back to article Is it time to unplug frail OpenOffice's life support? Apache Project asked to mull it over

The Apache OpenOffice project has limited capacity for sustaining itself in an energetic manner. The retirement of the project is a serious possibility. Those are the words of Dennis Hamilton, the volunteer vice-president of OpenOffice who advises the Apache Software Foundation board. Yesterday, he publicly floated the idea of …

People still use this!?

I thought just about everyone abandoned openoffice when it got purchased by Oracle, I know I did. Long live libre office :)

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Re: People still use this!?

I carried on using it because effort - it was already installed on what I was using at the time.

At a later point, when I set up a new computer, I decided to try LibreOffice, but had problems with a CSV file I received on a regular basis for work purposes, and which OpenOffice had never had a problem with. The CSV was malformed at source, so LO wasn't mishandling it, but OO at the time coped with it - so the most practical solution was to switch back to OO.

I no longer receive that CSV file, so it's no longer an issue - so I don't need to consider one or t'other for a specific problem. When I set up Linux Mint on this machine only a few weeks ago, I noted that LibreOffice was pre-installed,so I've kept that and installed it on the new Windows 7 machine I purchased at around the same time.

I have therefore been an OpenOffice user until only a few weeks ago.

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Re: People still use this!?

There was growing dissent among the dev community for some time even under Sun's stewardship of OO. The pace at which changes were accepted was glacial, lots of (supposedly) critical improvements were sitting in bureaucratic limbo, and the devs were getting frustrated.

I think the Oracle takeover was just the excuse most of them were waiting for to make the fork they'd been itching to do, but hadn't out of conscientious reluctance to fracture one of FOSS's most prestigious brands.

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Alert

Re: VinceH : People still use this!?

".....When I set up Linux Mint on this machine only a few weeks ago, I noted that LibreOffice was pre-installed....." OMG - bundled software!!! I must call my European Competition Czar immediately, your right to choose has been eroded!

Seriously, save yourself some time and a lot of trouble and just go get a subscription to Office 365. If you're not a heavy productivity suite user (or just too cheap for that) then just use the free MS Office Online apps in-browser.

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Re: VinceH : People still use this!?

"Seriously, save yourself some time and a lot of trouble and just go get a subscription to Office 365"

No thanks, I'll just stick with standard formats that won't be rendered obsolescent by the software vendor every few years. That really does save time and trouble.

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Re: VinceH : People still use this!?

Like it or not .doc and .xls are the defacto standards and have been for, what, 20 years now.

So much so that I doubt your average man in the street has any idea what file format OpenOffice uses.

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Re: VinceH : People still use this!?

You are a bit out of date. .docx and .xlsx are the de facto standards now. I remember a few years ago helping someone open such a file by installing OpenOffice (this was before LibreOffice existed) because the version of MS Office he had couldn't read it. Oh, the irony.

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Re: VinceH : People still use this!?

What are these vendor-enforced obsolete formats you speak of?

I regularly read Word documents from the 80's and early 90's in Office 2010... No problem.

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Re: VinceH : People still use this!?

"Like it or not .doc and .xls are the defacto standards and have been for, what, 20 years now."

Which version? Office'97? 97?, 2002? 2007? with or without an x on the end?

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Re: VinceH : People still use this!?

"Like it or not .doc and .xls are the defacto standards and have been for, what, 20 years now."

Apart from the move to .docx & .xlsx these formats have been a moving target, ensuring that users had to keep repurchasing what they'd already bought if they needed to open files of allegedly the same format written by later versions of the S/W.

They never were open standards. Open standards for files are even more important than open source for the applications that use them.

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Re: VinceH : People still use this!?

"You are a bit out of date. .docx and .xlsx are the de facto standards now."

There were several formats under the name of ".doc" and ".xls" (as well as their gzipped *x derivatives)

That's the part about moving targets that annoys.

By the way, Libre copes quite happily with 2 and 3 decade old WordStar 3.3 or Wordperfect docs I still have. MS office...... not so well.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: People still use this!?

Seems like Google Apps and Libre have it covered.

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Re: VinceH : People still use this!?

> Like it or not .doc and .xls are the defacto standards

Defacto - perhaps. Standard, not so much. Having said that, LibreOffice can cope with them, and I expect OpenOffice can too.

So your point is? Are you really recommending throwing out a word processor you already have and replacing it with a Microsoft one which may be free under some circumstances?

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PJD

Re: VinceH : People still use this!?

"What are these vendor-enforced obsolete formats you speak of? I regularly read Word documents from the 80's and early 90's in Office 2010... No problem."

