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Apache OpenOffice Reaches 100 Million Downloads. Now What? 285

Posted by timothy
from the hundreds-of-millions-served dept.
We're thankfully long past the days when an emailed Word document was useless without a copy of Microsoft Word, and that's in large part thanks to the success of the OpenOffice family of word processors. "Family," because the OpenOffice name has been attached to several branches of a codebase that's gone through some serious evolution over the years, starting from its roots in closed-source StarOffice, acquired and open-sourced by Sun to become OpenOffice.org. The same software has led (via some hamfisted moves by Oracle after its acquisition of Sun) to the also-excellent LibreOffice. OpenOffice.org's direct descendant is Apache OpenOffice, and an anonymous reader writes with this excellent news from that project: "The Apache Software Foundation (ASF), the all-volunteer developers, stewards, and incubators of more than 170 Open Source projects and initiatives, announced today that Apache OpenOffice has been downloaded 100 million times. Over 100 million downloads, over 750 extensions, over 2,800 templates. But what does the community at Apache need to do to get the next 100 million?" If you want to play along, you can get the latest version of OpenOffice from SourceForge (Slashdot's corporate cousin). I wonder how many government offices -- the U.S. Federal government has long been Microsoft's biggest customer -- couldn't get along just fine with an open source word processor, even considering all the proprietary-format documents they're stuck with for now.
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Apache OpenOffice Reaches 100 Million Downloads. Now What?

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  • Use Libre Office (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 17, 2014 @10:56AM (#46779231)
    Libre Office is much better, IMO.
    • Re:Use Libre Office (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Megane (129182) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @02:21PM (#46781291) Homepage

      The other day I needed to open a Visio document. I had created it a few months ago, before my old XP PC got refreshed with a Win 7 box. For some reason, while it still had Office 2007, it was missing Visio. Even worse, it wanted to open IE, which wanted to use an ActiveX viewer plugin... which proceeded to turn the line art into a bitmap when printing to PDF.

      So I downloaded OO. No Visio for you! (This was actually the point at which I tried the ActiveX viewer.) Then I decided to check if Libre Office could handle it. Holy crap, yes, it opened it like a native document.

      Then I made sure to save a PDF version of my document just in case someone else wanted to see it later.

  • LibreOffice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rafael Jaimes III (3430609) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @10:59AM (#46779255)
    I thought LibreOffice was the true descendant of OpenOffice.org?
    • Re:LibreOffice (Score:5, Informative)

      by hawkbat05 (1952326) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:04AM (#46779329)

      LibreOffice is a fork of OpenOffice, created when some core developers were worried with Oracle's lack of attention to the project. Some time after that fork, Oracle donated OpenOffice.org code and trademarks to the Apache Software Foundation to continue the project.

    • Re:LibreOffice (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:25AM (#46779553)

      competing claims
        - LibreOfice is the descendant when it comes to who got most of the original developers themselves
        - Apache OpenOffice has the copyright and the original branding
      which is the fork and which the original ... is a matter of sometimes heated opinion.

      • Re:LibreOffice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Archangel Michael (180766) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @01:36PM (#46780815) Journal

        Which, means, they should be merged and brought back together.

        This is the unfortunate case of Open Source failure, and a pretty big one IMHO. The fact that they remain split is huge problem, because now I cannot recommend either, even though they are both decent. I have no idea which one will actually survive and prosper, or which one will die a slow painful death. Merging them is really the only REAL solution for my concerns.

        • As long as both Apache and The Document Foundation collaborate on future versions of the Open Document Format and ensure their codebases remain feature-equivalent, there's no major downside other than version confusion. On the other hand, I agree that it would be nice to see the codebases re-merge.
      • >which is the fork and which the original ... is a matter of sometimes heated opinion.

        I don't care too much about that. I am interested in which is better though.

        Which is better?

        • Re:LibreOffice (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Patch86 (1465427) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @02:43PM (#46781553)

          Debatable, but I would bet the long-term money on LibreOffice. Why? Licensing. LO is under the LGPL, while OO is under the APL. LO is able to reuse any OO code that they like, nicking any cool new features Apache develop. OO cannot- the LGPL will not allow it. So if OO develop any cool new features or improvements, they'll turn up in LO one release later. If LO develop any cool features or improvements of their own, it remains an LO exclusive.

