Only four months after the formation of the Document Foundation by leading members of the OpenOffice.org community, it has launched LibreOffice 3.3, the first stable release of its alternative Open Source personal productivity suite for Windows, Macintosh and Linux.
Since the fork was announced at the end of September the number of developers "hacking" LibreOffice has gone from fewer than twenty to well over one hundred, allowing the Document Foundation to make its first release ahead of schedule.
According to its press release:
Not only does it ship a number of new and original features, LibreOffice 3.3 is also a significant achievement for a number of reasons:
- the developer community has been able to build its own and independent process, and get up and running in a very short time (with respect to the size of the code base and the project's strong ambitions);
- thanks to the high number of new contributors having been attracted into the project, the source code is undergoing a major clean-up to provide a better foundation for future development of LibreOffice;
- the Windows installer, which is going to impact the largest and most diverse user base, has been integrated into a single build containing all language versions, thus reducing the size for download sites from 75 to 11GB, making it easier for us to deploy new versions more rapidly and lowering the carbon footprint of the entire infrastructure.
From a user's point of view there are now two very similar free suites, OpenOffice and LibreOffice, both containing the same components: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math and Base.
Which should they choose?
LibreOffice 3.3 is claimed to include several unique new features. Ones singled out as being popular among community members are: the ability to import and work with SVG files; an easy way to format title pages and their numbering in Writer; a more-helpful Navigator Tool for Writer; improved ergonomics in Calc for sheet and cell management; and Microsoft Works and Lotus Word Pro document import filters. Bundled extensions provide PDF import, a slide-show presenter console, a much improved report builder, and more.
LibreOffice 3.3 also provides all the new features of OpenOffice.org 3.3, a list that includes new custom properties handling; embedding of standard PDF fonts in PDF documents; new Liberation Narrow font; increased document protection in Writer and Calc; auto decimal digits for "General" format in Calc; 1 million rows in a spreadsheet; new options for CSV import in Calc; insert drawing objects in Charts; hierarchical axis labels for Charts; improved slide layout handling in Impress; a new easier-to-use print interface; more options for changing case; and colored sheet tabs in Calc.Several of these new features were contributed by members of the LibreOffice team prior to the formation of The Document Foundation.
At its formation the Document Foundation received support from almost the entire OpenOffice programming community including Novell, Red Hat and Google, leaving only Oracle with the original OpenOffice repository. While some prominent members of the community attempted to remain part of OpenOffice.org while also being members of the Document Foundation this was resisted by Oracle.
Both suites are continuing to be developed so it is difficult at this stage to work out if they are going to be aggressive competitors or simply coexist in a friendly sort of cross stimulation. It has even been argued that Oracle gains from the spinoff of LibreOffice because it now has a vibrant and energetic example of open source development to draw on. After all if LibreOffice gets it wrong it isn't going to find its way into OpenOffice and to a lesser extent the reverse is also true.
The split of a large open source office suite comes at a time when it isn't even clear if there is a long term future for office suites at all. What is more puzzling is what the existence of two camps creating such huge codebases for a fundamental application type says about the whole state of open source development at this time. It clearly isn't the idealistic world it tries to present itself as.
Dowload from http://www.libreoffice.org/
More details of LibreOffice 3.3 can be found here
New bid for freedom by OpenOffice
OpenOffice Fork becoming a Split
Trickle of resignations from OpenOffice.org
Exodus from OpenOffice.org begins