Free office suite coming to the Mac

The OpenOffice.org office suite has made its first Mac OS X appearance in the form of a developer release - but it still needs some finishing touches

OpenOffice.org, the open-source office suite project, has reached a milestone in porting the software to Mac OS X with a release for Mac developers.

OpenOffice is a project initiated by Sun Microsystems to offer a free, open-source alternative to Microsoft Office, which dominates the productivity software market. OpenOffice has been receiving more attention in recent months amid concern over Microsoft's increasingly expensive licensing plans. However, until now it has only been available on Linux, Windows and Unix platforms.

The current "pre-alpha" version is designed for developers familiar with Mac OS X development. OpenOffice.org hopes that the release will draw more developers on board to fashion the software into a useable beta-test version for Mac users. Among the pieces yet to be added is Mac OS X's distinctive Aqua interface.

The developer release runs on Mac OS X or Darwin, OS X's core, which includes elements from open-source projects Mach and BSD. The software uses the X11 windowing system, and uses a ZeroG installer. It is available only in English for now, OpenOffice.org said.

It might seem that a Mac OS X version of OpenOffice would be a breeze, as OS X is based on a version of Unix. However, it has taken slightly more than a year for developers to reach the present stage -- they began in April 2001, when Sun released the StarOffice code under an open-source licence.

Open-source software lets developers freely modify the original programming code, or source code, and redistribute the software, as long as all the redistributed versions can themselves be modified and redistributed. OpenOffice.org's development team, like that of many open-source projects, is made up of thousands of volunteers collaborating over the Internet; it also includes many Sun engineers.

"I have been astonished at the speed and quality of the work the community has done. We have been working together in a tight, efficient ensemble, and have now something we can use," said Ed Peterlin, community developer, OpenOffice.org, in a statement.

The project recently released OpenOffice.org version 1.0 for Windows and Unix-like platforms. Sun is also planning to sell version 6.0 of StarOffice in the near future, which is based on the same code as OpenOffice with some enhancements.


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