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.