Open Source

OpenOffice moment in the sun fading

If you know much about Sun then you know how shady their practices can be. These practices have, over the last few years, been extending to the open source flagship OpenOffice. Jack Wallen has had enough and calls for a migration to other tools.

Recently, I read a blog by Michael Meeks (a developer for Novell and OpenOffice). In this blog, Michael goes on to describe why OpenOffice is "sick." The gist is this:

  • There are too few developers working on the project (Sun being the "official" supporter actually has the fewest developers on the project).
  • It has become difficult to submit code and get that code committed.
  • Thanks to Sun, the code is difficult to work with.

Reading this, and then doing a bit of poking around, started my brain 'a pondering. Why is it that we Linux users naturally default to a product that is branded by Sun who refuses superior code from other developers in lieu of their own (Novell developer Kohei's solver component is a case in point), do not play nice with developers, attempt to control OpenOffice at every intersection, require dual licensing on all code so the code can be used in both the free and the retail version of OpenOffice, and who is rumored to be heading to bankruptcy?

I remember when OpenOffice was StarOffice and you felt like, by supporting this very open source friendly upstart German company, you were doing something good. But now OpenOffice has a different feeling. Now it feels dirty. So with that I decided to check out a couple of the tools I have used in the past (Abiword and KOffice) to see how far they had come along. I know for sure that these projects have never and are not suffering from the issues plaguing OpenOffice. I figured, if these projects work for the user, why not give them another try? So I did. And I was impressed.

This impression I had really made me wonder exactly why we, the media (and the users) have pretty much left these two projects in the darkened, shadowy corners to rot in obscurity? For the life of me I can't figure it out. Abiword is a fantastic stand-alone word processor. For us writers, Abiword might be the perfect tool. It's sleek, it's fast, it works, and it has all of the features we need to get our work done. If you couple that with, say, Gnumeric you have a pretty solid tandem of tools for the office. KOffice is pretty much KDE's interpretation of the office suite. And this interpretation is a pretty good one. I can say the word processing tool is as good as any other I have used. I can't say much for the other tools because I have not used them as extensively. I know the KOffice presentation package is the weakest of the pieces of that particular suite (it can not import .ppt files and has trouble with .odp formatting).

I realize that neither of these tools can replace OpenOffice in the enterprise or small business. But there are other possibilities. Take the Novell version of OpenOffice Go-OO which doesn't suffer from Sun's controlling issues. I am advocating for those who need a full-blown office suite to make the move from the Sun version of OpenOffice to the Novell version. If this is something you are interested in, head over to the Go-OO website and give an unfettered OpenOffice a go.

And for those of you only needing a writing tool - open up Abiword. You'll thank me for that one.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

23 comments
roadracer
roadracer

OOo was very appealing when the cost of MS Office editions were $300 and higher. Indeed, price is a motivator for many to navigate Linux/Open source waters. However, in recent times Microsoft has drastically reduced the price of some versions of MS Office 2003/2007. For example, right now one student version of Office 2007 can be had for $60. I can't help but think that this at least some negative impact on the competiveness OOo. As much as I love Linux, I must admit that Office 2003/2007 on a properly equipped WinXP or Vista machine beats OOo in performance, features, interopterability, and GUI presentation.

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

Are you kidding, Jack? You quote a Novell developer, and then say OpenOffice feels "dirty"? Sun is holding the line against Novell's Microsoft-funded fork of OpenOffice -- good for Sun! I am not surprised that Novell and Microsoft spread FUD about OpenOffice: they have a clear financial incentive to do so. But you, a journalist on the Linux beat, should have more integrity. Shame on you. Shame!

ppuru
ppuru

"Take the Novell version of OpenOffice Go-OO which doesn???t suffer from Sun???s controlling issues. I am advocating for those who need a full-blown office suite to make the move from the Sun version of OpenOffice to the Novell version. If this is something you are interested in, head over to the Go-OO website and give an unfettered OpenOffice a go." Now we know who sponsored this column.

