Open Source Suites Highly Active

While the news about the ongoing Oracle-Google trial in the US has been holding my attention, there have been a sequence of news releases about desktop productivity showing up over the last few weeks. It's all too good to miss, so here are...

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While the news about the ongoing Oracle-Google trial in the US has been holding my attention, there have been a sequence of news releases about desktop productivity showing up over the last few weeks. It's all too good to miss, so here are summaries in the order the news broke:

  • First, Calligra Suite is starting to look interesting. They have released version 2.4.1 of Calligra Suite, and it's a fine step forward. With its roots in the K Desktop Environment (KDE) it's only realistically available for GNU/Linux at present, but there's an experimental Windows build and talk of a future mac build. The user interface is clear and appealing and there's support for the important Open Document Format (ODF) file format. It's available online. The project has also announced it's Google Summer of Code student activities, which will add useful new capabilities when they are ready.

  • Keeping up its regular schedule of releases, LibreOffice brought out release 3.5.3, offering further polishing of the 3.5 line first released in February. The project also announced details of the work planned by the ten volunteers sponsored by Google's Summer of Code initiative. LibreOffice 3.5 offers versions for a wide range of platforms including most versions of Windows, Mac and GNU/Linux (where it's usually available bundled in the release or via the package manager), plus various BSD UNIX variants. It's available for download.

  • LibreOffice's host non-profit The Document Foundation (where I am a volunteer) also announced a novel new Certification scheme. I've not seen anything like this from an open source community before, but it promises to provide a valuable fact-based metric to identify community members who can offer development, support and training services for LibreOffice. This is a bold and innovative move that could be of immense benefit to commercial and government organisations deploying LibreOffice. The Certification Committee will be meeting for the first time in May at LinuxTag in Germany.

  • You may recall that about a year ago, Oracle switched the open source license to the OpenOffice.org copyrights it bought with Sun over to the Apache License and donated the trademark to Apache. Apache then started an "incubator podling" - a sandbox for a new community to form and prove itself worthy of full Apache status. With IBM staff doing the majority of the heavy development work according to Ohloh, the podling (where I am also a volunteer) has finally released a version of the v3.4 code Oracle froze back in 2010 as an Apache-approved release.
    While it may not look much (there are few new capabilities beyond what Oracle handed over), like a duck on a lake the serenity conceals a lot of paddling. All the code Oracle didn't own, which would have been licensed in a way not permitted for Apache projects, has been ripped out and mostly replaced with alternatives; capabilities that relied on Oracle servers (like the update and extensions library functions) have been migrated; graphics have been changed.
    IBM's Rob Weir announced the availability of this regroomed v3.4 yesterday and it's available for download. The download numbers will doubtless be enormous due to the enduring brand strength OpenOffice.org built on Windows under Sun, but as Bruce Byfield hints, it's probably the next release that will be worth evaluating.

It's great to see such a vibrant and competitive marketplace for these free and open source tools.I remember being told back at the start of the last decade that there was no hope for competition against Microsoft Office; today, we see multiple open source projects jockeying for excellence and, with their excellent support for Open Document Format, becoming highly viable enterprise choices.


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