    • by BenFenner (981342)
      Reply to undo moderation. Meant to choose Underrated, but for some reason it chose Overrated. Sorry. =/
  • by DogDude (805747) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:00AM (#46779293) Homepage
    We're thankfully long past the days when an emailed Word document was useless without a copy of Microsoft Word

    My first thought upon reading this was, "Right, because Microsoft has all of those various free Office viewers".
  • by urbanriot (924981) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:03AM (#46779317)
    With so many people experiencing issues with Microsoft Office 2013 activation and random requests to re-activate which result in error codes, or issues where "A problem has occurred" with no log entries or error codes when you try to install the software, it's quite possible Microsoft has strongly encouraged people to seek alternatives.

    Since experiencing so many reliability issues with Microsoft Office 2013, issues that did not exist with Microsoft Office 2010, I've become a vocal advocate for making the switch from Microsoft to either OpenOffice or LibreOffice.

    I often encourage OpenOffice for older folks that are looking for a more reliable experience while I suggest LibreOffice to those who want a feature rich experience and don't mind the occasional glitch or updating the software as regularly as they release updates. I feel both are great projects.
    • by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:12AM (#46779417)

      I think is has more to due with Microsoft lack of advancement in Office... For the most part what we are doing in Office 2013, is the same stuff we were doing in Office 95.
      Sure there were some incremental changes that took advantage of newer technologies, some new UI changes that I am not sure if it makes things better. But for the most part things haven't changed too much.
      Word is still a word processor,
      Excel is still a spreadsheet
      Outlook is still a memory hog
      Access is still causing businesses to slowly go bankrupt.
      Power Point is still making meetings boring.

      Using Open/Libra office, we get the stuff that we wan't it is compatible enough to not look like a jerk (say even 10 years ago) for not being able to read the document.

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Some of the bigger changes have to do with things like sharepoint integration, which really does work fairly well in newer versions of Office in a corporate setting.

        However, it still can be rather buggy, and doesn't play nicely with Chrome unless there is some plugin I'm not aware of (that is, the more web-based parts - if you just directly open a file from Office no browser is involved).

        • by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @01:34PM (#46780787)

          I really detest Sharepoint. It's the flavor of the moment at work. It's slow and saves from MS Office applications sometimes fail silently. It pretends to be a suitable replacement for shared network drives, but it doesn't work for that.

          I use it rather than the old Wiki (TWiki, no gem itself) just to be a good sport, but it really sucks. It really exposes how poorly integrated MS's own internal teams must me - it is such an obvious bolt-on.

      • by urbanriot (924981) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:24AM (#46779543)
        Microsoft's lack of advancement in Office is most definitely a cause as if you read all the marketing materials for Microsoft Office 2013, every single heading and sub-heading referred to the touch based experience. If you read the flyers when the software debut, there was zero reason to buy it unless you were using a touch screen.

        This is demonstrably the case upon firing the software up as the interface is horribly ugly and even Microsoft Outlook 2013 can be uninstalled and 2010 reinstalled in its place, and all the settings, mail profile information, .PST, autocomplete, etc., is in place. I don't think the majority of people would actually notice a difference flipping back to Outlook 2010 from 2013, other than a better interface with the older product.
    • Just bought a new laptop with Office 2013 Home / Student edition included. Went through the Office licence activation fine then got an obscure error message that Office installation cannot be completed because it is already partly installed. It gave a link to the MS website which gave no help at all; essentially it was an unknown problem. Tried rebooting and going through the install/activation process again a few times but always the same useless error message. In the end I thought "f*ck it" and completely
  • Microsoft claims 1 billion MS Office users. No doubt some/many are pirated, but that gives a sense for the scale of the potential user base for OpenOffice. And from what I've seen, Apache OpenOffice gets around 1 million downloads per week, a steady rate that can certainly continue for quite a while. So even if Apache did nothing, we would get to another 100 million downloads in another two years.

    The question is whether we want to glide or really take off?

    To really advance among mainstream end-users, pe

    • by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe&jwsmythe,com> on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:27AM (#46779575) Homepage Journal

      Microsoft is probably counting every OEM that ships with the trial version of Office, and all the bundled licenses, even if they aren't used.

      Most companies buy too many licenses, so they can be sure they have enough. So if we buy 50, and use 30, but only 10 use it on any sort of regular basis, MS will still count it as 50.