pgit
pgit

You had something to do with the Mandriva-menus package, dint ya? =) SWEET! Thanks for this. The article is timely, informative and best of all has THE solution to what was promising to be a dismal situation. No whining and all action, now that's why I joined Tech Republic. U da man, Jack, thanks. I've switched for good. Bye-bye Sun... er, except I still can't take the plunge into postgresql. Care to convince me? ;) ps for those with rpm systems, I downloaded all of the necessary packages into a folder and added the folder to the package manager as an install source. In my case drakpackage. This way it told me what order I had to install things in by listing the missing dependencies. Open source doesn't get much better than this. BTW I installed en-US, all told 48 packages were required in order to "have it all." Here's the list: list ooobasis3.0-base-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-binfilter-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-calc-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-core01-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-core02-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-core03-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-core04-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-core05-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-core06-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-core07-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-draw-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-en-US-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-en-US-base-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-en-US-binfilter-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-en-US-calc-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-en-US-draw-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-en-US-help-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-en-US-impress-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-en-US-math-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-en-US-res-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-en-US-writer-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-extension-mediawiki-publisher-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-extension-pdf-import-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-extension-presentation-minimizer-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-extension-presenter-screen-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-extension-report-builder-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-graphicfilter-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-images-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-impress-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-javafilter-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-kde-integration-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-math-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-ooofonts-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-ooolinguistic-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-pyuno-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-scsolver-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-sdk-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm ooobasis3.0-writer-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm openoffice.org3.0-mandriva-menus-3.0-9358.noarch.rpm openoffice.org3-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm openoffice.org3-base-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm openoffice.org3-calc-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm openoffice.org3-draw-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm openoffice.org3-en-US-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm openoffice.org3-impress-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm openoffice.org3-math-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm openoffice.org3-writer-3.0.0-9358.i586.rpm openoffice.org-ure-1.4.0-9358.i586.rpm I installed the -ure package individually first, then all the ooobasis stuff minus -draw. Then I installed the ..basis.. draw package and all the openoffice-xxx packages all together. (and the Mandriva-menu package, which you obviously don't install on another distro)

smdelfin
smdelfin

For the enterprise, it doesn't necessarily have to be open source, but it can still be free. The free IBM Lotus Symphony can replace MS Office and OpenOffice in the enterprise or small business.

Thmiuatga
Thmiuatga

Since this seems to be the case then it's just crazy that Sun would not let the code be written by the other programmers. They didn't want Linux users to have Star Office after the release of Mandrake 8. (I started with Red Hat 6.5 and then Mandrake 7) It was free with the packages til then, all of a sudden they demanded it be bought so Open Office was created. I bought Star Office 7 as a separate package about 10 years ago and I've been using it ever since. I've tried Open Office and had used it briefly on one of my desktops but I'm not impressed with it. Nothing really to shout praises about. So if the curtain happens to fall on Open Office it will be the fault of the execs at SUN. You'd think they would look hard at the long term effects of playing the protectionist game with software they won't allow any outside entity to write the code and improve the whole program and use common sense and logic in every decision. Sadly, those two things are non-existent in upper level management, corporations, Government and the Dept of defense.

Jaqui
Jaqui

Nope, since I never adopted open office in the first place. when full functionality required java support, it was removed and never installed again.

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

I will certaiinly check out Novell's version. Thanks.

RayneToday
RayneToday

If developers really don't like the way OpenOffice is developed, they could fork the code and develop their own flavor. Why switch to yet another office suite altogether if you simply want to improve the one you're using? It's not like choosing between MS Office and some other proprietary package. And why would we move to Abiword instead of moving to a web-based suite instead? Why not Zoho, Thinkfree, GoogleDocs or other internet-based applications instead of yet another desktop app? Many of them are quite good for the average user, have fewer issues than you just described about KOffice. And about this "we, the media" thing you brought up: Meeks has a conflict of interest that you don't do a particularly good job of pointing out. If he works for Novell and Novell is in bed with MSFT, why should we simply take him at his word without questioning whether he has any vested interest one way or the other as to the corporate "sponsor(s)" of OpenOffice? Does this relationship have anything to do at all with Sun's "difficulty"? As a managing editor of a news outlet, this is something I'd take my team to task for failing point out in reporting. By "we, the media" you'd better mean you and the mouse in your hand.

