Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Welcome LibreOffice

The Document Foundation announced today that it is forking OpenOffice and creating LibreOffice. To be honest this comes as no major surprise following Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems last year. Oracle have never been a major contributor to open source software and seem more interested in proprietary solutions. This is not to say that they are not welcome to contribute to the project, in a press release the Document Foundation stated:

"Oracle Corporation -- who acquired OpenOffice.org assets as a result of its acquisition of Sun Microsystems -- has been warmly invited to become a contributor to the new Foundation."
This does not appear to be a standard fork by a couple of disgruntled employees, rather it appears that a substantial number of the developers from the OpenOffice have planted their flags with LibreOffice, for the full details of the members of The Document Foundation click here. On their website when asked if LibreOffice was a breakaway project the answer given was:

Not at all. The Document Foundation will continue to be focused on developing, supporting, and promoting the same software, and it's very much business as usual. We are simply moving to a new and more appropriate organisational model for the next decade - a logical development from Sun's inspirational launch a decade ago.
From initial screenshots (below), LibreOffice looks very similar to OpenOffice; hardly surprising given that the fork has just been announced. The company state that it is fully compatible with the majority of other office suites, this will be a major plus if it can maintain this feature.

This will undoubtedly get the attention of Microsoft, who already claim that OpenOffice infringes on several areas of their copyright, they may see a small company as a much easier target rather than locking horns with Oracle. OpenOffice also uses Java, which is still owned by Oracle. Given that Oracle are currently suing Google over the use of Java in Android then this is another litigious issue that the Document Foundation may be faced with in the early stages of it's existence.

I personally am glad that the office suite has moved to a more open source state without the limitations of one company. With the community driving the project, features and enhancements will come at more regular intervals than previously with Sun Microsystems and Oracle. This change from company to community driven project in itself may attract more users than OpenOffice did.

All the best to the Document Foundation with LibreOffice and any other projects that they undertake. I hope that they become (and remain) a mainstay on every Linux distro for years to come.

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