LibreOffice: The Future of Office in Linux

| tech | foss | software |

update 6/11/2024: this is a post from a blog that I contributed to in 2011 called TechHacking, it shut down eventually but I was happy to be able to find some of my work through the internet archive.

LibreOffice 3.3 was released a few weeks ago and this marks a very important milestone in the Open Source Office environment. In my previous post I talked in detail about OpenOffice.org but completely forgot to mention LibreOffice and all of the exciting things that are happening at The Document Foundation.

The Big Bang of Open Source

In September of 2010 many of the top developers of Open Office parted ways from Oracle and the Open Office project. They went on to form the Document Foundation.

“Our mission is to facilitate the evolution of the OpenOffice.org Community into a new open, independent, and meritocratic organizational structure within the next few months. An independent Foundation is a better match to the values of our contributors, users, and supporters, and will enable a more effective, efficient, transparent, and inclusive Community. We will protect past investments by building on the solid achievements of our first decade, encourage wide participation in the Community, and co-ordinate activity across the Community.”

This split from Oracle was in a sense a revolution. OpenOffice.org used to be sponsored by Sun Micro systems. After Sun was bought out by Oracle there were rumors and fears that OpenOffice.org would go the way of OpenSolaris which lost support from Oracle. The Document Foundation initially hoped to keep Oracle and have a strong working relationship, but Oracle decided not to support LibreOffice and the rest is (or will be?) history.

Is it just a clone of Open Office?

LibreOffice is based on the same source code as OpenOffice.org. It uses many of the same plugins, and has many of the same features. In fact the only thing that seems to have changed dramatically is the logo and the main screen. Otherwise things are in very similar places as in OpenOffice.org.

libreoffice 3 screenshot

I believe that in the future, there will be significant differences between LibreOffice and OpenOffice. As the saying goes “If it ain’t broke, dont fix it.” This truly applies to LibreOffice which took a very strong office suite, and with a few tweaks and modifications released a very successful first version.

After testing all of the various components of LibreOffice, which are identical to the programs that are available through OpenOffice, the only thing that I can really say is different is the speed. LibreOffice jumps at you within seconds of clicking on the icon, I found myself waiting around longer than I would have liked at times with OpenOffice.

Are there ANY new features?

At the time that LibreOffice was created OpenOffice 3.3 was already in Beta. Essentially it is a direct port, however, there are some really new features exclusive to LibreOffice including:

What’s in Store for the Future?

LibreOffice breaking free from Oracle is a very good thing in my opinion. These types of forks tend to fuel innovation. Different versions of the same product are very common in the Linux world, many distributions are nothing more than forks of other distributions. This is a good thing, it allows more freedom and more choice. Two things which are at the heart of open source.

Surely some people will stick with OpenOffice, and many will switch to LibreOffice. When the smoke clears and we are looking forward to versions 4, 5, 6, etc.. we can expect to see innovation and capabilities added by both sides of the fence (hoping and assuming Oracle doesn’t pull the plug on OpenOffice).

One interesting thing to note is that Red Hat, Novell, and Canonical all stated that the default office suite on their respective distributions from now on will be LibreOffice. This is a very interesting turn of events since historically OpenOffice was the standard. It will be interesting to see how this effects OpenOffice. Will Oracle deeply regret letting these amazingly talented individuals go? We shall live and see.

Cool! How can I get it?

LibreOffice is out and available now for Mac, Linux, and Windows.

Installing LibreOffice 3.3 on Windows

Installing LibreOffice 3.3 on Macintosh

Installing LibreOffice 3.3 on Linux

The future of Office Suites in the Open Source world looks very promising. Many of the same people that brought us OpenOffice.org are now in fact working on the LibreOffice project. In a way, this whole experience with Oracle has created a new breath of life in the open source community and there is a lot of positive support for the LibreOffice project. It will be interesting to see what happens when a small group of dedicated individuals come together and fight back against the mighty corporation.

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