Apache OpenOffice 3.4 makes official debut; LibreOffice makes its case

Let the games begin. Tuesday, the Apache Software Foundation announced the first official release of Apache OpenOffice, version 3.4, since Oracle donated it to the ASF in mid 2011.
Written by Paula Rooney, Contributor

As expected, the first version of OpenOffice under new management -- the Apache Software Foundation -- has been released.

Apache OpenOffice 3.4 Writer

Apache OpenOffice 3.4 Writer

Apache OpenOffice 3.4, which had been in incubation since Oracle donated the code to the ASF mid last year, offers improved performance and a number of new features and enhancements and is available on Windows, MacIntosh and Linux and in 15 languages as of today.

The list of new bells and whistles -- such as improved ODF support, including new ODF 1.2 encryption option, new spreadsheet functions, an enhanced pivot table support in Calc and enhanced graphics -- is welcome news.

Gallery: Apache OpenOffice 3.4 makes official debut (screenshots)

But for the Apache Software Foundation -- and for long term supporters of the open source Office suite -- this next stage of development , free from vendor control -- offers its best chance to date to attract more users and backers. IBM, which discontinued its own Symphony suite some time ago, is reportedly planning a new product based on the Apache OpenOffice.

As noted by the ASF today, Sun acquired the former StarOffice suite (developed by StarDivision in Germany) in 1999. Oracle renamed it Oracle OpenOffice after acquiring Sun but discontinued its development in mid 2010. Oracle announced its donation to the ASF in mid 2011.

It has been in incubation since then and is being officially released by the ASF under the Apache 2.0 license today free of charge.

Not all would agree with Apache's point of view. The Document Foundation, which developed its own LibreOffice fork of OpenOffice after Oracle signaled its intention to cease development of the office suite, holds that its own organization is independent of vendor control and is the leading open source developer of OpenOffice today.

It has received the support of SUSE , Ubuntu and Intel. The Document Foundation is incorporated in Germany.

One LibreOffice spokesman, a longtime OpenOffiice developer and top SUSE engineer, disputed that the Apache license is the best open source license.

"We find this announcement particularly interesting as, a year after Oracle shuttered OpenOffice.org, the Incubator (also cited as Apache) now have their release out. As we said when this move was announced, this has a positive angle, allowing LibreOffice to adopt a more future-proof copy-left licensing model.  It also goes without saying that SUSE continues to provide a fully supported SUSE LibreOffice product on Windows and Linux built from the same code base.  I have a more detailed comparison on my blog, but let me focus on the great things that are happening in LibreOffice Land.

"We've got our monthly release of 3.5.3 out, steadily increasing quality, and our 3.6 release is one month away from feature freeze and looking great - so we continue to execute on our time-based release schedule. Also, yesterday we announced an exciting certification program to increase the confidence of purchasers of support and services around LibreOffice,” said Michael Meeks, Distinguished Engineer at SUSE.

Let the games begin.

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