Open source suites go beyond Microsoft Office

Open source desktop productivity suites are experiencing an injection of enthusiasm, as recent burst of news releases confirms

In my blog post last week, as well as showing a cool video of Ubuntu for Android in action, I asserted that open source makes the perfect foundation for innovation. A sequence of news releases about open source desktop productivity suites have shown up over the last few weeks to add to the assertion. With this amount of energy, open source suites are looking more and more like interesting alternatives to Microsoft Office.

Calligra

Calligra is the continuation of what used to be the KOffice project. The group released Calligra Suite 2.4.1 at the end of April, confirming that version 2.4 is a fine step forward. It has the tools you'd expect: word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, all with a fresh, clean, and appealing look.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Simon Phipps predicts a bright future for LibreOffice, and Test Center says LibreOffice 3.5 is the best Office killer yet. | Track the latest trends in open source with InfoWorld's Open Sources blog and Technology: Open Source newsletter. ]

But the tools you weren't expecting -- the visual database tool, the note taker, the vector graphics editor -- add a sense of the innovation this project is intending. I was also interested to see a project management tool, as well as the introduction of a touch interface. The group has a commitment to the Open Document Format and is improving the quality of its ODF support.

With its roots in the K Desktop Environment (KDE), Calligra is only realistically available for GNU/Linux at present, but there's an experimental Windows build and talk of a future Mac build. It's available online.

LibreOffice

Keeping up its regular schedule, LibreOffice brought out release 3.5.3, further polishing the 3.5 line first introduced in February, which included a range of new features. LibreOffice comes standard with many of the extensions produced for OpenOffice.org, among them wiki editing, presentation support, and editable PDFs.

The project also announced details of the work planned by volunteers sponsored by Google's Summer of Code initiative. They will be concentrating on collaboration tools, as well as tablet and Web versions of LibreOffice. The project offers versions for a wide range of platforms, including most editions of Windows, Mac, and GNU/Linux (where it's usually bundled in the release or available via the package manager), plus various BSD Unix variants. It's available for download.

LibreOffice's host nonprofit, The Document Foundation (where I am a volunteer), also announced a new Certification scheme. I've not seen anything like this from an open source community before, but it promises to provide a fact-based metric to identify community members who can offer development, support, and training services for LibreOffice. This is a bold and innovative move that could be of immense benefit to commercial and government organizations deploying LibreOffice. The Certification Committee will be meeting for the first time in May at LinuxTag in Germany.

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