Some of the Linux faithful will look at this and say: “There he goes again, bashing open-source. He’s just a Microsoft shill.” They will use the fact I am an MCSE as ‘proof’ of their opinion.
Version 4.0 of LOO still suffers from the issue of cross file compatibility to Microsoft Office. However, the good news is the pain is less than ever before and we now get the ability to open Visio and Publisher files! Personally, I have not used either of these Microsoft programs in years so I cannot attest to how well they are handled.
Beyond my own daily use of LOO I have read in depth every review I could find on the Internet. My honest summary is they are far more negative than my feelings. Yes I must agree with everyone else that the most lacking area is complex documents not playing nice with MS Office. The second most cited shortcoming is the relatively confusing menus. I cannot really disagree there either. And there is always two sides to the coin. LOO’s brightside is shinier than ever. Less noticed is how much this version has pulled away to lead over Apache Open Office (AOO) formally known as Open Office Organization (OOO).
More about that later.
I’m not going to rehash what you can read in many dozens of other reviews. I will summarize with LLO runs faster than ever and is more compatible to Microsoft Office than ever. Instead let’s take a few minutes and focus on what LOO has done to get here and what it means for us tomorrow.
Java dependencies are being depreciated with either Python or native platform code. Given the security issues with Java, this is a good thing no matter what OS you use. This is one of several important trends for the sweet
The major flaw beyond file conversion has been this week could not handle content management in a large organization. It now adheres to a CMIS standard http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CMIS.
Large organizations have this barrier removed in the latest incarnation. Little noticed is the solution for reducing pagination issues with Microsoft Office easily handled by not using Microsoft specific fonts. Another former no removed is it can now import ink annotations from Word. Comments can now be attached to document text ranges. Another improvement is allowing a different header and footer on the first page without requiring a separate page style.
Perhaps these are really specific things, but if you work with documents every day they are really important for your work and the look of your document.
Some people will like the fact that the PowerPoint work alike called Impress has a Remote Control App for Android.
Through all this there is a point I believe all the reviews have missed. It is my belief that the full measure of time will show that Libre Office Version 4 was the pivot point for this offering to really move into the mainstream. Certainly all the improvements I mentioned (and many more commented on elsewhere) are factors.
What I don’t see it mentioned anywhere is The Document Foundation has registered in Berlin a Stiftung. This is a standard supervised by the German authorities with a history dating back to the year 1509. This gathered immediate support from major industry players showing that they are really in it for the long haul.
Backing this up is the fact that this is the year we see the first group of folks who will be blessed under the Certification Program for LibreOffice.
I know I am going to upset the Linux faithful. While this group wants mass-market acceptance, it also wants everything to be freedom of choice. And this is exactly why Open Source fails to win significant mind share.
Large organizations must have standards. It is the only way humans can handle large numbers without chaos. Senior management in large organizations looked for large organizations that had standards. Beyond knowing this was a requirement for them to get on with business, they also knew they had someone to sue if those standards were not met. And this is where open source has failed them.
Now having an international standards body deeply rooted in history, rapid yet orderly improved interoperability and CMS, LLO has set the stage to move into: The Limelight.
Today AOO/OOO has a larger installed base then LOO. That will change quickly. While both use ODF, not all ODA’s are equal. Monitoring the AOO list as I do, I found a case in point. A user was having an issue they were trying to solve. I cannot say the AOO group was unhelpful. They were in fact very kind and supportive. And it showed yet another way how LOO is pulling ahead.
“ODF has a flat file format without container too. This is implemented in LO but not in AOO. But in the flat format all pictures are stored in base64, because there is no folder to store them in original format.”
It has always been a long-standing feature of both Open Source office platforms that they could resurrect data from long abandoned platforms including Microsoft formats the company did not support in its own programs. And being free certainly did not hurt.
I want to conclude with a thought for my fellow MCSE’s. The IT department budget is always getting squeezed. Prior to LO V4, you just did not have the support to run the size of an operation you do. LO has given you the tools to make a solid business case. Just get away from the MS centric fonts when you’re doing your proof of concept.