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Has OpenOffice arrived too late

Apache OpenOffice 3.4 arrives – first appearance under Apache Foundation

Chris Mayer
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The original open source office suite gets a new lick of paint with its first release under Apache, but has OpenOffice missed the boat with LibreOffice assuming top dog status

The first release of OpenOffice under Apache Software Foundation governance has arrived. Apache OpenOffice 3.4 brings with it numerous enhancements to the world’s most popular professional and consumer office productivity suite.

The release notes detail the entire raft of changes to the open source phenomenon part written in Java. Aside from the obligatory performance enhancements to the comprehensive suite, there’s most notably revised ODF 1.2 encryption support, an extended PivotTable and new options for CSV export.

ASF President Jim Jagielski, who also acts as an Apache OpenOffice project mentor spoke of how important the transfer in 2011 over to Apache was for the foundation:

With the donation of OpenOffice.org to the ASF, the Foundation, and especially the podling project, was given a daunting task: re-energize a community and transform OpenOffice from a codebase of unknown Intellectual Property heritage, to a vetted and Apache Licensed software suite.

The release of Apache OpenOffice 3.4 shows just how successful the project has been: pulling in developers from over 21 corporate affiliations, while avoiding undue influence which is the death-knell of true open source communities; building a solid and stable codebase, with significant improvement and enhancements over other variants; and, of course, creating a healthy, vibrant and diverse user and developer community.

Apache OpenOffice has more than 100 million users worldwide in home, corporate, government, research, and academic environments, across 15 languages. Apache OpenOffice 3.4 is available for download free of charge. Complementing this well is the third party ecosystem around OpenOffice and Apache, bringing in over 2300 templates and over 800 extensions to users.

“Initially released a decade ago, the first release of OpenOffice 3.4 as an Apache project marks an important new chapter in the life of a landmark project,” said Stephen O’Grady, Principal Analyst with RedMonk. “Following months of effort, the open source productivity suite is now licensed and built with the intent of courting a large population of users, developers and ISVs worldwide.”

OpenOffice is looking for a resurgence back to the top, after falling on hard times following Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems. It was then thrown aside, or donated to the Apache Software Foundation, who have since been very belligerent towards a large number of people.

Due to the transition across to Apache, OpenOffice has undergone a makeover somewhat to make it fully compatible with the libraries deemed suitable with ASF licensing policy. This represented the biggest challenge for the developer team to remove all offending libraries, but via the Incubator PMC, this has been achieved.

The announcement also detailed future plans in this new era for OpenOffice, with additional native languages, enhanced accessibility and most intriguingly, features from the upcoming IBM Lotus Symphony contribution. This merger with Lotus could push the envelope further through the meeting of minds. Lotus Symphony’s shell is of course based on the Eclipse Rich Client Platform from IBM Lotus Expeditor.

What remains to be seen is whether this new iteration of OpenOffice can compete with the newly-installed juggernaut, LibreOffice. With IBM warmly welcoming OpenOffice’s return, it’s not bad start to your comeback. But has OpenOffice missed the boat after all the tussles? It might just have lost the lustre it once had.

The Apache OpenOffice Project Management Committee invites people to join. There are many different areas where contributions are most welcome. Check out the Get Involved page.

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