The LibreOffice open source office project issued a new release today, further demonstrating the viability of the OpenOffice.org fork.
Novell Distinguished Engineer and LibreOffice contributor Michael Meeks noted that LibreOffice 3.4.0 has a smaller codebase after being rid of 'sillies', that is, code cleaup of dead and unreachable code. Additionally, LibreOffice 3.4.0 merges in code from Oracle's OpenOffice.
Oracle has recently been more active with OpenOffice and this week announced that it was donating the project to the Apache Software Foundation. While LibreOffice 3.4.0 is a fork of OpenOffice.org,(OOo) the two projects still have a degree of data compatibility.
"We both use ODF - so, certainly yes, your document data will interoperate," Meeks told InternetNews.com. "This was a great strength allowing seamless transition of anyone using OO.o today to move to the more featureful LibreOffice."
Though data formats between OpenOffice and LibreOffice are compatible, the two open source office suites differ in terms of features, functionality and generally available version numbers.
"Currently OpenOffice has only a pre-release of OO.o 3.4 and no sight of any final 3.4 release, and the project is undergoing rapid, uncertain change," Meeks said. "We are shipping the next iteration of our stable release (3.3.3) shortly, and our first point-zero of our 3.4.0 series today for people to try out. We will continue shipping monthly stable updates to improve on 3.4.1."
Meeks added that LibreOffice has a 'bus load' of features that are not present in OO.o which are many, varied and growing. That said, in his view what is more important than the features is the fact that the project is open and anyone can get involved.
"We have around 280 people that contributed to the codebase, nearly 200 of those entirely new to the code since we branched, and another 200 translators involved," Meeks said. "We are an open and meritocratic community that anyone can join and have fun in."
With the move of OpenOffice from Oracle to Apache, the potential for collaboration with LibreOffice could potentially be improved. Though Meeks notes that it remains to be seen if the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) will incubate the very large, complex and unwieldy code-base that is OO.o.
"It has a lot of pieces that don't match their philosophy well, lots of copy-left dependencies, from pieces of Mozilla for document signing, to the spell checker," Meeks said. "Lets see - we have been cleaning and improving it for eight months as a community, with lots more room for improvement."
The other large issue has to do with licensing. LibreOffice uses the GPL license while OpenOffice under Apache is set to re-base to an Apache 2.0 license.
"Of course, LibreOffice can be re-based on top of an Apache 2.0 licensed code-base and include code contributed there, but the converse is not true," Meeks said.
Meeks has a positive view of the ASF as an organization with very well designed governance, and a very experienced team, and some excellent licensing for specific situations.
"However, I do not believe the ASF is likely to provide a good home for the OO.o project in the long run," Meeks said. "They are sufficiently confident and comfortable with their model that attempting to negotiate over changing any core aspect of it (such as the non-copy-left stance) is unlikely to be fruitful work. So - only time will tell."
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