back to article Apache OpenOffice, the Schrodinger's app: No one knows if it's dead or alive, no one really wants to look inside

Last year Brett Porter, then chairman of the Apache Software Foundation, contemplated whether a proposed official blog post on the state of Apache OpenOffice (AOO) might discourage people from downloading the software due to lack of activity in the project. No such post from the software's developers surfaced. The languid pace …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    OpenOffice NOT LibreOffice

    Worth making clear it is the "official" Open Office project that is pining for the Fjords

    The LibreOffice fork is actively developed and works very well

  2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Re: OpenOffice NOT LibreOffice

    The article does make that point. LibreOffice might be more active but it also provides buggy releases and and a degraded UX.

  3. Rupert Fiennes

    Re: OpenOffice NOT LibreOffice

    Yes! Monty Python reference in the first post :-)

  4. RegGuy1

    LibreOffice provides buggy releases and and a degraded UX

    Indeed. I use Open Office because Libre Office does not handle cell formatting correctly in some situations. So if I have a cell linked to another and change its default formatting to match the other, it would not keep it; either every time I saved or when I changed the original cell (I can't remember which).

    It was just such a pain in the arse that I chose to go back to Open Office -- it was easier to work with and meant I didn't have to keep trying to debug or find workarounds (such as save in XLS rather than ODT -- FFS!!).

    But I'd certainly go back to Libre Office if it worked.

  5. PhilipN Silver badge

    Reminder for macos users

    https://www.neooffice.org/neojava/en/index.php

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Reminder for macos users

    For $29.95 how does it compare to the free versions?

  7. PhilipN Silver badge

    Re: Reminder for macos users

    "the NeoOffice engineers have continually added improvements to NeoOffice that you will not find in OpenOffice or LibreOffice such as:

    Native Dark Mode

    NeoOffice > Open at Launch menu to open Calc or Impress instead of Writer at launch

    File > Browse All Versions menu to restore previous versions of your documents

    Native file locking to safely edit files in iCloud Drive, Dropbox, or network drives

    Native Mac grammar checking

    Native Mac text highlighting

    Support for Mac Services

    Native floating tool windows"

    And :

    WordPerfect support

  8. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: Reminder for macos users

    Sounds like a tiny handful of extensions piggy-backing on a massive piece of FOSS development that some arsehole thinks they can charge money for. Perhaps you have missed out 30 dollars' worth of other improvements.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Reminder for macos users

    >Reminder for macos users

    Surprising as though it seems Mactards, you don't actually have to pay for software

    https://www.libreoffice.org/get-help/install-howto/os-x/

    I'd ignore the advertising feature if I were you and put that cash you've saved into buying Apple's next ridiculously overpriced device.

  10. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Boffin

    Re: Reminder for macos users

    Sounds like a tiny handful of extensions piggy-backing on a massive piece of FOSS development that some arsehole thinks they can charge money for. Perhaps you have missed out 30 dollars' worth of other improvements.

    It does, I totally agree, BUT, in this case, it is different.

    IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: This is GPL'd software, you buy once, share will all your mates ;-) https://www.neooffice.org/neojava/en/faq.php

    History

    NeoOffice was created back in the day when there simply was no OpenOffice version for OS X... well, there was, but it ran in an X server, thus had weird behaviour on Mac.

    These NeoOffice guys basically rewrote the ui and integrated the package well with MacOS X !

    So, in the old days, they brought you something you could not get elsewhere, a Mac version of OpenOffice. I gave them $50 roughly 15 years ago ... iirc

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps you have missed out 30 dollars' worth of other improvements

    Or they have found a niche market full of idiots.

  12. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

    Re: Reminder for macos users

    I remember the early Mac OpenOffice, ran on an X server so you had Windows/Linux style menus with X11 (or your flavour of X server) using the native Mac menu.

    I strangely liked the *nix-y feel, and differences in UI were par for the course when half your software booted into OS9 'Classic Mode' anyway. Running X server applications reminded you of the availability of OSS for OSX.

  13. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Re: Reminder for macos users

    For $29.95 how does it compare to the free versions?

    It's basically skinned. But that isn't the comparison I would make, how does it compare to other packages that also cost money, such as Softmaker? Haven't tried this myself but the reviews I've read have all praised this cross-platform Office, especially for its support for the OOXML files, something which neither OpenOffice nor LibreOffice excel (no pun intended) at.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Reminder for macos users

    I have both NeoOffice and LibreOffice on my system.

