OpenOffice developers clear Visual Studio licensing hurdle

Update: A project to create a Swahili version of OpenOffice.org has found that Microsoft's licensing structure can hamper open source development
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor
Developers will be able to make a Swahili version of OpenOffice.org (OOo) available on the Microsoft Windows platform, after having a licensed copy of Microsoft Visual Studio donated to them.

The final version of Jambo OpenOffice.org -- a Swahili version of the open source productivity suite -- is due to be released at the end of February, according to Alberto Escudero-Pascual, the project's technical coordinator.

Escudero-Pascual said on Friday that the cost of Microsoft Visual Studio was too much for the Tanzania-based project as a single copy of Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2002 would have cost "thousands of dollars", which is more than the average Tanzanian earns in a year.

Visual Studio .NET 2003 is available in various editions including a Professional Edition that costs $799, an Enterprise Developer edition that costs $1,799, and an Enterprise Architect edition that costs $2,499. The cost of these editions may vary according to the reseller, according to the Microsoft Web site.

Visual Studio is Microsoft's integrated development environment, and contains tools for editing, debugging, compiling and linking code.

The Jambo project was only able to produce a version of OOo for Windows after a Spanish software company footed the bill. The project team released a test version of Jambo OOo on Linux last year.

Although Microsoft provides a free compiler for the Windows platform, the Visual C++ Toolkit, this toolkit does not contain a debugger or optimiser which means that it is less suitable for compiling OOo for the Windows platform than Visual Studio.

There are various free development environments available for Linux, including KDevelop, which has various features including debugging and version control facilities.

Escudero-Pascual said that as the OOo source code is about 300MB in size, a debug environment is "mandatory".

Michael Meeks, a UK-based OOo developer, said he uses Visual Studio to compile the code, as the free compilers do not contain an optimiser.

"We are doing work to make it compile with free compilers, but the optimiser is not there so the code is slower and larger," said Meeks. "You need one copy of Visual Studio otherwise you end up with an un-optimised mess."

Mark Quirk, the head of technology at the Microsoft developer and platform group, said on Tuesday that a debugger is available free of charge with the Platform Software Developer Kit (SDK) and that an optimising compiler was added to the free Visual C++ Toolkit 18 months ago.

The advantage of Visual Studio over the free toolkits is that the product improves productivity as the compiler, debugger and development environment are integrated, according to Quirk.

According to the Microsoft Web site, developers may wish to upgrade to Visual Studio as it "includes many additional tools and features for C++ developers, including a professional debugger and code editor."

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