  • by schlachter (862210) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:11AM (#46779405)

    I've tried over the yrs to download the latest ver of OpenOffice and to give it a try and I always end up moving back to MSFT Word within a few days/weeks.

    It's not missing features per se, it's layout/UI awkwardness and smoothness.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JWSmythe (446288)

      Funny, I've tried MS Office a few times over the years. I usually go back to OpenOffice. If for nothing else, I install OpenOffice when I set up a new computer, since it's too much trouble to find an unused MS license outside of normal business hours. :)

      • by Drethon (1445051)
        I have MS Office because I had to have specific formatting for a thesis and a paper that was published from it. Since I have it I've just kept using it but I'm not sure I would start a new computer with MS Office.
    • Same here. I want to move away from MS but (in my case) LibreOffice doesn't quite make it. It does 90% of what I need, but I also need the remaining 10%. Also too many other people use MS products and the 95% compatibility just isn't enough.

      The one exception is LibreOffice draw which I use as my primary quick sketch / drawing package.

  • get the damn thing to work properly. I seem to have the magic touch to get every obscure and unexpected behavior to happen.
  • by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:18AM (#46779487)

    I use Apple's Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

  • Then again, that's my reaction to a lot of things, so....

  • by kbdd (823155) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:22AM (#46779529) Homepage
    I remember working on a document in Word 2003 with several large tables. Periodically, Word 2003 (which I had to use by corporate edict) would crash while working on one particularly large table, and would be unable to reload the document. I found out that loading the document in OpenOffice and saving it back immediately fixed whatever problem Word was having and I could work in Word for a while longer. I ended up having to do that every few days until I was done with the document.
    • by OneAhead (1495535)

      Ah, that would be the incremental saving of changes - good times! Another workaround was to use the Save as... function to save a fresh document with no incremental stuff in it. It even used to be posted on the Microsoft support site. AFAIK, they never got this feature right, and gave up on it when implementing the .docx format (I could be wrong!)

      Wow, this must have been the first time I said something "positive" about OOXML.

  • That's obvious... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:26AM (#46779573)

    I wonder how many government offices -- the U.S. Federal government has long been Microsoft's biggest customer -- couldn't get along just fine with an open source word processor, even considering all the proprietary-format documents they're stuck with for now.

    That's because Microsoft Office has long ceased being the proprietary alternative to OpenOffice/LibreOffice. Nowadays, any typical organization use Microsoft Office + Active Directory + SharePoint + Exchange et. al. complete with compliance with bullsh*t like HIPAA and FIPS 140-2, and OpenOffice/LibreOffice cannot simply become a drop-in replacement anymore.

  • by westlake (615356) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:45AM (#46779749)

    I wonder how many government offices -- the U.S. Federal government has long been Microsoft's biggest customer -- couldn't get along just fine with an open source word processor, even considering all the proprietary-format documents they're stuck with for now.

    Microsoft positions MS Office as part of an integrated solution for clerical work that scales to an enterprise of any size.

    Microsoft Office 365 for Health Organizations [microsoft.com]

    Microsoft has entered into a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with Texas, a pact that carries much more weight these days after the HIPAA omnibus rule was released in January.

    Implementing Office 365 for such a large network should serve as a sign that the state is comfortable enough with cloud computing that 100,000 employees, including the state Health and Human Services System, will be using the services.

    What will Texas Office 365 deal mean for healthcare security? [healthitsecurity.com] [Feb 2013]

  • Please Stop (Score:4, Interesting)

    by joelholdsworth (1095165) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:53AM (#46779821)

    ...collaborate and listen. LibreOffice has ~10 times the number of developers involved ( https://www.ohloh.net/p/libreo... [ohloh.net] , https://www.ohloh.net/p/openof... [ohloh.net] ), and it's a better project in every possible way. The only thing you have going for you is that name you inherited for Oracle. By carrying on with this project you're just continuing a fork that serves no purpose to the community. In fact it harms the community, because new-comers try AOO and think it's the best that the community can do, when LO has shown we can do so much better.

    The only upside, is that LO can import your work and benefit from what little improvements your small team are able to produce.

    • By carrying on with this project you're just continuing a fork that serves no purpose to the community.

