It's hard to believe that it's been almost one year since The Document Foundation (TDF) came
into existence. In that time, the foundation has made significant
progress, Oracle has handed the
OpenOffice.org keys to the Apache Foundation, and LibreOffice
team has been working hard to improve the suite in the meantime.
OpenOffice.org has, itself, had a long strange trip. The suite began as
a proprietary office suite called StarOffice developed and published by
StarDivision. StarDivision was eventually snapped up by Sun Microsystems,
which was ultimately swallowed by Oracle in 2010. After Oracle took over,
little happened and it was unclear what plans (if any) the software giant
had for OpenOffice.org.
Oracle's inaction, plus
impatience over promises to create a vendor neutral foundation for
OpenOffice.org, led to the decision to fork. Predictably, Oracle was
not pleased and showed
TDF members the door in October, 2010. Louis Suarez-Potts told the
members "your role in the Document Foundation and LibreOffice makes
your role as a representative in the OOo CC untenable and
impossible," and gave them the option of disassociating themselves
from TDF or resigning. Very little else happened with OpenOffice.org in the
meantime until Oracle proposed
OpenOffice.org to Apache as an Incubator project on June 1st.
LibreOffice developers didn't sit on their hands after announcing the
intent to fork. LibreOffice was put on an aggressive time-based release
plan, with two major releases a year. The first stable release (3.3.0)
landed just four months after
the split, with a number
of new features. Development has continued at a fair clip, and the
LibreOffice team continues to push out point releases on a regular
basis. Meanwhile, most if not all Linux distributions have made the
transition from OpenOffice.org to LibreOffice without any major
LibreOffice Goals Met?
When LibreOffice launched, longtime OO.org developer Michael Meeks
talked to LWN about the goals for LibreOffice. Meeks said that he wanted
LibreOffice to have a "All Contributions Welcome and Valued"
sign welcoming contributions, clean up LibreOffice code, and "target
tackling many of the problems that have traditionally made it hard to
develop with, such as the arcane and monolithic build system."
In February 2011, the project started
fundraising to set up TDF as a legal entity. It took only
eight days to raise the €50,000 that the foundation sought to
incorporate the legal entity in Germany. More than 2,000 contributors
At six months, TDF member Florian Effenberger observed
the milestone with a post tallying the project's accomplishments. More
than 6,000 people subscribed to LibreOffice mailing lists, more than 150
new contributors checked in code for LibreOffice, and the project picked up
more than 50 translators as well.
The foundation is having
its first election with voting through October 10 to fill a board of
seven board seats and three deputies.
How about contributions? A snapshot
of contributors to LibreOffice 3.4.2 shows that about 25% came from
SUSE, about 25% were brought in from OpenOffice.org (attributed to Oracle),
and about 20% from Red Hat. Contributors not affiliated with one of the big
vendors also account for about 25% of the contributions. According to the
post, 3.4.2 received more than 23,000 commits from 300 contributors. This
may not reflect all work on LibreOffice, but it does show a pattern of
While LibreOffice continues to churn out releases, the slow work of
transitioning OpenOffice.org to Apache is continuing. The incubator site is up
on Apache.org, and things like the mailing
lists have been put in place. The project has more than
70 committers listed, and commits
have started coming in as well.
However, according to the clutch status page for
Apache Incubator projects the project has not
added any committers since the project was established. The project
also lacks an issue tracker. There are no releases for Apache OpenOffice
— even a beta — though code is
available in Apache's repository. This is not surprising, since much of
the discussions on the list involve trying to successfully build AOO. The
project blog has been relatively
quiet, with only two posts. The first post in June, announces the
addition of Apache OpenOffice.org to the incubator. The second
on September 1st announcing a IRC-based developer eduction event for
building OpenOffice.org on Linux.
list for the AOO podling has been fairly active — though much of
the recent conversation has been community
governance problems that need to be solved with regards to moving from
an established project to the Apache structure and new management.
Apache OpenOffice.org is still putting
together its plans for builds and releases. The plans for the first
Apache release include phasing
out the old binary format for OpenOffice.org but not much in the way of
new features. LibreOffice also
will be doing away with the old binary StarOffice formats in the 4.0
Assuming AOO.org does come online and start pouring out new features,
they may be difficult to
share with LibreOffice according to Meeks. This has been raised
as an issue by Rob Weir on the AOO.org list.
The LibreOffice team recently
had a hackfest in Munich. Some of the concrete features that came out
of that include support for importing Visio format, a feature for editing
headers and footers in Writer, and an initial Gerrit setup for code
The project has also launched
a extension and template repository for LibreOffice and compatible
suites. The sites are in beta testing at the moment, put into place in
cooperation with the Plone community.
In October, the first LibreOffice conference
will take place in Paris. The conference will run from 12 to 15
October, and includes everything from media training for LibreOffice
volunteers to a presentation about LibreOffice Online (LOOL) by Michael
Meeks. Unfortunately, no details are provided regarding the plans Meeks has
for the presentation. Perhaps we'll see a libre competitor to Google Docs
at some point from the LibreOffice folks.
Coming in 3.5
The LibreOffice 3.5.0 release is planned for December. The work-in-progress
release notes indicate some of the features that may appear in
3.5. Currently there's a plan to include two new numbering types for
bullets (Persian words, and Arabic Abjad sequence) in Writer, and display
non-printable characters at the end of a line if desired.
Calc may increase support to 32,000 sheets thanks to features from
Markus Mohrhard, and users will be able to specify how many sheets are
available in a new Calc document thanks to Albert Thuswaldner. There's also
improvements to line drawing in Chart, and Kohei Yoshida has added some
performance improvements for importing Excel documents.
Miklos Vajna has been improving import for RTF and
DOCX formats, which should land in 3.5 as well. The proposed release
notes also have a few GUI improvements, such as getting
rid of the unused toolbar menus and sorting menus in a natural sort
order (so Heading 10 would follow Heading 9, instead of Heading 1 in
formatting as an example).
One year following the split, and LibreOffice looks like a fairly
healthy and viable community. Apache OpenOffice.org may also grow into a
viable project, though it's a bit too early to tell whether it has
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