[conspire] OpenOffice.org -> LibreOffice (was: Sidux, Aptosid)

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Sep 28 14:54:43 PDT 2010

I wrote:

> o  OpenOffice.org.  This project's sort of sitting around stunned, 
>    figuratively, wondering when Oracle's going to lop off its legs.
>    In fairness, maybe Oracle will leave it alone.  We shall see.

I still don't have a handle on what's going on with OpenOffice.org, but
there's movement in the form of the launching of yet another
OpenOffice.org fork, 'LibreOffice', from the newly launched group 'The
Document Foundation'.


Some history:  Star Division GmbH was a German company that developed
the proprietary StarOffice suite, which in the 1990s was the 'office'
suite for x86 Linux that was best able to handle (most of) Microsoft's 
proprietary document formats.

Some time in the late 1990s, Sun Microsystems bought Star Division.
StarOffice continued to be published, but Sun put a lot of legal and
developer firepower into identifying and removing third-party copyright
and patent claims from the code, plus removing the much-hated top-level
desktop window in which StarOffice had done all of its work.
Accompanying the still-proprietary StarOffice was its all-open-source 
cousin, the OpenOffice.org suite, created by carving out a few remaining
third-party codebases (such as the thesaurus and the database component)
and releasing the Sun-owned portion of the codebase.  The licence chosen
was Sun's newly created CDDL, a slightly improved version of the
weak-copyleft Mozilla Public Licence.

The suite was _intended_ to be named "OpenOffice", but a
long-established Linux software shop in the Netherlands named OpenOffice
objected, so it became OpenOffice.org (awkward!), or OO.o for short.

If OpenOffice.org never accomplished anything else, it would be
noteworthy for having developed and seeing through the ISO, IEC, and
OASIS standards processes the excellent, well-formed, stable,
expressive, XML-based Open Document Format for Office Applications (ODF)
data format.

The OpenOffice.org project, as an open source effort, has always had 
some serious problems.  The codebase is a hulking mess, which makes it 
difficult for outside coders to even grapple with, and there has been
persistent talk that the project doesn't readily accept outside
participation (including patches).  This was a charge frequently made
against pretty much all ostensibly open-source projects owned by Sun

Thus, apparently, the first significant fork I'm aware of for the
codebase:  'Go-oo' (initially known as ooo-build), largely sponsored by
Novell, is a major competitor that merges in community patches Sun
declined to accept.  In general, I consider it a marked improvement over
conventional OO.o.

Next, and rather peculiarly, came what IBM did with the OO.o codebase:
They wrapped parts of it up with a bunch of their Java stuff and named
the result Lotus Symphony (under proprietary licensing).  This product
has absolutely no connection with the 1980s Lotus Symphony product, in
case anyone is wondering.

Last, now we get LibreOffice.  I'm not totally clear on what this is
about, and the connection with Go-oo, except that Novell's Michael Meeks
is involved with both:


One possible clue lies in LibreOffice's FAQ

  Q: Why are you building a new Web infrastructure?

  A: Since Oracle's takeover of Sun Microsystems, the Community has been
  under "notice to quit" from our previous Collabnet infrastructure. With
  today's announcement of a Foundation, we now have an entity which can
  own our emerging new infrastructure. 

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