Free Software Foundation favors LibreOffice over OpenOffice

Free Software Foundation favors LibreOffice over OpenOffice

Summary: Some people in the open-source community are not at all pleased that Oracle has given OpenOffice to Apache and so they are throwing their support behind LibreOffice.

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When Oracle, IBM, and the Apache Software Foundation jointly announced last week that OpenOffice.org would become an official Apache project, some open-source developers were not happy. The Document Foundation's LibreOffice programmers were really not pleased. Now, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) is coming out against the deal.

In a statement that will be released later today, June 10th, 2011, the FSF states that the "OpenOffice.org is an important piece of free software, and many of its supporters suggest that this change will give them more control over the project's future direction. However, users and contributors should be aware that, as part of this transition, it will become easier for proprietary software developers to distribute OpenOffice.org as non-free software."

The FSF continues:

All Apache projects are distributed under the terms of the Apache License. This is a non-copyleft free software license; anybody who receives the software can distribute it to others under non-free terms.

Such a licensing strategy represents a significant policy change for OpenOffice.org. Previously, the software was distributed under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) and Mozilla Public License (MPL).

Both of these licenses implement a weak copyleft; the original core software must be published under the same terms so every recipient can share and modify it, but developers who write new software on top of it may distribute that work under a non-free license. Free software developers are clearly comfortable with a partial copyleft when it's appropriate; in numerous surveys of free software projects, the LGPL is commonly listed as the second-most popular license (after the GNU General Public License), or else follows close behind.

While we do recommend the Apache License in specific situations, we do not believe it is the best choice for software like OpenOffice.org. This situation calls for copyleft, because the gains free software stands to make from a non-copyleft license don't justify giving a handout to proprietary software developers.

Fortunately, there's a ready alternative for people who want to work with a productivity suite that does more to protect their freedom: LibreOffice. Anybody who's comfortable with OpenOffice.org will find a familiar interface and feature set in LibreOffice, because it was originally based on the same source code. Since September 2010, numerous contributors have been working to improve the software, and the project's legal steward, The Document Foundation, is committed to keeping it licensed under the LGPL and MPL.

In addition to the FSF's licensing concerns, a former Microsoft developer and now free-software-advocate Keith Curtis described several practical programming issues for why LibreOffice is the better choice for would be open-source office suite devlopers in an open letter to an Apache mailing list.

Curtis lists numerous reasons for this. These include:

  • This s mostly a code dump, not the set of 50(?) full-time engineers who have created been maintaining this code.
  • This technology is massive. It is about the same size as the Linux kernel (10 million lines).
  • The Apache foundation has a lot of experience, but none with this codebase. Therefore, their help will be limited. It is like asking a surgeon to fix your car.
  • The code dump is missing a lot (filters, images, translations, etc.)
  • There is nothing to incubate. LibreOffice has just built everything you need.

Thus Curits and the FSF are in agreement when the FSF states that: "Anybody who plans to use or contribute to one of these productivity suites should understand how these policies affect them, and consider which better complement their own goals. While both pass the most important test of being free software, we recommend LibreOffice because its policies do significantly more to promote the cause of free software."

They're not the only ones. I confess that I also see a brighter future for LibreOffice than I do for OpenOffice. It's not just that the LGPL is the better license, it's that, as Curtis states, LibreOffice is where the developers are. Without top programmers, OpenOffice is little more than a brand and code destined to become obsolete.

Related Stories:

LibreOffice motors right along with a new release

Oracle gives OpenOffice to Apache

Novell will continue to support LibreOffice

First LibreOffice Release arrives

Oracle, LibreOffice: ideally a co-opetition, not competition

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54 comments
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  • WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

    WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA I'm taking my ball home. And theses are the ones were Sposato trust??LOL. Linux and FOSS is bad news as you can see from whats happening here andddddd the Sony BS."You take our linux away ,we will destroy you". Nope Ya get what ya pay for and free has too high a cost
    Stan57
    • I guess that is why ....

