly preserved during the import process, but my presentation theme was missing. This was easily remedied by choosing an included slide theme. However, all custom shapes and animations were absent which could take a lot of time to add.
    Estimated time to fix: 1 hour

So those were the tests that I performed to see how well the Office 2007 import process worked in 3.0 Beta, and generally it wasn’t too bad. As it stands right now you’ll likely need to adjust the formatting of any documents that you import, which could really take a lot of time depending on the amount of advanced formatting options that you’ve used. I believe PowerPoint files would be the biggest obstacle for this reason.

I’m guessing that the team will polish this feature up before the final version of the suite is released, but it’s probably difficult for them to account for all of the vastly different layouts that people will be trying to import. This feature will end up being useful when opening Office 2007 files that other people are sending to you, but even with some tweaks by the development team it will probably be more trouble than it’s worth. We’ll have to hold out until the final release of the suite before we make that judgement call though.

Thanks to Kiltboy for the tip!