      Actually, AOO 4.0 was the first one to have a sidebar (their answer to the ribbon?), and LO copied it later. Also, there are Apache developers committing a nontrivial amount of code to LO (one article I read said 400 of 3000 bugfixes in LO 4.1 were submitted by people with apache.org email addresses).

  • Macros. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 17, 2014 @12:10PM (#46779981)

    Macros are the main problem keeping back a switch to LibreOffice or OO.o. Also, paid commercial support (so that Joe Smith can call up an "engineer" at 3 AM on a holiday Sunday with an urgent issue and get a hotfix issued by 7 AM).

    The macro problem is bigger than most people (i.e., those outside Corporate or Public Sector America) realize. On many large enterprise systems, the computer is so locked down that to develop almost any kind of automation, or work productivity software, is nigh impossible. So, assuming you know some basic stuff about software development and you're tired of clicking and dragging on the same cells in Excel 500 billion times, you have two choices: either suck it up and click until you get a repetitive stress injury, or break out the VBA.

    Most enterprises (at least, those I've worked at) don't restrict the use of VBA macros, so they've become a sort of "programming environment of last resort" for worker bees in companies that are either too cheap, or too stupid to deploy actual development software like Visual Studio or Eclipse. And even those employees who decide to go off-roading and fly in the face of corporate policy to install "un-approved" software (heretics; how dare they!) will run into major roadblocks related to not having administrative privileges on their system.

    VBA code does not port seamlessly without major changes to the LibreOffice/OpenOffice environment; it basically has to be rewritten, depending on the complexity. Long story short, there are entire enterprise systems implemented in VBA (typically based on MS Access or MS Excel), often with copious use of Win32 API functions, which include networking, databases, custom file formats, custom GUIs (UserForms), and so on and so forth. These systems can save hundreds of hours of manual labor and improve the quality of life for people who work for a living and are just trying to get shit done, despite cloistered "departments" impinging from all sides, trying to impede their progress to the fullest extent possible due to NIH and general paranoia about software that they themselves didn't select (but when one of the IT guys who pulls the strings decides they really like some cool new program that helps THEM in THEIR job, of course it gets immediately installed on everyone's systems without so much as a security sniff-test).

    Hiring an intern to work on one of these for a summer or two, or hoping and praying that you recruit someone who's willing to work for near-minimum-wage with a background in programming, is often the only thing separating corporate drones from RSI-inducing repetitive work. And don't go to the IT department and ask them to develop or buy a system, oh no; they never have the budget, and even if they did, they wouldn't be able to sit down with your boss's boss's boss for a Project Scope Agreement meeting until July 2017.

    VBA, from a pragmatic perspective, is a loophole that skunkworks people have been gleefully exploiting for close to 20 years now. If you propose to do away with it by removing Office from peoples' computers and putting OO.o or LO in its place, you'll incite a riot. If you do it anyway, your business will grind to a halt as productivity and efficiency drop by a factor of 100.

    If you're an IT director with a hand in a decision like this, I urge you to survey ALL your employees -- not just the managers who have no clue what their employees do -- to see what impact a transition from MS Office to LO/OO.o would have. I'm not saying a move is impossible, but you need to do it in cooperation and coordination with your employees. Yes, even the inconvenient ones who like to download zipballs with those "Open Sauce" EXEs that you don't trust. They're the good guys; they're helping your company; and they're just trying to get their work done as efficiently as possible.

  • by cjjjer (530715) <cjjjerNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Thursday April 17, 2014 @12:21PM (#46780061)
    Only 1 million actual users who use it on a daily basis (I am just guessing here to prove a point). Downloads mean absolutely nothing, unless they have stats on if people actually use it and or keep it installed.
    • Actually, we do have those stats, via surveys. 78% of users who try OpenOffice continue using it.

  • My wife has a lot of technically unsophisticated clients. More than half came back with "I can't open this." Not worth the time to educate them, so we went back to Office.

  • by pubwvj (1045960) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @12:42PM (#46780243)

    I would love to see an alternative to Adobe for Photoshop, Acrobat and Illustrator. I have used Photoshop and Illustrator (licensed owner) since versions 1.0 and now have CS4. I don't want Adobe's Cloud version. I don't want to deal with the cloud or subscription based software. CS6 won't save files in CS4 format so I don't want it for that reason too. Just as we have OpenOffice it would be nice to have OpenCS.

