And I recommend grabbing it, highly.
At which point I’d better explain my reasons for backing LibreOffice instead of OpenOffice, since a lot of people just don’t seem to get that there is a difference, and why.
First, this is not about Oracle. I don’t hate Oracle. In fact I think that Oracle (and Sun before it’s purchase by Oracle) did a damned good job with OpenOffice/StarOffice. I was one of the first people to use StarOffice when Sun released it as a free download, still have StarOffice 5.2 for Windows backed up on CD somewhere. It was great. Oh, the User Interface was looked like it had been designed by Neil Gaiman while he was overdosing on caffeine, but it worked.
OpenOffice 1.0 got rid of the peculiarities of Star Office, while unfortunately losing the email client. But Sun did a lot of good work on OpenOffice, making it the Office Suite that most creative writing teachers recommend.
And then Oracle bought Sun.
The problem was that while most people didn’t love Sun, they’d gotten used to it. Oracle was a different proposition. What was Oracle going to do?
Well, the first thing Oracle did was screw up, and not communicate.
Not once. Several times. Giving the community reasons to distrust Oracle. After all, when the company that controls one of the crown jewels of Free Software won’t talk about it, or when it does talk about it, goes totally vague, what you are supposed to think?
Is it any wonder that the community forked OpenOffice?
It now appears that the problems stemmed from the size of the merger, which caused Oracle not of have enough resources to pay attention to OpenOffice along with everything else it had to do. That’s fine. The fork has already happened.
And the fork may be the best thing that ever happened to OpenOffice. Sun’s contribution policies had been a bone of contention in the community for years. It didn’t seem likely that Oracle was going to change that.
The Community fork has a more open contribution policy, which should, hopefully, interest more developers in working on the project. It should also allow more experimentation. Expect to see new user interface paradigms emerge from LibreOffice.
Because OpenOffice had been a weapon that first Sun, and later Oracle was using against Microsoft. This limited their thinking, which is why the KOffice project has so many neat features, that OpenOffice didn’t have.
The split will be a huge advantage to Oracle as well, because those things that Oracle wouldn’t have dreamed of doing, the Document Foundation will try. Just because they can. And Oracle can merge the successful ideas back into the OpenOffice code base, while the community can take ideas from the Oracle code base. It’s really a win-win situation.
Except for Microsoft. It was facing one competitor. Now it’s facing two, each one of which was stronger than the original. It must be terrifying to watch your enemies reproducing by binary fusion like amoebas. Utterly terrifying.
To download LibreOffice go here. I’d suggest using BitTorrent myself. I’ll be torrenting all of the english language versions (Windows, OS X, RPM, DEB, etc) for the next several weeks in support of the Document Foundation.
Thursday January 13, 2011