That's nice. Meanwhile, my copy of Windows Office 2010 can't open any of the hundreds of documents I wrote in Word 5.1a for Mac through the 1990s. When I really needed one of those documents last year I ended up wasting most of a day setting up Basilisk II on linux to emulate OS 7.6 so I could run Word 5.1a and re-save the critical document as rtf (if anyone has a less painful solution I'd like to hear it, because although not critical I would like to have the rest of those documents in a readable format, preferably without having to open and re-save every one of them).

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@PJD Re: VinceH : People still use this!?

Hi PJD, sorry this is a bit late in the day but have you tried opening these old docs in OOo/LibO?

If they render satisfactorily, there are some format conversion options available under the hood, on the commandline - not sure if that includes batch conversion but even if it doesn't, you could likely use a smattering of shell-scripting (or possibly Python as that's what the internal scripting engine uses) to do batch conversion. Worth looking into.

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Self fulfilling prophecy my ass

For 14 years I've been telling OOo* users to open up any OOo app, go to Tools, Options, Memory, and then multiply any values they see in there by 10. Then their OOo will run like it's been greased and dropped off a steep hill whilst charged up with neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light.

The memory requirements for OOo were drawn up when 32MB of RAM was considered excessive and expensive, yet year after year, on and on, over a decade later, even now when my £500 PC comes with 16GB RAM, OOo defaults haven't changed from those back in 2002. It's stagnating, It hasn't moved forward, compatiblilty with MS's offering hasnt improved and simple layout issues documented over 10 years ago have still to this day not been fixed.

Kill it off. Kill it off with fire.

* This also applied to Libre Office too the last time I could be bothered looking.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Self fulfilling prophecy my ass

Thanks for that - does the business for LibreOffice as well as NeoOffice under OSX as well!

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Re: Self fulfilling prophecy my ass

The last version-number release of LibreOffice was a near-complete rewrite of the underlying codebase. I'll have a look later to see what the memory stuff looks like (thanks for the tip), but it should be much, much cleaner now.

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Re: Self fulfilling prophecy my ass

> * This also applied to Libre Office too the last time I could be bothered looking.

And mysql, but there are other reasons not to use this for non-trivial applications.

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Re: Self fulfilling prophecy my ass

"run like it's been greased and dropped off a steep hill whilst charged up with neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light."

I tried that. I was worried all that travelling faster than the speed of light would have nasty effects like violating causality. Turns out that it did, but at least I got my work finished before I'd started.

Unfortunately, I was prosecuted for violating the law of cause and effect and given a suspended sentence in a court case that took place two weeks previously.

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Pint

1.1 onward

Used Star Office years back.

Used OpenOffice from version 1.1 onwards

The Apache build kept me running on Slackware Current during the transition to 14.2 when the LO builds would not work with the updated harfbuzz font rendering library - OO has its own font rendering built in (which is why fonts look weird on Xubuntu and ilk).

I'm transitioning to LO, and have seen precisely zero problems with documents moving between OO/LO so replacement should be OK for my use cases.

I'm grateful for all the work the OO volunteers have done over the years: see icon.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 1.1 onward

I'm grateful for all the work the OO volunteers have done over the years: see icon.

Ditto. LO is an evolutionary step, which would have never happened without the hard work in OO first.

That said, there is no point denying there has indeed been an evolution, and I think LO is where the spark resides now. I would hope, however, that the OO team either keeps the domain live and points it at LO directly or via a "Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish" page, or hands it to the foundation that keeps LO active. From an end user perspective it would end the confusion of what to install and where to report bugs.

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Re: 1.1 onward

There are an awful lot of good open source programs we take for granted, not thinking about the people who give their time to maintain them.

So, here's a pint not just to the maintainers of OpenOffice but to those who keep LibreOffice, Gimp and all those other application suites running, without which our lives would be that much more difficult.

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Re: 1.1 onward

I still prefer the UI of OpenOffice over LibreOffice. And I get odd crashes with LibreOffice that I never got with OpenOffice. I understand the development philosophy behind LibreOffice and the team has obviously got energy but I find the results too buggy to use comfortably.

Long term, some kind of merge would make sense. Or maybe just of the common code base, filters, etc.

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Re: 1.1 onward

Last install of LO was quite the cumbersome porker. Maybe it's been decreptified since then? We can hope....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 1.1 onward

Last install of LO was quite the cumbersome porker. Maybe it's been decreptified since then? We can hope....

On OSX, there are two issues that have been left unaddressed for years. They're not deal breakers but they ARE irritating:

1 - the approach to other languages sucks. Every. single. update. you first have to install the US English version, which will reset your language settings to US English, then install the language pack and then manually convince the thing to switch back to the language you were actually using. I like UK English, thank you, is it really so hard to develop and installer that can integrate the main body + language pack into one process that preserve settings?

2 - LibreOffice for OSX is a correctly signed OSX package. The language pack is not, requiring you to lower system protection to get it installed, and this has been the case for *years*. WTF? If they have the correct dev ID to sign software, why not sign all of it?

