While we've been looking forward to the new features of LibreOffice 4.5 as the leading open-source office suite, version 4.5 is no more. The next version of LO is now going to be LibreOffice 5.0.
To some surprise, this morning in Git, the version was bumped to 5.0 (184.108.40.206.alpha0+). There was no branching of LibreOffice 4.5 as it seems LibreOffice 4.5 is itself being renamed to LibreOffice 5.0.
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.
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.
While I do not believe that office suites will disappear, I do believe that the need to be completely integrated into cloud-like environments, whether centralized or distributed, is key to insure potential and an actual future for any desktop software. Because of these trends, the news are of strategic importance to LibreOffice and to software freedom and digital rights in general. At a time when the Internet and cloud services become more and more centralized, the competition diminishes and so do users’rights. “LibreOffice Online” is really good news, and it should make you happy. More specifically, what was announced leads to two distinct outcomes:
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.
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.
The announcement of LibreOffice Online this week came as welcome news to many people concerned about the paucity of online options for those who want software freedom with their online document solutions. But can open source SaaS succeed?
The open source community needs a truly open alternative to current mainstream online document collaboration solutions, all of which are compromised by lock-in. LibreOffice Online will offer the full flexibility to deploy in-house or hosted cloud instances while using true open standards for its documents.