Wednesday, September 29, 2010

LibreOffice - What it means to End Users

Open Office has been the defacto standard for open source productivity suites for some time now. It provides a high quality, free alternative to Microsoft's costly Office software and is completely cross-platform. As with many of the larger open source projects Open Office has had a corporate backer for the last ten years, up until recently that backer was Sun Micro-systems. In 2009 a software company known as Oracle bought out Sun Micro-systems (and thus all the open source projects they backed).

Yesterday the Open Office community announced they were forking the project. The results of splitting off an FOSS project means many things to many people. Most all of my friends and family, regardless of their operating system of choice, are end users of the Open Office project. As such I have been getting a few questions wondering what exactly this fork means to them:

Why should the end user care about the forking of Open Office?

Well there are a few reasons. The first and foremost thing a forking brings to the table is more choice. This means in addition to Open Office there will also be the community driven Libre Office.

Next as many in the Linux community know, forking a project sometimes creates something that is much better than the original. With Libre Office I am hoping this will also be the case. Libre Office will be software developed by the community for the community. Having a project managed by an elected panel instead of a money hungry company is favorable in the open source world.

One benefit to having a company in charge of a project is that they fund said project. While Libre Office has assembled an impressive list of supporters, it remains yet to be seen if any on this list will be contributing funds to the FOSS project. While it is true much FOSS development is done at no cost, having money to pay developers allows them to focus more of their attention on the project at hand, thus producing higher quality results (most times).

Personally I hope Libre Office takes off, but only time will tell if this fork of a major open source project will be successful.

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. Oracle's statement in response to the LibreOffice announcement makes clear they will continue development:

    ""Oracle is investing substantial resources in With more than one hundred million users, we believe is the most advanced, most feature rich open source implementation and will strongly encourage the Open Office community to continue to contribute through
    [] However, the beauty of open source is that it can be forked by anyone who chooses, as was done today. Our sincerest goal
    for Open Office is that it become more widely used so if this new foundation will help advance Open Office and the Open Document Format we wish them the best"

    Please remember that Oracle employs many of the OOo developers, something a "money hungry company" can do and this foundation cannot do without support of other "money hungry" companies like Canonical and Red Hat. Developers do like to pay rent/mortgage, eat, take care of their families, and so on. I have never understood the animosity to the free enterprise system by some in the Linux community. Most of the major Linux developers are paid by corporations either directly or indirectly through foundations with corporate backing.

    Finally, if the OOXML support in OOo is dropped in LibreOffice for being insufficiently free or for having ties to Microsoft then LibreOffice will fail. If you don't have compatibility with MS Office, which is still the de facto standard in business, nobody but hard core FSF types will use Libre Office.

  2. You make a lot of good points Caitlyn and I fully agree with you. My money hungry crack was simply about the bogus lawsuit Oracle was battling with Google about - but that is a topic of something else entirely.

  3. LibreOffice has fail written all over it, starting with it's name. I'm not an Oracle "fanboy" by any stretch, but as long as they are investing in OpenOffice there isn't any point to LibreOffice except to please FSF fanatics who have yet to deliver any success what so ever.

    I'll tell people to use Microsoft Office before I recommend LibreOffice to anyone on principle alone.

  4. "FSF fanatics who have yet to deliver any success what so ever."

    Have I got GNUs for you...

  5. I think OOo will die from Oracle neglect. Libreoffice is the future. It is quite plain to see that Oracle is another corporate control freak and they are fast making themselves irrellevant. They could have become an equal member in the Document Foundation but chose not to for obvious reasons.

    FSF have yet to deliver any success eh? We wouldn't have a free operating system without them, clueless!

  6. "Have I got GNUs for you..."

    GNU is just a collection of work written by users released under GPL license which the FSF has taken and now calls their own. I have GNUs for you, GNU is hardly a success.

  7. "FSF have yet to deliver any success eh? We wouldn't have a free operating system without them, clueless!"

    Hi clueless, BSD existed before GNU and I seem to recall BSD being free.

  8. Microsoft is becoming very insignificant they are losing not hundreds, not thousands but millions of users to Open Source at a fast rate of knots and there is nothing they can do about it. They saw it coming and did everything in their power to stop it, buying up Linux companies, partnering with Novell, threats, bribery, backroom deals. starting their own .Net There is nothing in their favor. Even the media have reported very little news on Microsoft this year. Apple got the biggest slice followed by Google and Twitter

    I was reading your blog on Linux market share being at 1.8% You do need to get some up to date information on the real figures Here are some figures on one distribution alone

    He said KDE had enjoyed a great year and listed a number of its successes. These included retaining a deployment of 50 million school desktops in Brazil and gaining several hundred thousand additional deployments in universities. Deployment of KDE desktops in Portugal has almost doubled from four to seven hundred thousand laptops. There are a million KDE deployments in Venezuela and KDE software is used on 11,000 computers in German embassies worldwide.

