OpenOffice dumped as German city plots return to Microsoft

Development confusion and document compatibility problems sank the long-running open source project in Freiburg, Germany

The German city of Freiburg is preparing to dump its long-running use of the OpenOffice suite in favor of a return to Microsoft's Office after struggling with range of document compatibility problems.

A draft resolution was put forward by council officials on Friday, and due to be put to the voted on Nov. 20, recommended that the Council adopt Microsoft Office 2010 in favour of the open source suite for its 2,500 PCs.

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Key issues appear to have been long-running grumbles over the document compatibility of the different elements of OpenOffice -- the rival Microsoft Office suite is far more common in German state and national governments -- especially the presentation programs and spreadsheet.

OpenOffice Writer had been less of a problem but the Council needed an entire suite not simply one component.

The Council was also unhappy with the fork in the open source development that resulted from Sun's takeover by Oracle. With OpenOffice to be discontinued, that left them to choose between the LibreOffice or the direction forged by the Apache Software Foundation's OpenOffice .

Freiburg adopted OpenOffice in 2007, extolling its virtues beginning with its considerably lower cost.

Officials said they wanted to standardize on the open document format (ODF), which allowed them to operate in a way that was independent of a single operating system. That decision now appears to be up for the chop.

Until 2007, Freiburg had used Office 2000 but continued to support it on a legacy basis to the present day.

The move back to Microsoft is bound to be seen as a small defeat for open source, although some will see it as more of a comment on the development confusion that has surrounded OpenOffice itself.

The Open Document Business Alliance and other open source groups have responded by pointing out that other German cities had adopted OpenOffice without the same problems. Furthermore, they could see no reason for the need to abandon ODF given Microsoft Office's support for it.

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