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A FOSS Success Story: LibreOffice Turns 1

A FOSS Success Story: LibreOffice Turns 1

The Document Foundation is "making great strides," said Slashdot blogger hairyfeet. "Already they seem to have done more in a year than sun did in seven, so my hat's off to them." Hairyfeet's only nit to pick? Speed. "They seem to be getting better every day when it comes to compatibility, but does it have to be so slow and bloaty?"

By Katherine Noyes LinuxInsider ECT News Network
10/10/11 5:00 AM PT

It seems hard to believe it was just a year ago that LibreOffice was born, so ubiquitous and widely accepted is the software today.

Yet it really was just 2010 when tensions were building about Oracle's treatment of OpenOffice, ultimately prompting the Document Foundation to form and create the new fork that 25 million of us now love and rely on.

Happy Birthday, LibreOffice! It's hard to imagine a better open source success story.

There's been a flurry of press coverage of the software's big milestone in recent weeks, not surprisingly, including stories that looked back at LibreOffice's history and stories that looked ahead at the Document Foundation's future plans.

Linux bloggers haven't hesitated to share perspectives of their own.

'Keeps Getting Better'

"Gee, only a year; seems like I switched before a year ago," wrote wildlinux in the PCWorld comments, for example. "Great product that keeps getting better. It is hard to imagine why anyone uses M$ office anymore. I bet it will top 200 million users before the decade ends."

At the same time, given that Google is a sponsor of the project, "I request that Google gives LibreOffice some free ads & propagates it actively," wrote IndianArt. "It should be included with Android (when possible) like many Linux Distros (Ubuntu) do.

"Otherwise what is the point of developing such brilliant products when the same effort is not spent in letting people know about it?" IndianArt added.

Then again, "people continue to use Microsoft Office for a number of reasons, but for me, I find it can do many things that products such as LibreOffice can't do," countered SeanPryor. "LibreOffice provides a 'free' alternative to Microsoft Office and Google Apps, which can only be good in the long run. In the meantime, I will stick with Office 2010 and the hated ribbon."

'The Future Is Bright'

Down at the Linux blogosphere's Open Door Cafe, meanwhile, it's been hard to get a word in edgewise.

"The future of libreoffice is bright," asserted blogger Robert Pogson, for example. "By taking off the dead weight of Oracle's corporate direction, folks have banded together to work hard on improving LibreOffice."

The software "already has everything I need in features," Pogson added. "I expect optimization will soon be the focus. I can see use of LibreOffice growing and taking share from OpenOffice.org and M$'s stuff."

'Forking Is a Good Thing'

Indeed, "I love LO and have found it to be better at reading old Microsoft documents than MS Office is," agreed consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack. "I hope they continue making more improvements to their PowerPoint importing ability."

LibreOffice is "one of those stories that shows why forking in the Open Source world is a good thing," concurred Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project.

The fact that the software isn't the only fork resulting from Oracle's acquisition of Sun "speaks volumes about the perception of Oracle by the communities of the projects they have taken over, and very likely the realities of mixing Oracle's corporate politics with open source software," Travers observed.

'Most Forks Die Quickly'

"I have direct experience with this process," he added. "LedgerSMB was formed in a similar manner by myself and other SQL-Ledger community members who lost our confidence in the maintainer of that project."

The resulting competition "drives both of us on to implement more features and better security than we would otherwise," Travers opined. "I hope the same happens also with LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org."

Meanwhile, the fact that LibreOffice is still around "highlights the need for the project," he asserted. "Most forks die quickly even when there is a need. To be successful, there needs to be both a need for the fork and leadership capable of building a better community which addresses the problems inherent in the original project."

'Their Biggest Misstep'

The LibreOffice name leaves something to be desired, Slashdot blogger yagu told Linux Girl. "Not one I recall easily and I think their biggest misstep -- not a brand that rolls off the tongue," he explained.

Still, "LibreOffice continues the impressive free alternative to Microsoft's Office suite," yagu opined.

What's more interesting, however, is the question of "whether or not office suites continue to be relevant," yagu concluded. "While my suite of choice is LibreOffice, I find I can do most of my work effectively in Google Docs, with the added benefit of access anywhere to my 'cloud' docs."

'My Hat's Off to Them'

The Document Foundation is "making great strides," Slashdot blogger hairyfeet told Linux Girl. "Already they seem to have done more in a year than sun did in seven, so my hat's off to them."

Hairyfeet's only nit to pick? Speed.

"They seem to be getting better every day when it comes to compatibility, but does it have to be so slow and bloaty?" hairyfeet wondered. "I thought one of the big selling points for FOSS software is lean and mean, that runs great on older/smaller hardware? While I still give it out on new builds, I went back to my old faithful office 2K.

"If LO can get the speed of Office 2K with compatibility with the latest Office, I think they'll have a real winner," hairyfeet concluded. "They've only had a year, so I say give them time so we can see which direction they are gonna head."

'A Lot Better Than It Used to Be'

Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site, was similarly impressed.

"I don't have much use for office suites, but I have noticed that when I actually DO use OpenOffice -- oops, sorry, Oracle -- LibreOffice, it's gotten a lot better than it used to be, to the point that I'm starting to use Writer to do my documentation rather than just stuffing everything into plain-text files alongside the code," Hudson told Linux Girl.

"This tells me that the people who were complaining about the 'process problems' when development was under Sun and Oracle had legitimate beefs, and that, by extension, the same could be said for the current hotbed of Oracle controversy, Java and the JCP (Java Community Process)," Hudson added.

'Office Suite Over the Web'

"It's interesting that LibreOffice is going to be webifying," she noted. "Microsoft has had to do the same, coming up with Office365 to compete with Google Docs.

"Microsoft has legitimized the whole 'Office Suite over the Web' concept to their user base, ironically with a product that threatens to cannibalize their standalone MS-Office sales," she added.

In any case, "given the improvements in just the last year, LibreOffice's goal of 200 million users within 10 years may be an underestimate," Hudson concluded. "It's not just for the 'anything but Microsoft' crowd any more."


Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter.


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