    This is not counting Red Hat, Novell, Canonical or the popular community distributions who's numbers are sky high with home users.

  9. LibreOffice, great idea but for me its another FOSS name that's difficult to pronounce. And there isn't a wikipedia entry for it either, as of this moment.

    How about starting off with a great name, this time skipping the Latin and shooting closer to English.. or maybe Greek.

    Nominations anyone?

    "Socrates", that's my nomination; It's smart and ethical just like what we want are documents, databases and spreedsheets to be. And I can pronounce it easily.

  10. "Microsoft is becoming very insignificant" Really? They still control about 80-83% of the desktop market and 42% of the server market. This is perhaps some new definition of "insignificant" with which I have not been acquainted.

    Look, I am as much of a Linux advocate as anyone but please, keep it real. Statements like that are just plain silly.

    "This is not counting Red Hat, Novell, Canonical or the popular community distributions who's numbers are sky high with home users." Sky high? Linux holds perhaps 8-10% of the desktop market at best. Steve Ballmer claims Windows holds 83% of the market and I don't think he is off by more than a few percentage points.

    Linux has made great gains on the desktop and I have drawn more than a little fire from Microsoft supporters for writing about it. See: However, making wild claims about "sky high" numbers does not help Linux advocacy. If anything, it gives ammunition for Windows supporters to dismiss Linux advocates as clueless zealots.

    Please, once again, keep it real.

  11. I love the name OpenOffice, but am willing to ditch it for "freedom" of single corporation control. OpenOffice has become a popular choice now and for the fork to happen will cause confusion to the "other 80%" of the computer users that have no clue to what we are all talking about here. Most of them, JUST DON'T CARE... They want something that works, something they are used to... and something free doesn't always matter.

    Us zealots are the ones that write on here, we think we know everything and that only our opinion matters. I think we all need to take our heads out of our rectal cavity and look around a little.

    Most people use Microsoft, Word and a slew of other proprietary software. Why? Most people are cattle... they follow the fat ass in front of them, chew their cud and moo. They don't care what they click on, as long as the little green light stays green when they push it.

  12. Totally agree with author. The beauty of opensource is the ability to fork. It is in no ones interest that a company with oracles track record be sole gatekeeper of OpenOffice's future development, ergo the need to fork. Don't get me wrong about Oracle they have advocated and supported linux for many years, albeit for their own economic gains. We should however not forget the dirty they tried pull on Redhat with their unbreakable Linux attempt.
    Oracle aren't terrible per se, but one wouldn't employ a wolf to look after one's sheep.

  13. @Caitlyn - LOL @ "Microsoft supporters" being the only ones that disagreed with your numbers. :P Not all Linux advocates are zealots, and many of us that dismiss the opinions of zealots aren't "Windows supporters". ;)

    I haven't ever seen a dime from a certain company in Redmond though I am regularly accused of it (you have seen my LinkedIn profile, and have some awareness of my background in the industry for example). I don't mean any disrespect, but blanket generalizations that anyone that disagrees with an opinion about Linux is a "Microsoft supporter" is silly.

  14. @The Anonymous fanatics above - Note I said "FSF fanatics".. So, what successes have you brought to the free software community? Besides being anonymous blog trolls that is.

  15. Now they should be able to get rid of all that unnecessary java code dependencies in OpenOffice :)

  16. LibreOffice does not have fail written over it at all, and the people that have forked the project have invited Oracle to invest not only their backing but also the OpenOffice name. I have just installed LibreOffice and it's a total drop-in for OpenOffice, so they get my backing and I wish them all the best on their endeavours.

  17. Get rid of the Java dependencies, but more importantly, make it look nice. Right now OOo is ugly in my opinion, and yes aesthetics *do* count.

  18. As Charles-H. Schulz of The Document Foundation has put it (

    "But enough talking on OOXML, a standard that does not exist. Let's rather focus on ODF, an existing open standard we support and promote"

    So, if you need OOXML compatibility, just go buy MS-Office. No need to rant about LibreOffice.

  19. Oh please give me a break, to attract people to use linux, the first step is using programs like open office, thunderbird and firefox. When they make the transition to a linux distro they are met by "friendly faces". Forking the OpenOffice will confuse the herd! will it be the case that LibreOffice = OpenOffice for linux?

  20. Just remember once a upon a time their was "Star" Office and that "forked" into OpenOffice.
    He we go again.....Yippeeeee!
    LibreOffice has potential and with the backing of IBM and Redhat it should move forward.

  21. Has potential, should be done.

    But please - a catchier name?

  22. OpenOfice was stale, stifled, and completely closed to real innovation and user need. LibreOffice may or may not fail, but it can't do any worse than OppenOffice, and will certainly be developed with an eye toward users, rather than toward Oracle.