    I use both almost interchangeably - except in two situations where NeoOffice definitely wins:

    1 - if I need to work in a foreign language or have text with a lot of accented characters

    2 - if I help a non-English Mac users set up LO or equivalent as office package.

    The motivation:

    1 - there is a (very) long outstanding problem with LO in that it does not use the MacOS character entry function which makes it very easy to enter accented characters, but instead has a cumbersome function that lumps "anything but ASCII" into a big box for you to pick from. The time saving on that NeoOffice function alone makes their charges negligible and I tend to re-register annually just to give them some extra cash. NeoOffice can also use Mac versioning, but I need to revisit that - I will not use that until I properly understand if it adds value.

    2 - the installer for LO is as painful as its update mechanism for non-English speakers. It insists on you speaking American* before it does anything, and the updater cannot be bothered to preserve your language settings either. You cannot install LO in any other language than American*, and only post installation will you be able to customise the UI for your own language. For which you need to speak American* to find it in the settings, because auto-setting this as a feature of the language pack is apparently also too much work, even though it now starts LO during install to fix another bug (LO would not work after a Language Pack install if it not had been run at least once). When you update, same problem - preserving your setting or auto-downloading the language pack associated with your current setting/install and installing it (and setting it) for the user is not available, which makes the target market for LO mainly technically competent users. There's no chance that your average foreign end user will find this as easy as lobbing Microsoft Office on their system and paying the associated tithe.

    As you may have guessed, NeoOffice doesn't have a language problem during install or update.

    Ergo, buying NeoOffice is IMHO a more than worthwhile investment for MacOS users - they reach those parts that LO devs have no time for. If you want to say that the NeoOffice devs "ride on the back" of the LO development, fine, just tell me how much you contributed in money terms to LO. I see my payment to the NeoOffice guys as equivalent to paying developers to tweak an Open Source project so it suits me, and their approach simply makes it crowdfunding so I share those costs with other like minded people.

    I have noticed that the discussion around (1) finally yielded an admission that they don't have as many MacOS developers as they would like so if anyone who codes for MacOS is bored, that strikes me as not the hardest problem in the world to solve. (2) is probably a wholly different kettle of fish.

    * American = US English, as opposed to UK English, which I prefer despite being one of "them foreigners too". If you prefer the former, your IT life is probably a lot easier :)

  15. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Re: Reminder for macos users

    For $29.95 how does it compare to a minimum of 5 copies of Office 365 on the M$ family plan @79.95 . (with discounts lower)?

    Plus 1TB per user, plus web/mobile installs too.

    You'd have to be a dyed in the wool M$ hater to buy it.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Reminder for macos users

    1. Screw subscriptions

    2. Screw MS. They stole too many hours of my life with shoddy practises and products. IE6. BSOD. Ribbon. W8. W10. Screw them.

    3. They are evil. They killed all the competition and still do. I spend my money ethically when I can.

    4. German-made Free office is quite good

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Reminder for macos users

    For $29.95 how does it compare to a minimum of 5 copies of Office 365 on the M$ family plan @79.95 . (with discounts lower)?

    1 copy that I can legally install on a whole school worth of machines. Yeah, worth it. And that's not even playing to your misrepresentation of the fees: that $29.95 buys you upgrades for a year, but it doesn't stop working after that.

    Plus 1TB per user, plus web/mobile installs too.

    Yes, because I want Microsoft to have access to my information, that saves them time snooping it off my machines if I were so dumb using Win 10. Remember, they helped creating the Cloud Act 2018, and if you don't know what that is you're very welcome to stay with Microsoft. Because you're clearly worth it.

    You'd have to be a dyed in the wool M$ hater to buy it.

    You have to be very blinkered and deliberately ignoring a LOT of things to keep buying M$ - but at least you're using the dollar sign correctly..

  18. JLV Silver badge
    Trollface

    Re: Reminder for macos users

    @79.95 per year

    There, fixed that for you ;-)

  19. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

    I've just been using LibreOffice. If OpenOffice is moving too slowly to distinguish from death, I'm not sure I'm interested anyway.

  20. thames

    Counting is not so easy.

    With respect to download counts, Linux users normally get their copy of LibreOffice from their distro, either as part of the default install or from their standard repos. I believe that most of the major distros ship LibreOffice, not Apache OO. Linux users have little or no reason to get their copy directly from the LibreOffice site. This means that a major part of LibreOffice's user base won't show up in their download counts.