  • by tadas (34825) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @12:50PM (#46780307)

    I'd *love* to ditch MS Office for any version of Open Office, but none of them give me MS Word's Outline Mode, an integral part of Word since Word for Windows back in the '90s.

    For you real old-timers, it's not KAMAS (a CP/M based outliner that I maintain has never been surpassed), but it's the only thing current that comes within shouting distance

    • Mod parent up. That's my favorite Word feature and my biggest disappointment with Libre/OpenOffice.
    • by overshoot (39700)

      Ah, yes. Issue number 3959. Originally filed April 10, 2002. More than twelve years ago. In that time it has remained in the top-voted issue list year-in and year-out. Others come and go, but 3959 keeps on pissing off users. At last look, there are about ten duplicates requests on file.

      Every few years some developer wanders by and tells the people following it that nobody needs outline view, or that there are tools available to do it, or whatever. Often, they close the issue. In effect, "I don't use

  • 1. The check is in the mail.
    2. I promise I won't come inside you.
    3. I hate Word.
  • dealing with bug/enhancement issues that have been pending for more than twelve years. Issue #3959 (notice the position in the queue?) has been either ignored or brushed off as unimportant since April of 2002, despite seniority and votes in the issues list.

    Classic case of writers telling programmers "this is a must-have function" and programmers responding with "I don't use it so neither do you."

  • Perhaps for programmers the need is not evident, but for anyone who writes long documents, it's indispensable. It's indispensable enough that I am still using Microsoft Word for anything that has any sort of header/subheader structure. OO and LO are OK for short letters and memos, but if it has more than 2 headings it gets clunky because of the lack of outline mode.

    The core difference between writing text and writing code, which apparently the programmers working on OO and LO fail to grasp, is that writers are producing text which will be read by humans, not executed by machines.You can't just comment out the cruft and do a GOTO jump over that module you decided you don't want, then tell them to go back 17 pages to pick up the information in paragraph 3. Writing needs structure and flow to lead the reader through the material in a way that make the content comprehensible. It needs primary and subordinate ideas. Order and levels of importance are important. In Microsoft Word, collapsing the document into Outline mode and seeing the heading and subheading structure makes the flow of the document visible, and more important, the means to change that flow is on the same screen. There is no interruption in the work flow.

    http://www.gigamonkeys.com/code-reading/ seems to understand it, going the other direction: most real code isn't actually in a form that can be simply read .... in order to grok it I have to essentially rewrite it. I'll start by renaming a few things so they make more sense to me and then I'll move things around to suit my ideas about how to organize code. Pretty soon I'll have gotten deep into the abstractions (or lack thereof) of the code and will start making bigger changes to the structure of the code. Once I've completely rewritten the thing I usually understand it pretty well and can even go back to the original and understand it too.

    Which leads me to "Issue 3959", wherein writers asked for this on 2002-04-10 20:39:19 UTC ... it's ranked as "Trivial" now. It has nothing to prevent implementation except the inability of the code maintainers to accept that writers really do know what they need in their tools.

    Here's the overview of Bug 3959 ... https://issues.apache.org/ooo/... [apache.org]

    OVERSHOOT wrote upstream: Ah, yes. Issue number 3959. Originally filed April 10, 2002. More than twelve years ago. In that time it has remained in the top-voted issue list year-in and year-out. Others come and go, but 3959 keeps on pissing off users. At last look, there are about ten duplicates requests on file.

    Every few years some developer wanders by and tells the people following it that nobody needs outline view, or that there are tools available to do it, or whatever. Often, they close the issue. In effect, "I don't use outline mode so obviously it's not important." The mailing list heats up for a while, the developer either mumbles something about maybe the team should look into it and vanishes or else just vanishes, but the issue is either reopened or left open. I've seen at least four of those cycles so far. We're probably due for another one.

    At this point, I suspect that 3959 will outlive (Open|Libre|Star)Office for the classic open-source software reason: if it doesn't scratch a developer's itch, it ain't happening. And apparently, developers don't outline, edit, or otherwise structure their writing or much care about the people who do.

    As the wisdom of XKCD proves - http://www.xkcd.com/619/ [xkcd.com]

How many QA engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 3: 1 to screw it in and 2 to say "I told you so" when it doesn't work.

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