A sneak preview of new OpenOffice 3.2 part 1

The last developer milestone ( DEV300m60) of OpenOffice.org has just been released. The next version of OpenOffice.org 3.2 has more than 42 features and about 167 enhancements . The final version of openoffice is expected to be available at the end of November 2009.

Many known companies have contributed to this version like RedHat , RedFlag and IBM, making OpenOffice more stable and useful. I couldn’t stop myself from seeing new features and enjoying them. So we downloaded DEV300m60 version. After playing with it for many days we could say that OpenOffice developers have done very good work in it. Well done !
We will review in this post some interesting features : more secure , faster , easier and more international.

more secure

Detect if non-encrypted streams are in encrypted document:

OOo expects that an encrypted document does not contain any non-encrypted streams starting from ODF1.2 version. The exceptions are the streams that are part of the ODF format: „mimetype“, „META-INF/manifest.xml“ and signature streams that follow the pattern „META-INF/*signatures*“.

The manifest.xml is part of the document signature now:

In OpenOffice.org 3.2, the manifest.xml will be signed . This will introduce the limitation that macro signatures can’t be introduced after the document was signed, because this would need manipulation of the (then) signed manifest.xml.

ODF document integrity check:

The document integrity check proves now whether the ODF document conforms the ODF specification. It mainly affects the ODF1.2 documents. If an inconsistency is found, the document is treated as a broken one, the office suggests to repair the document in this case. The macros are disabled in repaired documents.


Many issues have been fixed in order to make OpenOffice.org faster. The happy news that OpenOffice.org 3.2 is now faster than before in many aspects. The startup now 30% faster in Windows. Many issues have been ironed out in Writer (6 issues) and Calc (10 issues) regarding loading and saving times.

Now I can see that OpenOffice is faster than before but still there are many things have to be done in speed side.


Default button in password dialog now is „OK“ :

Although it is a small change but it makes OpenOffice more usable . Now The OK button in the password dialog is the default button again .

Remove the password length limitation:

“ The current minimal password length limitation ( 5 characters ) is outdated and makes no sense any more. Thus the limitation is removed, although the password is not allowed to be empty. “

Import of password protected Microsoft Office XML documents:

This is a great feature. Many people asked me how we can open password protected docx/xlsx files. All document types are supported including: MS Word 2007 documents (*.docx, *.docm) – MS Word 2007 templates (*.dotx, *.dotm) – MS Excel 2007 documents (*.xlsx, *.xlsm) – MS Excel 2007 binary documents (*.xlsb) – MS Excel 2007 templates (*.xltx, *.xltm) – MS Powerpoint 2007 documents (*.pptx, *.pptm) – MS Powerpoint 2007 templates (*.potx, *.potm).

Encryption support for „Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP“ :

This new feature make saving password protected Microsoft Word document possible with Microsoft Office standard RC4 algorithm.

Keyboard shortcut configuration dialog now supports „ALT“ modifier:

Before OpenOffice.org 3.2, the dialog for configuring keyboard shortcuts never allowed to use the ALT-key. Now ALT as well as SHIFT-ALT, CTRL-ALT and SHIFT-CTRL-ALT modifiers can be used in the dialog.

Impress and Draw now support comments:

To support collaboration, it is now possible to add comments to a presentation or drawing

document (using menu insert/comment or with the new Comments toolbar).

This feature was previously called „Notes“ in writer and calc . It has been renamed to „Comments“ in all applications to avoid a clash with the speaker notes feature in impress. This is also a consistent naming with other office suites.

MediaWiki filter is no more installed as part of OOo installation:

The MediaWiki filter is not installed as part of OOo installation any more. Instead it will be installed as a part of Wiki Publisher extension, since the two implementations are used together and it allows to provide updates for the filter independently from OOo releases.

Default paper sizes:

This is also a cool feature. In my country the default PaperSize is A4 not letter. Many time I forgot to change the page size and it causes me thinking why my documents show different from others documents.

Now OpenOffice.org 3.2 take the default PaperSize from Language local configuration. The default PaperSize for all countries will be like this:

  • US (United States) -> Letter
  • CA (Canada) -> Letter
  • PR (Puerto Rico, United States Territory) -> Letter
  • PH (Philippines) -> Letter
  • VE (Venezuela) -> Letter
  • CL (Chile) -> Letter
  • Mexico (MX) -> Letter
  • Colombia (CO) -> Letter
  • All Others -> A4

Menu items display changed :

The display of menu items with checkmarks and item images changed slightly. Item images and checkmarks now are displayed in the same column. In case an item is both checkable and has an image, the image is displayed, but additionally the checked state is displayed in the same way checked toolbar buttons are displayed.