    Then there are derivatives and rebranding, such as NeoOffice, which can also make difficult to get accurate user base figures for either LibreOffice or Apache OO.

  21. Waseem Alkurdi

    Re: Counting is not so easy.

    Linux users have little or no reason to get their copy directly from the LibreOffice site.

    Not when you use a LTS distro (commonly Ubuntu's LTS versions) or Debian Stable. Both don't ship updates (feature updates, that is) to LibreOffice or any other package.

    So in these cases, one does get to grab the latest from LibreOffice's site.

    Another problem is that distros in general don't instantly update a package the moment its dev releases the update.

  22. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Re: Counting is not so easy.

    Another problem is that distros in general don't instantly update a package the moment its dev releases the update.

    That's NOT a problem. Given the issues that the last Windows 10 update had, (and still might have... who really knows eh?) NOT being on the bleeding edge of the release wave is a good thing IMHO.

  23. trevorde
    Trollface

    Re: Counting is not so easy.

    Does anyone use Linux on the desktop? </troll>

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Counting is not so easy.

    "Does anyone use Linux on the desktop? </troll>"

    Yes, with LibreOffice, and boy, does it suck. SO BUGGY. The exact same thing that can be said of MS Word, which I also have to use.

  25. Hans 1 Silver badge

    Re: Counting is not so easy.

    Then there are derivatives and rebranding, such as NeoOffice, which can also make difficult to get accurate user base figures for either LibreOffice or Apache OO.

    NeoOffice is not a rebrand! NeoOffice has a different ui implementation and is much better integrated into OS X. Read https://www.neooffice.org/neojava/en/faq.php They were the first to port OpenOffice to OS X' Aqua ui.

    OpenOffice only released a native OS X version in 2008 (version 3.0), NeoOffice had a working one, with a few bugs in 2003 ...

  26. DougS Silver badge

    OpenOffice still has mindshare, but that's all

    If people want to download an alternative/free office product for their Windows PC, they might download OpenOffice because that's what they had on their old Windows PC - many won't have heard about the LibreOffice split.

    I wonder how many people who downloaded OpenOffice would have downloaded LibreOffice if they knew the latter was actively maintained and had advanced a lot over where OpenOffice is during the last few years? I'd guess probably 99% would.

    OpenOffice's download numbers simply aren't indicative of great interest in it, and if its few remaining developers believe that they are fooling themselves. If there was still a browser called 'Netscape' I'm sure it would garner millions of downloads a year, simply because of the mindshare that name accumulated 20 years ago.

  27. Chemist

    Re: Counting is not so easy.

    "Does anyone use Linux on the desktop? </troll>"

    Well I'm sitting here in Saas-Fee in Switzerland and I've just used a little GUI window on this Linux desktop to start downloading a number of BBC comedies onto a Pi at home (UK) . After that I'll move them using a GUI filemanager ( using fish: ) to watch here.

  28. arctic_haze Silver badge

    Re: Counting is not so easy.

    I always use the torrent for installers of Libreoffice. Therefore I guess I do not count as "a download".

  29. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    Reference

    I have generally thought of AOO as a "reference implementation". Not something people actually use on a significant basis, but rather a working model showing functionality of specifications and document formats. It could still hold a purpose as that, presuming such a thing is still needed.

    Meanwhile *actual* daily usage of the standards and specifications is handled by LibreOffice, and supported (in part or whole) by other vendors' applications.

  30. Piro

    The only reason it is popular...

    Is because of misinformed people who never learnt of the existence of LibreOffice, or when you mention LibreOffice, think the OpenOffice is somehow the original, most well known, and therefore must be the right one, and thus ignore the existence of LibreOffice.

  31. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Stop

    Re: The only reason it is popular...

    Or find OpenOffice more stable than LibreOffice. I certainly do.

    Office suites are largely a solved problem. Yes, the code could be updated and cleaned up but it does all I need it to do.

  32. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Re: The only reason it is popular...

    I think there's alot of truth there. Open Office is both a name and a Thing. You want a free open source Office suite then it's the open software route, which carries a lead in to Open Office.

    Libre Office only comes to mind if you've already heard of it as itself.

    I got to LO years ago, after the fork, from OO. I don't even remember why.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: The only reason it is popular...

    That's what happens when you fork for political reason and give silly names to software also for political reasons. If you believe most people care about The Document Foundation political stance, and their elucubrations, about software you're utterly wrong. They really matter to a minority of "open" source groupies only. If the LibreOffice name is not recognized outside a small circle, it's a The Document Foundation failure, not people being "misinformed".

