Just over a year ago the open source Office Suite world was disturbed by indecision, much the same way world stock markets have been upset by uncertainty today. Oracle had purchased Sun Microsystems and with it the “ownership” of the open source office suite OpenOffice.org.
Being unsure of what Oracle would do with OpenOffice.org a number of the key developers at OO.org left and formed the Document Foundation. They named their fork of the OO.org code “LibreOffice”. “Libre” meaning “little or no restriction.”
Free as in speech, not beer
It’s interesting to note why Sun Microsystems had bought Star Office from the German Company StarDivision: a quote by Simon Phipps, Sun, LUGradio podcast –
“The number one reason why Sun bought StarDivision in 1999
was because, at the time, Sun had something approaching forty-two
thousand employees. Pretty much every one of them had to have both a
Unix workstation and a Windows laptop, and it was cheaper to buy a
company that could make a Solaris and Linux desktop productivity suite
than it was to buy forty-two thousand licenses from Microsoft.”
Makes sense to me…
That’s enough of the OpenOffice.org/LibreOffice history.
LO is very similar to OO because it came out of OO just over a year ago. The differences at this point (October 2011) are relatively minor but LibreOffice is a bit ahead of OpenOffice being at release 3.4.3 vs OO’s 3.3 A little better at handling document formats but overall very similar.
Just last week I was using both LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org, LO on my Ubuntu 11.04 powered desktop and OpenOffice.org on my Ubuntu 10.04 powered laptop. Often I would start a word processing document on one and then use the other platform to finish it. They are so very much the same (at this point) that I never had to think that “I’m using this word processor so I need to do it this way”. Depending on your needs there are a differences that could either be minor or major in magnitude. One’s minor annoyance can be another’s major pet peeve
My biggest concern is consistently. I’m a writer. When I select a particular bulleting style or a particular font the word processors must be completely compatible, which at times they weren’t. The differences were just enough to cause me to upgrade the laptop to LibreOffice for consistency between my laptop and desktop.
At this point both office suites have identical main features with LibreOffice being a little in front because it’s one release ahead of OpenOffice.org and it’s also being developed in a strict open source meritocracy .
My personal favorite features are the Export as PDF feature and the wide variety of file formats it will Import from and Export to. It does an excellent job with Office ’97 and earlier Microsoft Formats, which are the de-facto standards of business.
Anther feature of OpenOffice.org or LibreOffice is is the multitude of platforms it runs on. Linux, Windows of all flavors, Mac OS X, Solaris, openBSD, and even OS/2 to name some of them. With a power user program suite you can master the one Office Suite and use it from whatever platform you are on – the platform of the day. OS Du Jure – what a concept
In my case I have a backup operating system on both my Linux Platforms – Windows. A simple reboot and I’m flying again. I don’t even need to install either OO or LO as both have Portable versions that run off my USB FlashDrive.
In conclusion, neither OpenOffice.org nor LibreOffice is a clear winner – at this time. Both have an almost identical set of features and are almost identical in function. Almost, but not interchangeably. One or the other is fine. It’s when you use both it gets a bit dicey, and only if you really need consistency. I would say at this point that whichever comes with your Linux Distro would be fine for ordinary use.
For the future I can see this happening – LibreOffice will draw far in front of OpenOffice.org because of the development in the spirit of meritocracy. The best improvements and ideas stick. OpenOffice.org I’m not so sure of. What the Apache people do with it is anyone’s guess.
LibreOffice is here to stay even though it’s only a year old. If you still have OpenOffice.org it will serve you well. Either is better than MS Office which will cost you $150 – $500 dollars American and give you less.
The last time I used MS Office (2010) I had to search for the print menu. Redmond had hidden it in the ribbon!