Option item „Icons in menus“ now listbox with three options:

The Tools/Options->OpenOffice.org/View page now has a listbox for the „Icons in menus“ option. This was a checkbox before and is now a listbox offering three options: 1) Automatic 2) Hide 3) Show.

Improved file locking:

Now if the file is used, you can open a copy from it or Open it in read mode only .

More integration with Windows 7 & KDE 4

The new version OpenOffice.org 3.2 will use the native file picker dialog in Windows 7 and KDE 4.

More international

Graphite Font Support :

I am impressed with this feature. It helps OpenOffice.org to be more Open to minority languages like Malayalam language and Tamil language. To get more information about minority languages see this page.

Graphite fonts are truetype fonts with extra tables which contain information for complex rendering such as context specific reordering, shaping and positioning. Unlike OpenType, the rendering engine does not need any prior knowledge of the script, the rendering rules are all contained in the font itself.  This makes it ideal for scripts and languages which are not directly supported in Uniscribe or ICU. Graphite also supports font features which allow variations in rendering to be selected according to linguistic or personal preference. To get free graphite fonts see here.

Support for PS-OpenType fonts :

Another cool thing in OpenOffice.org 3.2 is supporting PS-OpenType fonts. Postscript based OpenType fonts are now supported (for formatting, printing, PDF-export and display).

In Addition, UNX platforms is now supported.

New Locale support:

OpenOffice.org 3.2 adds locale data for Asturian_Spain [ast-ES] , Yiddish_Israel [yi-IL], Arabic (Oman) [ar-OM] , Sardinian_Italy [sc-IT] , Quechua (Ecuador) [qu-EC] ,Oromo_Ethiopia [om-ET] , yghur_China [ug-CN], Ancient Greek [grc-GR], Somali_Somalia [so-SO] , Sorbian, Lower [dsb-DE] and Upper [hsb-DE] .

10 secrets about Nautilus (file manager)

Nautilus is a file manager which provides a simple and integrated way to manage your files and applications, and you can use it to do the following:
* Create folders and documents
* Display your files and folders
* Search and manage your files
* Run scripts and launch applications
* Customize the appearance of files and folders
* Open special locations on your computer
* Write data to a CD or DVD
* Install and remove fonts

The file manager lets you organize your files into folders. Folders can contain files as well as other folders. Using folders helps you find your files more easily.
I am not going to explore all Nautilus’s features simply because it is a pretty straight forward program to use. There are many secrets about Nautilus normal users might not be familiar with them; therefore, in this article, I will try to shed light on some of them. Although I am using Nautilus on Ubuntu 9.10 in this tutorial, everything mentioned will be valid also on most of other distributions like Fedora, Mandriva or OpenSUSE.

Location bar

The location bar is a very powerful tool for navigating your computer. It can appear in three different ways according to your selection. In all three configurations, the location bar always contains the following items.
Zoom buttons: Enable you to change the size of items in Nautilus.
View as a drop-down list: Enables you to choose how to show items. There are three types: icon view, list view or compact view.

By default, location bar shows a row of buttons representing the current location’s hierarchy, with a button for each containing folder.
If you know where you want to go, you can change to Text Location Bar by clicking on the pencil icon, press Ctrl+L or choose Go ▸ Location; then press Enter. The path field automatically completes what you are typing when there is only one possibility. To accept the suggested completion, press Tab.


Searching For Files

The file manager includes an easy and simple way to search for your files and folders. To begin a search press Ctrl+F or select the Search toolbar button. The search bar should appear as shown on the next figure.
Enter characters present in the name or contents of the file or folder you wish to find and press Enter.


Show hidden files

By default, Nautilus does not display certain system and backup files in folders. This prevents accidental modification or deletion, which  can impair the operation of your computer, and also reduces clutter in locations such as your Home Folder. So, and to prevent all these, Nautilus does not display:
* Hidden files, whose filename begins with a period (.),
* Backup files, whose filename ends with a tilde (~)
* Files that are listed in a particular folder’s .hidden file.
You may hide or show hidden files in a particular folder by selecting View ▸ Show Hidden Files.


Change Nautilus’s background

Many people don’t know that you can change Nautilus’s background to add a beautiful touch to browsing files.
To change the background of a window, pane, or panel,  perform the following steps:

1.Choose Edit ▸ Backgrounds and Emblems in any file manager window. The Backgrounds and Emblems dialog is displayed.

2.Click the Patterns button or the Colors button to see a list of background patterns or background colors you can use.
3. To change the background, drag a pattern or color to the desired window, pane, or panel. To reset the background, drag the Reset entry to the desired window, pane, or panel.

