Microsoft Office has long been the dominant office suite. Through the years there have been many contenders rise and fall: WordPerfect, Corel, StarOffice, and too many more to count. Sun Microsystem’s StarOffice eventually mutated into OpenOffice, which for a long time was the best alternative to Microsoft’s dominance. But when Oracle bought Sun, legions of developers abandoned OpenOffice, and instead threw in with a forked version called LibreOffice.
The app grew popular with a certain set of open source fans. The Document Foundation was established in late 2010 to provide stewardship of the project.
Today, The Document Foundation is announcing the release of LibreOffice version 4.0. The announcement has a number of interesting data points about this release.
During the last seven months, since the branch of LibreOffice 3.6 and during the entire development cycle of LibreOffice 4.0, developers have made over 10,000 commits. On average, one commit every 30 minutes, including weekends and the holiday season: a further testimonial of the incredible vitality of the project.
The core LibreOffice code has seen substantial transformation from the more than 500 active developers contributing to it. A lot of legacy cruft has been removed; more modern constructs added; and 25,000 lines of comments have been translated from German to English. The end result is a product that is cleaner, easier to understand, and easier for new developers to work with.
Anyone who has used an office suite of any kind will feel at home with LibreOffice 4.0. There’s not a lot of trail to blaze when it comes to document production. Instead, LibreOffice offers a smooth, comfortable interface that works equally well on Linux, Mac and Windows. One particularly interesting addition to LibreOffice 4.0 is the introduction of an Impress Remote Control App for Android. Currently it’s only supported on a few Linux distributions, but the next version should work on all of LibreOffice’s supported platforms.
And what of the venerable OpenOffice? Oracle licensed the code to the Apache Software Foundation to allow the ASF to lead further developments. Apache OpenOffice is still alive and well, and has recently enjoyed a substantial code contribution from IBM Symphony.
It’s also interesting to note that Microsoft is looking into expanding Office onto Linux, something that will ensure that the platform ends up in nearly every cubicle.