Despite all of the above I still prefer it, but it would be nice if they fixed that.

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Anonymous Coward

""Now you know there will be a headline appearing in the next week, reading 'Apache OpenOffice Mulls Retirement' or 'Apache OpenOffice Begins To Wind Down', etc. Yeah, it's crappy journalism..."

The nearly got the headline word for word, El Reg.

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Hang on - doesn't Betteridge's Law apply:

Question in headline: Is it time to unplug frail OpenOffice's life support?

Answer according to Betteridge: No.

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Two separate projects are a waste of resources

I never thought it made any sense to develop both OpenOffice as well as LibreOffice separately.

I understand that people created a LibreOffice fork because of issues with Oracle. But two open source projects doing almost the same is a waste of effort. There is simply one project too many and it appears that (based on the number of developers) OpenOffice is that project.

I believe that more advancements could be made if everyone works on the same project.

I feel for the good and talented people still working on OpenOffice though... Must be hard to see this happening if you've invested a lot of time and effort in it..

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Re: Two separate projects are a waste of resources

The only reason that Apache OpenOffice exists is because a few companies had an irrational aversion to any sort of copyleft license (e.g. GPL or MPL), and insisted on an Apache or MIT type license. Sun and then Oracle had been dual licensing it to companies like IBM who then sold proprietary derivatives of it.

Converting it to an Apache licence and handing it to the Apache Foundation was Oracle's exit plan to get out of the office suite business while still meeting their obligations to their proprietary licensees. Most other commercial contributors however saw no reason why they ought to be "donating" their time and money to companies like IBM who want to make proprietary derivatives rather than contributing back on an equal basis.

Apache OpenOffice has been a zombie project for a while. If they shut it down, Apache ought to give the trademark to LibreOffice instead of just abandoning it. If they simply abandon the trademark scammers could scoop up the trademark and using it to distribute malware. If the latter happens, it could damage the reputation of every other project associated with Apache.

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Re: Two separate projects are a waste of resources

LibreOffice is now what OpenOffice should have been. It is already far ahead. Among other things, LibreOffice has cleaned up the code base and build system, making further development much easier.

Problems in the original build system was one reason why the security bug was not fixed in a timely fashion in OpenOffice: they could not even compile the dang thing! OpenOffice really is a dead office suite walking.

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Anonymous Coward

The problem with LibreOffice is it is not a software development entity..

... it's a political party. They don't develop software. They use software a a trojan horse to try to change the world in a way they like. You see it even from the name they had chosen. A word used by people who created some the worst dictatorship in America - but many European idiots still follow blindly, especially in country like Germany, despite the great living standard communism brought in East Germany and other countries.

That's because their software has to stay away from my machines.

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Re: The problem with LibreOffice is it is not a software development entity..

"Honey, go see Phillip. Ask him for some yellow pills."

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Re: The problem with LibreOffice is it is not a software development entity..

Yeller pills? YELLER PILLS?? Charlton Heston would never take no yeller pills.

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Wish LO would give credit due to the OOo contributors

Although I use LibreOffice, one thing about their Community bothers me.

They don't recognise / give credit to the people who contributed to their predecessor (OOo).

For example, here's the "Thank you" list for OOo 3.3. My name is included:

Here's the same thing for LibreOffice. And... my name isn't there:

Seems like a strange way to do the "Community Spirit" thing. :(

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wish LO would give credit due to the OOo contributors

'Seems like a strange way to do the "Community Spirit" thing. :('

Should do it properly like RMS in the emacs vs xemacs spat "I'm developing free software so they take anything I write and use it in their version" (ok, it goes on "but as they use a subtlelt different license that I consider to be evil I can;t use anything they write")

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Re: Wish LO would give credit due to the OOo contributors

Is the code (or other material) you contributed still present in LibreOffice? AIUI they ripped out a lot of stuff before even their first release.

If your contribution was in initial release(s) but has since been removed, would there still be an expectation to remain in the credits of future releases? Serious question as I don't have an inkling of the etiquette in such scenarios.

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Re: Wish LO would give credit due to the OOo contributors

Your question is fine. :)

The contributions I (and many others) made, weren't direct code contributions to the OOo codebase. Instead, we spent a lot of time fixing/improving other areas. Some fairly critical from a project perspective, some less so. ;)

A couple of things spring to mind which should help illustrate:

  • Problem - OpenOffice.org used to be distributed on Windows as a zip file

Users had to download the .zip file, unzip it (prior to Windows built-in .zip support), run the installer. Huge pain point for users, and probably the #1 thing needing fixing from a project perspective at the time. The Sun engineers flatly stated there was nothing that could be done about it, and wouldn't put time into fixing it.