Luke G.
Luke G.

As someone who has tried both the Sun and Novell versions of OpenOffice; I will never go back to Sun's. Novell gives me the features I appreciate, and I am not going to shun them just because of their being in bed with MS. The product just works, and I have been able to deploy it easily to computers both new and old. The Novell edition worked out perfectly for what we needed. Regardless of any animosity by anyone who detests Microsoft, just look at their products! openSUSE, Novell OpenOffice, etc...if it works for you--use it! :)

chris
chris

that I am unaware of. I must ask, do you think that, since as you say, MS is involved with Novell's "Office" that it'll be more compatible with MS Office? That alone could be a great advantage (assuming they don't screw up the Open source document compat)

cacycleworks
cacycleworks

This is being simplistic, but with google and the various php classes, it is somewhat transparently just another database scheme. The semantics are a touch different, but when I treat it like mysql, it behaves. Of course, I don't have tens of thousands of entries or simultaneous users, so I'm sure there are plenty of people that would hate it. :) Chris

Industrial Controller
Industrial Controller

While it is interesting to get background on the open source office suite wars, I am not taking up arms for or against any of the players. Open Office has worked fine for me these many years. When it fails to do so I will switch. There are many things in the world worth getting excited about. This is not one of them.

jlwallen
jlwallen

i was hoping you would reply saying LaTeX or at least vi. you're slipping. ;-)

jlwallen
jlwallen

the whole "Novell is in bed with MS" is done. and it's not just a novell developer that has issues with Sun. there are a lot of developers that have issue with Sun. sun has been known to be overly controlling of their code so this is not new. and the fact that the number of commits accepted to Openoffice is an issue. so you say you're a managing editor? for which magazine or web site. if you say these things you might want to at least reveal who you are. and as far as the web-based docs - i have always had a problem with this metaphor. the ability to work off line is crucial to business. you can't expect corporate uses to rely on cloud computing at this stage. and abiword has ALWAYS been upfront with its code and licensing. and let me tell you how i took the original writer. first he is a developer for OpenOffice. he commits code to both the Novell version and the Sun version. his code makes it into the Novell version and improves the code base. his code is rejected by Sun even though it may improve the code. so he has a gripe. The originator of the solver had the same issue (not a developer for Novell i believe). so it's been shown the Sun has issue with code not written in house. on top of that, I have heard from other developers that the OpenOffice code is horrible to work with. so tell me this - why are you attacking me?

pgit
pgit

I agree. I installed it (Linux version) after reading this. It is better. Do you happen to know offhand if it works in win98? Where to get an older version perhaps tat does? I'm looking into this for a client... well, I'm supposed to be looking into it but priorities are elsewhere atm.

Jaqui
Jaqui

EMACS!!! never vi :D

jck
jck

God, I miss the days of vi, TeX, and eMacs. I wanna go back to college!!! :^0

Luke G.
Luke G.

We had stuck some poor soul with Office 97 on Windows 98 here at work. They complained that every other document they opened had issues (since most everyone else is Office 2002+). I installed OpenOffice 2 for them and have not heard a complaint since! (I left Office 97 there in case they hit a file that just would not cooperate, and for Outlook.)

pgit
pgit

A battle that beats the crap outta windows vs Linux. Anyone who's mastered either vi or emacs has my respect up front. And the arguments either way actually have substance. Imagine that. Since the Linux guru (Gentoo) that got me started back-a-when was an emacs power user I have to say I'm partial to it. That's like saying when I popped out of the egg I saw a woodpecker, so that makes me a woodpecker.

Jaqui
Jaqui

I can't stand the ui for either of them. koffice or maxwell for me. :D

jlwallen
jlwallen

here on techrepublic, the vi/emacs war renewed. ;-)

Editor's Picks