New OpenOffice version includes security upgrade

Touted as a "real alternative" to Microsoft Office, updated open-source application suite is designed to fix two vulnerabilities.

The OpenOffice.org community has released version 2.2, including updates to OpenOffice's word processor, spreadsheet, presentations and database software.

OpenOffice.org describes its free software package as offering a "real alternative" to Microsoft Office 2007 and an easier upgrade path for existing Microsoft Office users.

The community also said it addressed security issues in the new version, which was released Friday. A number of vulnerabilities had recently been discovered in the suite. On March 21, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported two critical vulnerabilities--both of which required user interaction. Those vulnerabilities have been addressed in OpenOffice 2.2, according to an OpenOffice.org representative.

"OpenOffice.org 2.2 protects users from newly discovered vulnerabilities, where users' PCs could be open to attack if they opened documents from, or accessed Web sites set up by, malicious individuals," OpenOffice.org stated.

The organization said that in version 2.2, people will notice an improvement in the quality of the text display. For example, previously optional support for kerning, a technique to improve the appearance of text written in proportional fonts, is now enabled by default in 2.2.

The founding and principal sponsor for OpenOffice is Sun Microsystems. Open Document Format (ODF), the standard that supports OpenOffice, was adopted as an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard in May, effectively making it a global open standard.

However, rival open-format Office Open XML, developed by a group that includes Microsoft, is also pushing for ISO certification. On Monday, Office Open XML moved to the next stage toward gaining ISO certification: a five-month ballot by the national members of ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission standards body to see whether the standard should be awarded.

Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, the British Library, Essilor, Intel, Microsoft, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, Toshiba, and the United States Library of Congress all contribute to the Office Open XML project.

OpenOffice had already made headlines recently, with French members of parliament choosing Linux over Windows and California considering following Massachusetts in its adoption of ODF.

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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