You can add a new pattern to the list by clicking the Add a New Pattern button when the patterns are selected.  Locate an image file in the file chooser dialog and click Open.  The image file will appear in the list of patterns you can use. I added an image as a new pattern and this is the result:


Spatial mode

In Spatial mode, The file manager window represents a particular folder. Opening a folder opens the new window for that folder. Each time you open a particular folder, you will find its window displayed in the same place on the screen and the same size as the last time you viewed it (this is the reason for the name ’spatial mode‘.

spatial mode
Spatial mode is the default in GNOME but Ubuntu doesn’t enable it by default. To enable it choose Edit ▸ Preferences.

set  Nautilus to always use it by selecting (or deselecting) Always open in browser windows in the Behavior tab.


Single or Double click to open items

In Windows systems, the default way of opening items is by a double click. However, in Nautilus, you can choose a single click or a double to open items in by choose either way in Behavior tab (see the above picture).

Add more power to Nautilus by scripts

Sometimes you need to edit a file with root privileges and you are too reluctant to open the terminal; therefore, don’t even bother yourself because Nautilus provides you with a way to do that by scripts.
A Nautilus Script is an executable file, written in a scripting language, which can perform some function on files or folders selected from within the Nautilus file manager window.
To add a new script, just copy it to this path :  “/home/(your account name)/.gnome2/nautilus-scripts”  copy the path and past it in Location text bar then press Enter.
This site gives you many scripts you can choose from which might meet your needs. I’ve picked three scripts that seem useful for most users: Open as root, Open Terminal Here and root-nautilus-here. You can download them from here.


Changing the Icon for a File or Folder

To change the icon that represents an individual file or folder, perform the following steps:
1.Select the file or folder that you want to change.
2.Choose File ▸ Properties. The properties window for the item is displayed.
3.On the Basic tabbed section, click on the current Icon. A Select custom icon dialog is displayed.
4.Use the Select custom icon dialog to choose the icon to represent the file or folder.


Changing Permissions

You can change the permissions by using terminal’s commends for a short way but this way seems difficult for those who came from Windows environment. So, you may choose the easy way that Nautilus provides, just the way windows does it.
To change the permissions of a file, perform the following steps:
1.Select the file that you want to change.
2. Choose File ▸ Properties. The properties window for the item is displayed.
3. Click on the Permissions tab.
4.To change the file’s group, choose from the groups the user belongs to in the drop-down selector.
5.For each of “the owner”, “the group”, and “all other users”, you can specify for each file one of the following permissions:
None: No access to the file is possible. (You can’t set this for the owner.)
Read-only: The users can open a file to see its contents, but not making any changes.
Read and write: Normal access to a file is possible: it can be opened and saved
6.To allow a file to be run as a program, tick Execute button.

Folders have more options in permissions tab. For instance, folder access permissions :
For each of the owner, the group, and all other users, choose from these folder access permissions:
None: No access to the folder is possible. (You can’t set this for the owner.)
List files only:  users can see the items in the folder, but cannot open any of them.
Access files: Items in the folder can be opened and modified, provided their own permissions allow it.
Create and delete files:  The user can create new files and delete files in the folder, in addition to being able to access existing files.
To set permissions for all the items contained in a folder, set the File Access and Execute properties and click on Apply permissions to enclosed files.


Changing “ Open with” default application

You can open an item like png files with many applications like gimp, F-spot or even firefox, and to choose the right application, right click on the file and choose open with:
To Choose which application is used to open an item, and others of the same type.

1.Select the file that you want to change.
2.Choose File ▸ Properties. The properties window for the item is displayed.
3.Click on the Open with tab.
4.Select which application do you like to open that type of files.


So far so good, and if you feel I have missed some important tips regarding this file manager, please share them with us!!

OpenSUSE 11.2 the Perfect KDE Distribution

While openSUSE community is preparing to release openSUSE 11.2 in the next month, we decided to discover what’s new in openSUSE 11.2. We downloaded the RC1 image and started playing with it. In short, it is fast, stable and beautiful. We think the decision to move to 8 months release is a wise decision. It gives more time to build and test the software. But the most exciting decision is putting KDE as the default desktop environment. OpenSUSE 11.2 is the best KDE distribution (IMHO).

In this post we will review the most 10 important features in the default openSUSE 11.2 desktop:

1- Linux 2.6.31 kernel

Linux 2.6.31 kernel is the latest version of Linux kernel. It was released on 9 September, 2009. It brings tons and tons of new features and bugs fixing. You can check this article to see what’s new in this version. Most upcoming distributions will ship this version.

