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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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  • by Palestrina (715471) * on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:06AM (#46779347) Homepage

    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, people like your mother, this will only happen as average people, not just the techies, learn about open source and are comfortable with it. This means better documentation, especially geared toward newbies.

    To advance among corporate users OpenOffice needs better interop with Microsoft Office. Yes, I hate to say that as much as you probably hate to hear it, but it is the reality we (some of us at least) live with.

    Finally, we should find a way to extend the OpenOffice brand to the web and tablet editing experience, since traditional desktop PC use is a diminishing proposition.

  • by Palestrina (715471) * on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:15AM (#46779453) Homepage

    I actually have been looking into that question and tracking it via surveys. Of those who tried OpenOffice, 78% continued to use it "sometimes" or "regularly":

    See: http://www.robweir.com/blog/20... [robweir.com]

    Unless you are a business user you are unlikely to use any office application daily.

  • 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 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.
  • by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe.jwsmythe@com> on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:24AM (#46779547) Homepage Journal

    For most users that I've known who were willing to try OpenOffice, Calc worked fine for them.

    The problem is Outlook and Exchange. The users see the mail client, calendering, and the like, as essential. The word processor and spreadsheet are secondary to that. Once some exec starts talking to sales about getting just Outlook, they are sold on the wonders of getting the whole MSOffice suite.

    There are enough users who refuse to even try OpenOffice for the word processor. "I can't because...". I've tricked some users into switching, by just giving them shortcuts on their desktop with the MS names instead of the OO names, and changing the default save types to the MS counterpart. When they ask about why it looks different, I just tell them "oh, this is the newer version.", and they're fine.

  • 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.

  • by dejanc (1528235) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:36AM (#46779661)

    For most users that I've known who were willing to try OpenOffice, Calc worked fine for them.

    When they ask about why it looks different, I just tell them "oh, this is the newer version.", and they're fine.

    You are describing my experience with home users, e.g. people who use Word to type out a school assignment or a project report and then print it.

    People who do "serious" work with Office have real problems migrating. Excel formulas will not always successfully transfer to Calc, which means old spreadsheets can't be used and they can't be shared with people still using MS products.

    Write and Word do have incompatibilities. E.g. one bug lingers around for years: when a header is saved in OpenOffice format and then saved as a Word document, it will appear on all pages and not only on the first page.

    I never tried to open a MS Access database in OpenOffice Base, but Base does have stability and bug issues, at least on Mac (just yesterday I had problems with it crashing).

    I won't even go into macros, templates, etc.

    Switching from MS Office to OpenOffice / LibreOffice is not easy at all for power users. To put into geek terms: imagine switching from Apache to Lighttpd. For most things, it will be great. But, if you have some serious .htaccess magic going on or are relying on mods which exist only for Apache - well, you are out of luck and you are probably not going anywhere.

    Fresh start with OO/LO, on the other hand, is a breeze :)

  • 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 bucket_brigade (1079247) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @11:53AM (#46779823)
    In the context of everything else that is available (R, etc), yes.
  • by Wubble (3502277) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @12:03PM (#46779901)
    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 unistalled Office. I'm now considering whether to install LIbreOffice or Apache OpenOffice; Microsoft had their chance and blew it.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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