A major theme at the OpenOffice.org Conference (OOoCon 2006) was the support for extensions. The OpenOffice developers envy the success of extensions in Firefox, NetBeans and Eclipse and want to replicate it.
OpenOffice has had for a long time a component architecture called Universal Network Objects (UNO). This architecture allows to mix components written in different languages, register them and allow each one to contribute to the overall functionality of the application. So far creation of such a component and its integration was a bit cumbersome.
The next minor release (2.0.4) will add common functionality, such as handling of license for extensions and the ability to install the extension for all or only for one user on a PC.
For the next major release (2.1) the development team introduces a new format that allows the components to be installed with one click, versioned and managed as extensions. It also will be possible to update extensions online and automatically search for updates. In addition extensions can require dependencies on other components. This will lead to a much more stable application and extension eco system.
OpenOffice.org 2.1 is planned for December 2006. I expect the first extensions to be out in Spring 2007. I look forward to such extensions. This move will set the bar lower for members of the community to add the single function they need and to contribute to the application as a whole. It also does work hand in hand with the contest for templates and clipart. This will make the OpenOffice.org suite more complete and more attractive to new users.