When LibreOffice forked from the original OpenOffice project, many people were sceptical. The fear was that by splitting the forces working on free software office suites, both would be weakened, and fail. I've always been a great believer in giving people a choice, and think that this is a real strength of open source: it ensures that software really meets users' needs. If it doesn't, sooner or later someone will fork the code and start a new project that aims to do better.
And so here we are, four years later, with LibreOffice still going strong. Italo Vignoli of the The Document Foundation, which is the organisation behind LibreOffice, has provided some figures charting how far the project has come in that time:
On September 28, 2014, The Document Foundation - and LibreOffice - will turn four. In figures, this means eight major releases, close to 100 million downloads, over 800 new developers, a large number of active volunteers in every corner of the planet, and millions of desktops "migrating" from proprietary to free office suites.
LibreOffice is the fastest growing free software project of this decade: for 48 months in a row, we have been able to attract at least three new code contributors per month, and an even higher number of volunteers active in localization, QA, marketing, communications and development of local communities.
The Document Foundation, so far, has been able to achieve the dream of the OpenOffice.org community: leverage the best practices of a fantastic project to create an even better one, based on the independence from a single company and the growth of a diverse ecosystem.
He also gave an indication of the uptake of LibreOffice by governments and companies:
Only a percentage of the public administrations and the companies make their migration public, for different reasons.
Including the French government, the Dutch government, the Spanish region of Valencia, the Danish health system, the Paris region, several German cities, several Italian regions and cities, the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, other Brazilian organizations, etcetera, we are over 1 million "official" migrations.
In addition, there are the ones who have migrated but do not announce the migration (at least as many as the "official" ones, but probably a larger number), plus all the others we are not able to reach.
That's all good news, if nothing remarkable. This, though, is something I've not seen before:
The Document Foundation (TDF), the charitable entity behind the world’s leading free office suite LibreOffice, seeks for companies to develop the base framework for an Android version of LibreOffice with basic editing capabilities to start work as soon as possible.
TDF currently plans to invest into getting LibreOffice, its free office suite, to mobile Android devices like tablets and smartphones, extending the existing desktop version of the software. For the volunteer community and the ecosystem to work on concrete features and an enduser-ready version that can be published, a base framework including the LibreOffice program modules Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw and Math is required. TDF seeks for companies to deliver this as a turnkey project until the end of February 2015.
Here are some more details:
The task offered is a project-based one-off, with no immediate plans to a mid- or long-term contractual relationship. It is offered on a freelance, project basis. Companies applying can be located anywhere in the world.
Applications from bidding groups are welcome, so are bids on individual work packages. Companies with certified LibreOffice developers are preferred over other applicants.
A timing and cost estimation for
the additional work leading to a fully-fledged Android version,
with full editing capabilities,
a fully-fledged touch user interface with more controls, based on input from our volunteer UX and design team,
available at Google Play (taking the 50 MB size limit into account, providing mechanism for downloading missing components)
built on the framework outlined before, are welcome.
Aside from representing a welcome move to produce an Android version of LibreOffice - something that is urgently needed if the project is to stay relevant for a world increasingly shifting to smartphones and tablets - it's fascinating to see an open source project putting work out to tender in this way. The other week, I wrote about the use of crowdfunding to support a new open source project; the Document Foundation's latest move is another important attempt to find new ways of creating free software.