For openSUSE 11.1 users, be ready to jump from the version 2.6.27 to 2.6.31. So many things happened in these four releases. Linux becomes faster, more secure and has more built-in drivers. Moreover, openSUSE (or I should say Novell) developers paid a special attention to the netbook market.


2- Ext4 filesystem

Like most distributions, the default filesystem in openSUSE 11.2 will be Ext4. Ext4 is  the successor of the most used Linux filesystem, Ext3. It brings a lot of features and better performance compared to Ext3. You can find more details about Ext4 here.


3- Live upgrade

For the first time officially, openSUSE will support live upgrade in the same manner of Debian’s dist-upgrade. This feature “ has a powerful psychological impact at the Enterprise level and a much more tangible impact at the small user / single user level”. According to the feature page, “The rationale for pursuing this is to revoke the special status of coolness this functionality gives Ubuntu, and to terminate the negative influence that may have on our SLE sales (from the expert’s  opinion, the preference then easily spills into purchasing).”.

The bad news is it does not have a graphical tool and does suffer from many bugs.


4- YaST revamp

In OpenSUSE 11.2, YaST (the control center) has been ported from Qt 3 to the shiny Qt4. The new things are:

  • There are Novell AppArmor modules by default.
  • The virtualization module is ready to install.
  • Modules are searched (filtered) as you type in the search field.
  • The partitioner module has seen many user interface improvements. It also gained RAID6 and RAID10 support.

5- YaST web interface

OpenSUSE 11.2 will ship a technology preview of the web interface of YaST. The objective of YaST web interface is to enable remote 1:1 management of a machine. It is built using Ruby on Rail framework.

When I try to test it, I get an error. Further work is required to make it usable.

Login page of Web YaST


6- Improved software management

The software management has been improved vastly in openSUSE 11.2. First  Zypper (the backend to control packages) gets an enhancement for download reliability. Second, now you can download all packages first before installing them. Third, the layout of the user interface has been improved as you can see in the screenshot below.

Finally, you can search within all known openSUSE build-service and openSUSE community repositories using „Webpin package search“. I like it  because it is more convenient than using a browser for that task. By the way, I like „1-Click Install “ button.

New Layout of software managment

Keep downloaded packages option

7- KDE 4.3

My lovely desktop will get a big improvement in the next openSUSE release. It will come with the latest version of KDE 4.3. According to release announcement of KDE 4.3, “The KDE community has fixed over 10,000 bugs and implemented almost 2,000 feature requests in the last 6 months. Close to 63,000 changes were checked in by a little under 700 contributors.”. Well done KDE developers.

I’ve used KDE 4.3 on openSUSE 11.1 (thanks build service) since release day. It is stable and crash free ( maybe I exaggerate a little bit ). Most important KDE3 applications have been ported to KDE4.


8- KDE/Firefox integration

The most annoying thing when you use Firefox in KDE desktop is the lack of  integration (File dialogs, default programs, notification system, and proxy settings). OpenSUSE developers have worked hard to make sure that Firefox will behave like KDE application. See the proof in the video:

By the way, openSUSE 11.2 will ship OpenOffice 3.1 with KDE integration.


9- Wonderful Art works

I must admit that the art work in openSUSE 11.2 is amazing. Have a look at boot screen, login manager, Air theme and finally the wallpaper, to judge yourself. OpenSUSE comes with few wallpaper because you can get hundreds of wallpapers online using „Get Hot New Stuff“ from KDE.

Boot Splash

Login screen

The Desktop

Get New Wallpaper Online


10- Social desktop

OpenSUSE 11.2 comes with a lot of programs that support social networks (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, …etc). Firefox is the king in the area. But if you do not like the default webbased interfaces, you can use other applications like:

  • Choqok: New KDE twitter and identi.ca client.
  • Kopete: The KDE client now has additional support for Facebook IM protocol.
  • Social plasmoids: KDE 4.3 comes with plasmoids for Twitter/identi.ca and openDesktop.

Skype will be open source

Skype (the famous Voice-Over-IP communication program) will be released under an open source license.  The story started when Olivier FAURAX  sent an email requesting Mandriva version of Skype.

After a little chat with customer support , he got this reply. Customer support said that Skype understood that many users complain that there is no Mandriva version at present.

Skype was happy to be able to inform you that Skype will from now on be part of the open source community.

Skype mentioned that therefore Linux developers will be enabled to influence the development of the Skype client for Linux – which will most certainly result in specific versions for the different distributions.”

This step will boost  adopting Skype as the best communication program in GNU/Linux distributions.

Skype answered in an email that the appreciate the user community’s enthusiasm and realizeed this is something they have been wanting for a while. They realized the potential of the open source community and believed that making Skype for Linux an open source application will help to speed up its development and enhance its compatibility with different versions of Linux.

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