17 October 2011

Office Suites: LibreOffice or OpenOffice.org?

The office suite has occupied a very strange position in the world of open source. As a key software tool used by practically everyone on a daily basis, it was vital for free software to be able to offer one. And yet what came to be the leading office suite - OpenOffice.org - was widely recognised as deeply unsatisfactory. Its early versions were barely usable, and even in its later incarnations it was hard to get enthusiastic about it. 

On Open Enterprise blog.

4 comments:

twitter said...

You are a little rough on free software office suits, Open Office and Sun in a way that I would not expect from such a careful researcher as yourself.

The free software world has long had a great collection of specific purpose editors that are superior to general purpose editors but there's really been no lack for office suites. I actually used and liked Star Office but preferred KDE editors and gnumeric as a spreadsheet. Kontact, Kword, Kile and Kbibtext cover the bases from casual letter to research paper in ways that Microsoft can only dream of. Open Office is also no slouch and I use it every day for simple documents and it easily scales to whole books. The spreadsheet, presentation program and database are also good enough or better than Microsoft's. More important for people with work to do is that free software is constant and reliable. People angry about Microsoft's new GUI should make the switch to free software and spare themselves the trouble of OOXML and the usual Microsoft instabilities.

I can't speak for Sun but it's unfair to say that they made Open Office free software just to annoy Microsoft. Sun also released Java and much of Solaris as free software, so I'd say that Sun was a company that had started to understand the benefits of free software. Calling the company vindictive implies that software freedom is somehow wrong and that non free software is legitimate.

glyn moody said...

@twitter: I like to think that i'm hard but fair...

I used OpenOffice from the early years, and it was a pain - I have the mental scars to prove it.

I fear your view of Sun is a little too rosy: they never really got free software, which is partly why they failed. They most definitely made StarOffice freely available as one of their many pokes at Microsoft - it made no sense for any other purpose. Again, I followed and wrote about Sun as a journalist for over 20 years, so I knew them pretty well...

ggravier said...

Sun never really groked open source and were never capable of shifting the company to a much more support and services model in order to generate sufficient revenue and margin from the free software they offered. Blame Schwartz for that one.

glyn moody said...

@ggravier: well, credit that he tried moving, but yes, he probably didn't move far enough...