First 3.0 beta hits the web

Many users find a capable replacement for Microsoft Office, but the software suite isn't without its quirks, and development has progressed quite slowly over the past few years. With the newly released 3.0 beta, the development team behind the software is giving users a glimpse of what's in store for the next major milestone.

Ars Technica has posted some first impressions of the new beta, and it says OOo 3.0 packs a number of notable changes and new components. Among those are:

A new Solver component makes calculating dependent spreadsheet cells much easier (a bonus for Mac users as Excel 2008 reportedly lost its solving component), and vastly improved cropping features in the Draw and Impress apps are indeed more intuitive. When working in Writer, multiple pages can be displayed at once for a bird's eye view of a document, and notes (or comments) on a document are now displayed in a sidebar, paralleling the same UI found in many other text editors.

Other new major features include Office 2007/2008 file format compatibility and native support for Mac OS X. Whereas previous OOo versions for Apple's operating system tapped the X Window System and featured non-native user interface widgets, Ars' screenshots shows the new version fits right into Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.

Of course, being a beta, this release isn't quite perfect. Ars says support for new Office file formats leaves a little to be desired, and the suite reportedly "crashed at least once" on both Windows Vista and Mac OS X.

You can download the 3.0 beta for Windows, OS X, Solaris, and various flavors of Linux from this page. As the software downloads, you can check the official release notes and peruse list of the new features. The final version of 3.0 is scheduled for the fall.

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