You may have heard that OpenOffice has run into some problems. Basically, this all goes back to a company in Germany called StarOffice. They created an alternative office suite that was much less expensive than Microsoft Office and offered it for sale on very reasonable terms. Then this company was purchased by Sun Microsystems, and Sun created a community-supported (partly) and open source suite called OpenOffice.org. (Yes, the “.org” part is part of the official name, something to do with Trademark disputes).
Last year Sun Microsystems was purchased by Oracle, and its future became very much in doubt. Oracle wants to control OpenOffice.org a lot more, and find ways to make money from it. That is their right, as they bought it, but they have pretty much alienated most of the community developers outside of Oracle, who have gone on to found The Document Foundation. This group has, in turn, taken the open source code from OpenOffice.org and created LibreOffice. Right now the two suites are pretty close to identical, but I would expect divergence to take place over time.
I think this is a good thing for users. The corporate ownership, first by Sun, then by Oracle, has not worked very well. The plus side was that you got developers who were paid by the corporation to work on the project. The minus side was that they would (of course) be promoting the corporate agenda over the community agenda. And in the case of OpenOffice.org, I think a lot of people would agree that the negatives started to predominate over the last couple of years. My sense was that OpenOffice.org was stagnating, and that some pretty obvious improvements were just not getting made. Since the split, I have felt a sense of energy and commitment to improvement at The Document Foundation that was missing in the old OpenOffice.org. Only time will tell if this can be kept up. These kinds of projects are not sprints, they are marathons, and it takes sustained effort over time to really produce the kind of quality product that can compete in the marketplace. But I am more hopeful now than I was last year about where the open source office suite is going. For that reason, I intend to focus on LibreOffice instead of OpenOffice.org when I discuss the alternative to the commercial packages.
LibreOffice by Kevin O'Brien is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.