OpenOffice is dead

The guys at Oracle put out a statement sometime last week about their free and open-source office suite, OpenOffice. Guess what? They’re making it a “community project”; i.e. they’re leaving it to die.

The sad part is that OpenOffice was very popular: many Mac users used it (since Office for Mac costs a ton) and plenty of Windows users used it as well (most people aren’t going to use all the features of Microsoft Office, which costs, what, $100?) But don’t be discouraged, it’s not as bad as you might think. Read on to see.

Sorry, I’ve been a bit abrupt. Here’s the backstory.

Back in 1999, Sun Microsystems bought an office suite called StarOffice. Being the swell guys they were (no sarcasm there, they were pretty decent), they open-sourced StarOffice and made it OpenOffice, released in 2002.

All went well till January 2010, when Oracle bought out Sun. Oracle aren’t as swell as Sun: they hate open-source stuff, so naturally OpenOffice’s days were numbered.

The OpenOffice users always complained to the developers since, well, OpenOffice sucked and no new features/bugfixes that people wanted were added (mostly due to Oracle hating open-source stuff.) Some users modified OpenOffice and called it Go-oo, which was very similar to OpenOffice except it had a bunch of modifications everyone wanted.

Eventually, the developers got tired of Oracle and the complaints. In September 2010, they officially split with OpenOffice (computer geeks call it forking the project) and made LibreOffice. At the time, it was the same thing, but under a different name.

Those developers quit Oracle and formed the Document Foundation, which was the community group in charge of developing LibreOffice. They started writing their own code (and the guys at OpenOffice wrote their own code), so the projects started slowly moving away from each other.

LibreOffice was an instant success; it’s basically a good version of OpenOffice (if you’re wondering, the patches in Go-oo were added to OpenOffice) that actually listens to users. Most people made the switch to LibreOffice from OpenOffice, since they weren’t losing anything. Some major Linux distributions, including Ubuntu and Fedora, decided to replace OpenOffice with LibreOffice as their default office suite. That’s big (imagine Microsoft deciding to package Firefox or Chrome as the default browser in Windows. It’s that big.)

So where was I? Since all the momentum (and good developers) was with LibreOffice, OpenOffice started dying (not that it wasn’t dying already.) And now Oracle’s performed the coup de grace (sort of) and basically killed OpenOffice.

I know, I know, they made it a “community project.” Problem is, there’s no community for OpenOffice. It’s like taking your car to the local Jiffy Lube for a tuneup, except all the mechanics are on lunch break. Nothing’s going to happen.

tl;dr – The developers from OpenOffice split from it and made their own office suite, LibreOffice. OpenOffice lost its community and developers, so it’s been killed.

So what does this mean to normal people? Not much, actually, it’s just an interesting read on a Sunday afternoon. Although it makes the decision easier for people who want a free office suite.

By the way, you can download LibreOffice (now the only major free office suite) here.

Published by

Neel Mehta

Harvard College. Web developer. Sometime philosopher. Baseball junkie.

One thought on “OpenOffice is dead”

Leave a Reply