  34. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    Re: The only reason it is popular...

    @Charlie Clark

    Sometimes office software hits on something new and useful. For example, MS Word 2013 and later can read pdf files and save them as editable Word documents. Yes, I use that.

  35. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Re: The only reason it is popular...

    Sometimes office software hits on something new and useful.

    Indeed, but it's largely a solved problem and, while there are numerous programs that would let you do what you're doing, I can understand why you prefer it being part of the suite. MS Office 2013 is otherwise pretty meh but Office 2016 has significant performance improvements and is really the only serious option for mobile devices: a real opportunity missed for LibreOffice.

  36. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Re: The only reason it is popular...

    If you believe most people care about The Document Foundation political stance

    I know a couple and fortunately they're not all idiots. Unfortunately, some of the idiots did deliberately sabotage work paid for by others that was supposed to benefit both OpenOffice and LibreOffice so that the relevant code couldn't easily be integrated into OpenOffice. And then there is that fecking awful, child's crayon LibreOffice UX.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: The only reason it is popular...

    Office 2016 has significant performance improvements and is really the only serious option for mobile devices: a real opportunity missed for LibreOffice.

    It's just a shame that those performance improvements were pretty much nuked by adding the ribbon to the UI. Especially for Word, the 2013 version was (a) the last usable version released before the ribbon shredded my productivity and (b) the main reason that directly drove me permanently into the hands of LO and NeoOffice. LO has experimented with a ribbon interface but wisely left it optional, and thanks to LO I can retain productivity, the the point where I can put up with the occasional crash (not had a single one yet with NeoOffice, which is interesting).

    We only authorise MS Office for the few users that have deep Excel skills. For presentations we use Keynote - LOs' presentation package needs a lot more pizzaz before that's ready for general business use.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Was this article sponsored by M$ Office ?

  39. Waseem Alkurdi
    Joke

    No, this one's sponsored by Apache Foundation and the OS/2 Users' Group.

  40. Alan Bourke

    Aw look a $ sign instead of the S

    Like it's 2002.

  41. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Re: Aw look a $ sign instead of the S

    Like it's 2002.

    Like it's 1985

    Like it's 1986

    Like it's 1987

    Like it's 1988

    Like it's 1989

    Like it's 1990

    Like it's 1991

    Like it's 1992

    Like it's 1993

    Like it's 1994

    Like it's 1995

    Like it's 1996

    Like it's 1997

    Like it's 1998

    Like it's 1999

    Like it's 2000

    Like it's 2001

    Like it's 2002

    Like it's 2003

    Like it's 2004

    Like it's 2005

    Like it's 2006

    Like it's 2007

    Like it's 2008

    Like it's 2009

    Like it's 2010

    Like it's 2011

    Like it's 2012

    Like it's 2013

    Like it's 2014

    Like it's 2015

    Like it's 2016

    Like it's 2017

    Like it's 2018

  42. frank ly Silver badge

    Driven

    "... our drivers are mostly of altruistic and hedonistic nature,"

    That explains why I can't get it to print properly.

  43. John G Imrie Silver badge
    Gimp

    Re: Driven

    You just need to show it who's the Master

  44. Korev Silver badge
    Coat

    Re: Driven

    What's the Microsoft safe word?

  45. Waseem Alkurdi

    Re: Driven

    Something that contains a reference to the Microsoft Bear or Microsoft Bunny*.

    __________________

    * If you land here, then you definitely don't know what these are. Look them up.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I won't run OpenOffice

    Just on the off chance that Oracle gets involved again. For the same reasons, I dropped mysql.

  47. lybad

    Re: I won't run OpenOffice

    But for the same reasons as most Linux distros dropped OpenOffice, they have done the same with MySQL - many of the distros will install MariaDB when you ask them to install MySQL.

  48. midcapwarrior

    Re: I won't run OpenOffice

    You ask for one product and they install another and this is considered OK?

    Different world I guess.

  49. Buddy

    I have been using Apache for several years to open .doc attachments in my e-mails. I use Win 7 and am not likely to ever use crappy win 10. My only problem is how slow it opens on my computer. But I am willing to get a cup of coffee and give it time.

  50. DJV Silver badge
    Trollface

    using Apache for several years to open .doc attachments

    I usually use Apache to open web pages...

    (hee hee!)

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