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What's Next for Apache's Open Source Office Suite, OpenOffice?

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Still, as one of the longest-standing open source productivity apps, and one that played a major role in making desktop Linux viable, OpenOffice is a venerable project. Indeed, its history stretches all the way back to 1985 (when I was still merely an idea!), and it has been open source since 2000. If it folds, it will be one of the first big-name open source apps to do so—even if few people notice as they continue happily chugging along on LibreOffice.

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Is OpenOffice Dying?

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In September 2014, rumors were flying that Apache OpenOffice was floundering and might soon merge with LibreOffice. The rumors were denied, but revived in March 2015 when Jonathan Corbett used development activity statistics to show that OpenOffice was seriously short of developers, and had corporate support only from IBM. Now, OpenOffice's most recent report to the Apache Foundation appears to reinforce these previous reports, and then some.

To be fair, the report is listed as "a working copy and not to be quoted." However, I am discussing it anyway for two reasons. First, much of the report was mentioned in earlier reports, which suggests that its information is accurate. Second, when I contacted Jan Iversen, the new OpenOffice Chair, three weeks ago, he gave the same warning even more strongly. Since then the contents has gone through at least one more draft, but with little change of content, which makes me suspect that the excuse is an effort to delay discussion of the content. If I am mistaken, the fact will eventually become obvious, since the report is, after all, a public document.

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ODF in the age of Big Data

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One may notice that the points listed above loosely match the main points usually mentioned when discussing the benefits of ODF in the more standard settings of the desktop. This is not surprising, but it was not necessarily intended; if anything this is a testimony to the value of a standard like ODF and its importance. The key point here is that when it comes to the cloud and big data, ODF is both a factor of transparency and innovation. This is something worth promoting and is a potential path to renewed success of ODF in the future.

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UK Government Now Main Driver of ODF Advance: Kudos

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OOo

Back in July last year, I wrote about an incredible opportunity for the open source world. After years of disappointments, and despite the usual lobbying/threats by a certain large US software company against the move, the Cabinet Office announced that it was officially adopting the Open Document Format (ODF) for sharing or collaborating on government documents. At the time I exhorted everyone involved to do their utmost to make this work, since it was the biggest chance to show that open standards and open source were not just viable as a government solution, but actually better than the alternatives.

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Development activity in LibreOffice and OpenOffice

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The LibreOffice project was announced with great fanfare in September 2010. Nearly one year later, the OpenOffice.org project (from which LibreOffice was forked) was cut loose from Oracle and found a new home as an Apache project. It is fair to say that the rivalry between the two projects in the time since then has been strong. Predictions that one project or the other would fail have not been borne out, but that does not mean that the two projects are equally successful. A look at the two projects' development communities reveals some interesting differences.

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What will it take to merge LibreOffice and OpenOffice?

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Ordinarily, I'm all for diversity in free software projects. However, I make an exception in the case of LibreOffice and OpenOffice. The sooner they become a single project, the better.

In other cases, I'm slow to accept arguments against duplication of projects. Combining projects does not automatically make for greater efficiency or quicker development; especially in the beginning, personalities can sabotage or even reverse any gains.

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Why the UK government must adopt Open Document Format

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Today is Document Freedom Day. As of November 2012, all government bodies have had to adhere to Open Standards Principles; an agreed set of standards to make IT more open, cheaper and better connected.

These were developed following the public consultation ‘Open Standards: Open Opportunities – flexibility and efficiency in government IT,’ to help government to deliver more innovative IT services and further drive savings, encouraging more open competition for government contracts.

It was a major initiative and went a long way to making government documents more accessible and available. Today, as the globe celebrates International Document Freedom Day, it’s time to take this initiative even further.

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Emilia-Romagna completes switch to OpenOffice

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The administration of the Italian region Emilia-Romagna will complete its switch to Apache OpenOffice next month, says Giovanni Grazia, an IT project manager for the region. Emilia-Romagna is making the Open Document Format ODF the default on all 4200 workstations, across 10 departments and 5 agencies.

Emilia-Romagna is adding several tools to the OpenOffice suite, “improving the user experience”, says Grazia. Three of these are publicly available OpenOffice extensions, but others are being developed especially for the region. The latter will be made available as open source within the next few weeks, Grazia says.

The first of the official OpenOffice extensions used in the region is Alba, which makes it easy to insert in a document one or more pages with a different orientation. The second is Pagination, which improves the insertion of page numbers. Third is PDFImport, which allows the import of PDFs into OpenOffice.

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You can now petition the European Union to 'fix my document'

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Inspired by the pothole identification and alert site and app, fixmystreet.com, OFE, through its fixmydocument.eu, is giving a crowd-sourced voice to public frustration with software interoperability limitations that stand in the way of citizens who are seeking to communicate and interact with government.

It should be noted, however, this is more than a vehicle through which to vent. Many parts of the EU are legitimately working hard to implement ODF, the open document format for office applications. Fixmydocument.eu will help them better identify software and documents that are presenting the most pressing and immediate problems. As an added benefit, it should not go unnoticed that more fully deploying ODF and other open standards will help the EU avoid vendor lock-in.

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Pondering the Fate of Open Source & Software Licenses

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Legal

Having used OpenOffice for several years on the Panasonic Toughbooks I use in the field, I've avoided buying into traditional or subscription-based services. While enterprises may have a different view on licensing, cost most always figures into the decision-making process. So if they go the subscription route, they'll have to then ask what strategies they can use to lower those costs. Will they be able to haggle on price?

If the subscription model does become the norm, will OpenOffice and other open-source software thrive, dive, or stay the same in market share? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

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