Microsoft released a beta of its application suite this week that runs in Apple OS X's native Aqua user interface, the first version from the open-source project that doesn't require Mac users to install X11, a Unix windowing environment.
The public beta of OpenOffice.org 3.0, which was announced Wednesday and posted to the group's Web site for download the same day, includes a raft of new features and improvements to the suite's word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and database applications.
But the one of most interest to Mac OS X users is the tossing of X11. OpenOffice.org 3.0, said the organization, runs in the operating system's Aqua graphical user interface, and adheres to that UI's conventions. The result: A more Mac-like look and feel to the suite.
OpenOffice.org also claimed that 3.0 "integrates well with the Mac OS X accessibility APIs [application programming interfaces], and thus offers better accessibility support than many other Mac OS X applications."
Prior to the beta release, OpenOffice.org fans who wanted to run the bundle's applications on a Mac had to work within the X11 framework. Some users disparaged the suite for just that reason, and instead turned to NeoOffice, an Aqua port that had been created by developers unaffiliated with OpenOffice.org.
The current version of NeoOffice, 2.2.3, can be downloaded free-of-charge from the group's site.
Work on the native Mac version of OpenOffice.org gathered momentum about a year ago, when Sun Microsystems assigned company-paid engineers to the project. Sun's connection to OpenOffice.org can be traced to 2000, when the company ceded the source code for what had been dubbed StarOffice to the all-volunteer OpenOffice.org group.
OpenOffice.org is one of the few rivals of Microsoft's market-leading suite, Microsoft Office. The latest Mac version of Microsoft's suite, Office 2008 for Mac, is priced starting at US$149.
The beta of OpenOffice.org 3.0 can be downloaded free of charge for the Mac -- as well as for Windows, Linux and Solaris -- from the project's Web site.
Previously, OpenOffice.org had set September 2008 as a tentative release date for the final version of 3.0. In January, the group reiterated that basic timeline, but said: "We expect OpenOffice.org 3.0 to be ready by the mid of September, but this is not a fixed date, only an estimation."