The solution I developed (at the time) was to use NSIS to repackage the .zip into an .exe, which automatically unzipped then launched the installer. The Sun guys then took the NSIS script I wrote (freely given), plus some ideas about improving the compression approach (from Daniel Carrera I think), and produced the official .exe installer. Result: much better install experience for end users, more professional looking results (easier to pitch to people's bosses as a MS Office replacement), and less hassles about installation on the mailing lists.

  • Flash (yeah laugh :>) intro for OpenOffice.org 1.0 launch

Created the Flash intro for the OOo 1.0 launch.

Not as important as the .exe fix, but it was a good "polish" thing for the marketing launch, and took quite a lot of effort to make.

  • Initial online Flash intro's/training for OOo

Created initial Flash intro's for the main OOo apps, so people could see the UI, basic concepts, etc easily. The one for writer still seems to be online, though there were others too.

The above is a just an off-the-top-of-my-head list. Also countless hours helping out the marketing/advocacy side of things, assisting with the Community Management side of things (not as a Sun/Collab employee), etc.

Etiquette wise, giving credit to the people who helped the project get where it is, is always done for Open Source projects. It - reciprocation - is literally one of the pillars which Communities are built on. It not being done here is... very bad form really.

It's not like it's a hard thing to copy-n-paste the old OOo credits across. :( But they didn't even reach out to people to ask "Hey, would you like to be included?", which would have taken more effort. That would likely have had other positive results too (eg some % of old contributors getting involved again).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wish LO would give credit due to the OOo contributors

It looks like your "contributions" aren't used in libreoffice, so why should you see a credit in the current version?

I'm not even really sure a noddy script that wraps a zip, and a flash banner really constitute even a minor contribution. Sorry, you need to climb down from your high horse I think.

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Re: Wish LO would give credit due to the OOo contributors

It looks like your "contributions" aren't used in libreoffice, so why should you see a credit in the current version?

I'm not even really sure a noddy script that wraps a zip, and a flash banner really constitute even a minor contribution. Sorry, you need to climb down from your high horse I think.

Yeah, some people don't really understand that <non programming time spent on x>, is still <time spent on x>, and often just as valuable to project as any code contribution.

Most of the better Communities have learned to appreciate non-code contributions (eg art, docs, build systems, etc), but not all.

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Pint

"...code will remain online for people to fork..."

Open Office code will remain online for hackers to fork, embedding malware as they go. Users, looking for the latest... etc.

FIFY.

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Well, I am trying to feel bad.

But alas, I just don't. Oracle is the devil and it's taint is all over OO. I will repeat...Long Live LibreOffice!

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Trollface

Re: Well, I am trying to feel bad.

" it's taint is all over OO"

Ugh, I knew Oracle was something, but i didn't realize it had a taint.

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Just to try some thing different I install word perfect trial . My god it's more ass backwards then a Drunken install of OO. Standard edition cost more than office home and business with less functionality then LO.

Oh the high end of word perfect cost they same as the highest end of MS

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Anonymous Coward

Word Perfect?

I was going to ask " hang on, did we just jump back 2 decades?" but indeed, Word Perfect still exists (and it's the first time I've seen Quattro Pro mentioned in that span of time too).

Not that it matters - it's a Windows-only product so we would not be able to run it even if we had any earthly reason for wanting to. One of the reasons we use LO is that it supports any platform, so we run it on OSX and Linux - it renders the same on each platform so even the less bright staff doesn't get confused.

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Re: Word Perfect?

I still miss InfoCentral. If Novell had spent more time adding email to it instead of focussing on GroupWise, we might have a sensible alternative to Outlook now.

On another note, is anybody out there still using WordPerfect in an office environment?

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Re: Word Perfect?

I have WP 5.1 running on a DOS machine. Works nicely, and prints to 24pin dot matrix if I want. That said, I do tend to use LibreOffice (much) more often. Mostly since it integrates better with a modern environment. But damn, it has polish and snap like we haven't seen since.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Word Perfect?

If Word had "reveal codes" like WP, Microsoft would have never been able to hide the mess made by orphaning format codes during cut & paste and may even have been forced to do something about it.

Instead, it's been a mess ever since the irredeemably stupid decision to default to include format data in cut & paste operations - one, I'm saddened to say, is even harder to counteract in LibreOffice which has compounded that problem by adding a menu choice to the process to paste as text only, which makes it impossible to assign it to a keystroke without using a macro.

I'm not quite sure who took that decision, but if there is one major problem left in LO I'd love to see addressed, it's that.

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Re: Word Perfect?

I'm odd I like try no man stream things like Be OS on the PC.

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> ... word perfect trial . My god it's more ass backwards ...

Sad. WP used to be leagues ahead of MSOffice, both in features and usability.

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