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

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Apache OpenOffice (incubating)

You may recall about a year ago, Oracle switched the open source license to the copyrights it bought with Sun over to the Apache License and donated the trademark to Apache. Apache then started an "incubator podling" -- a sandbox for a new community to form and prove itself worthy of full Apache status. With IBM staff doing the majority of the heavy development work, the podling (where I am also a volunteer) has finally released an Apache-approved version of the 3.4 code Oracle froze back in 2010.

While it may not look much, with few new capabilities beyond what Oracle handed over, like a duck on a lake the serenity conceals a lot of paddling. All the code Oracle didn't own, which would have been licensed in a way not permitted for Apache projects, has been ripped out and mostly replaced with alternatives; capabilities that relied on Oracle servers (like the update and extensions library functions) have been migrated; graphics have been changed. IBM's Rob Weir announced the regroomed version 3.4 on Tuesday, and it's available for download -- although as Bruce Byfield hints, it's probably the next release that will be worth evaluating.

It's great to see such a vibrant and competitive marketplace for these free and open source tools. They all offer support for ODF, the only file format guaranteed to work on all mainstream office suites including Microsoft Office. In this same period of energetic development, Microsoft recently committed support for the latest ODF update, and it is becoming increasingly smart to specify as the exchange and archiving format for editable documents as a complement to PDF. It's even possible to combine the two; LibreOffice lets you make PDF files that embed the ODF source for editing, optionally with a password. Let's hope the energy and innovation continues into the future; we all win in such a market.

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