More freedom for OpenOffice

Open source community splits off new version of office suite to ensure future

October 8, 2010
More freedom for OpenOffice

Most users have heard of OpenOffice.org, the open source alternative to Microsoft Office. Now there is another name to add to the list: LibreOffice.

LibreOffice is a version of OpenOffice.org (OOo) that has been “forked” from the original code. The new LibreOffice version will now develop at its own pace and in its own direction under the guidance of the newly formed Document Foundation.

The decision by members of the open source community to create a new, separate version of OpenOffice.org was based on concerns that Oracle, the new owners of the office suite, would undermine future development of OOo. Oracle’s purchase of Sun Microsystems gave it control over a number of popular open source projects including OpenSolaris, Virtual Box, MySQL and OpenOffice.org. Already there has been dissent in the OpenSolaris community after Oracle backed away from continuing open source development of the operating system. Oracle has also scaled back support for the open source PostgreSQL database, a competitor to its own MySQL database.

The decision to split off LibreOffice has been widely welcomed by the open source community with the likes of Ubuntu, Red Hat and Novell committing to include it in their future releases instead of OpenOffice.org.

End users have also embraced LibreOffice. The Document Foundation says that more than 80 000 copies of LibreOffice were downloaded in the first week following launch. Developers have also jumped on board and are already submitting changes for future releases.

Oracle has been mostly quiet on the decision to fork OpenOffice.org and has made no commitment to work with the Document Foundation.

OpenOffice.org was created from the original Star Office software when that was purchased by Sun Microsystems in 1999 and released as open source software. Sun Microsystems continued to run Star Office, a corporate version of the open source OpenOffice.org.

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