      @Stan57

      Linux, derivatives and other FOSS SW is slowly taking over the world. Keep on panicking.
      Economister
    • RE: Free Software Foundation favors LibreOffice over OpenOffice

      @Stan57 You should refrain from posting comments on things you don't know about.
      timspublic1@...
    • RE: Free Software Foundation favors LibreOffice over OpenOffice

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      upinson
  • Thanks

    I will stay away from OpenOffice, and choose LibreOffice when the time comes (soon).
    Economister
    • RE: Free Software Foundation favors LibreOffice over OpenOffice

      @Economister
      Ditto here. GPL is superior to Apache License.
      Linux Geek
      • RE: Free Software Foundation favors LibreOffice over OpenOffice

        @Linux Geek I'll be switching back to OpenOffice. The GPL is too restrictive.
        smbarbour
      • RE: Free Software Foundation favors LibreOffice over OpenOffice

        @Linux Geek It's not about licenses, it's about which will actually work better for you.
        jgm@...
  • RE: Free Software Foundation favors LibreOffice over OpenOffice

    And no one favors the Free Softwar Foundation. I'll be staying away from LibreOffice and OpenOffice just to be on the safe side.
    LoverockDavidson
    • Really?

      @LoverockDavidson

      Red Hat does. So does IBM.

      So to the majority of developers in the world.
      And base on the past, your opinion is in the gutter.
      jessepollard
    • RE: Free Software Foundation favors LibreOffice over OpenOffice

      @LoverockDavidson
      you stay away from the free office packages pal. You obviously have far more money than sense. What about all the people who cannot afford the extortionate amounts that MS charges for it's software? Here in the UK we have something called minimum wage ( I hasten to add, that as a successful business owner I'm not on minimum wages) and as such many people can't afford MS Office. You keep throwing your money around fella, I for one can't afford to waste mine.
      The Boy Lard
  • LibreOffice sucks!

    I recently tried LibreOffice on a laptop that didn't have an office suite. The "brand" may be a little faster than OpenOffice, but the product output sucks.

    - Buggy functionality. Doing something as simple as formatting a header did not work. The header kept changing format as I scrolled up and down the document.

    - Office support is WORST than in OpenOffice. In fact, I would say it is completely unusable. Saved the document in MS Word 97 format .... got a document with all the text in a single line ... letters on top of letters. The document was nothing more than a basic letter with single level bullets.

    Why the hell would anybody think that this "brand" is anything but garbage?
    wackoae
    • because it is free and open

      @wackoae It's software with a "philosophy". It's not about making something that works well for users, it's about sticking it to the man (Oracle and MS)!

      If your needs are light, go with GoogleDocs. If not, then pay for Office, it is worth the money.
      otaddy
      • I would not suggest GoogleDocs to my worst enemy

        @otaddy Sorry but GoogleDocs is just as garbage as LibreOffice. In fact, in many ways it is WORST.
        wackoae
      • RE: Free Software Foundation favors LibreOffice over OpenOffice

        @wackoae While you might not like GoogleDocs, I think it is going to be the only true competitor to MS Office. Google will invest the time and money to improve this product and they wont have to bother with pleasing the "community".

        This FOSS in-fighting is getting old..stop arguing about stupidities and improve your products already!
        otaddy
      • RE: Free Software Foundation favors LibreOffice over OpenOffice

        @otaddy

        GoogleDocs is not an office suite, it is just more Google spyware. Who wants Google reading all their docs on top of everything else they know about you?

        I, and millions of other users, have used OpenOffice and will switch to LibreOffice quite successfully.
        jorjitop
      • RE: Free Software Foundation favors LibreOffice over OpenOffice

        @otaddy

        Yes because creating something that doesn't work well for users is really sticking it to the companies that make things that work well for the user.

        If you were being sarcastic I apologize but if not then I hope you understand why nobody other than 0.0001% of the population has heard of or knows what OpenOffice/LibreOffice and Linux are.
        kyleoster
      • RE: Free Software Foundation favors LibreOffice over OpenOffice

        @kyleoster Assuming a world population of 7 billion, I'm pretty sure more than 7000 people have heard of OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice.

        Of course, 90% of all statistics are completely fabricated anyway... X-)

        -=B
        BGunnells
    • RE: Free Software Foundation favors LibreOffice over OpenOffice

      @wackoae
      I suspect that there was something wrong with your installation. OO.o and LO use style-based word processors, meaning that simple formatting works extremely well, often significantly better than MS Word. The errors you describe shouldn't be happening in a healthy installation.
      daengbo
      • Sure it must be ...

        @daengbo ... because I'm too stupid to figure out how to run an installer and I never have use OpenOffice before

        I guess having used OpenOffice at home since it was just StarOffice makes me a complete ignorant of the platform.
        wackoae