The Open Source Office Software Sector Heats Up

The world of LibreOffice and OpenOffice(.org) has been heating up recently with several exciting and, at times, bewildering developments. The Document Foundation remains very active as is LibreOffice development, but Oracle has given up on OpenOffice and slapped LibreOffice in the face by giving it to Apache. Perhaps the most important announcement was the release of LibreOffice 3.4.0.

The recent release of LibreOffice 3.4 demonstrates the very philosophical differences in community projects and those stifled by commercial interests. LibreOffice development has been happening at an unprecedented pace while OpenOffice lagged behind and lost many of its previous users. Even under Sun development was tightly controlled, but Oracle increased the bonds. In contrast, according to the release announcement, LibreOffice now has 120 happy developers committing approximately 20 changes per day. C├ędric Bosdonnat puts the number of contributors at 223. Italo Vignoli is quoted as saying, "We care for our developers, and it shows."

Just before LibreOffice 3.4 was released Oracle announced that it was donating OpenOffice to the Apache Software Foundation. Pundits have speculated all around the spectrum of how that will affect the office suite with some thinking it will certainly benefit while others think it will most likely wane even further. The Document Foundation expressed disappointment that a reunification of the two projects will probably not occur but offered their best wishes for OpenOffice. They were upbeat about including OpenOffice code since the Apache license is compatible with the GNU Lesser General Public License under which LibreOffice is released. Given these facts, "the event is neutral for The Document Foundation."

What's New in LibreOffice 3.4?

Most folks just want to hear of the pretty and handy features visible in their daily work, but underestimating the impact of code clean-up is a disservice to developers. These code clean-ups are what leads to faster operation and fewer crashes. Michael Meeks calls this "ridding ourself of sillies." One area in which these two world merge comes in an example given by Meeks: icons. He said, "OO.o had simply tons of duplication, of icons everywhere" - approximately 150 duplicated missing icons. He added, "All of that nonsense is now gone." A font memory leak has been fixed and rarely used encodings have been moved out into their own library. This "reduces run-time memory consumption" and shrinks download size.

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