I know some people who are casual Linux users that periodically fire up new releases of popular distributions to see how things are going in the world of Linux. One of the things I’ve had a lot of comments on is how several Linux distributions (Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and most others) have stopped shipping OpenOffice.org with their operating systems and have switched to LibreOffice. Many of the Linux distributions started making the switch over a year ago, but people are still just getting wind of it.
So what are the differences between OpenOffice.org (now called Apache OpenOffice) and LibreOffice. Well, they are still very similar. About two years ago LibreOffice forked the OpenOffice.org code and began their own project. Why did LibreOffice start up in the first place? For that lets take a brief look at a timeline of events:
- August 1999 – Sun Microsystems buys a company (StarDivision) and gets StarOffice.
- October 2000 – An open source version of StarOffice, called OpenOffice.org, was released.
- … almost 10 years goes by with several major and successful OpenOffice.org releases.
- January 2010 – Oracle buys Sun Microsystems.
- September 2010 – Some members that worked on OpenOffice.org started “The Document Foundation” due to concern over the future of OpenOffice.org now that Oracle owns it. The concerns were understood since Oracle took the OpenSolaris project, which had been around for nearly 20-years, and discontinued open development of it.
- January 2011 – OpenOffice.org 3.3 released.
- January 2011 – LibreOffice 3.3 was released (based on OpenOffice.org 3.3). This is the first stable version of the product.
- April 2011 – Oracle announces that it will no longer be supporting development of OpenOffice.org.
- June 2011 – Oracle announces that they will contribute OpenOffice.org (the trademark and the code) to the Apache Software Foundation.
- June 2011 – LibreOffice 3.4 released.
- February 2012 – LibreOffice 3.5 released.
- May 2012 – Apache OpenOffice 3.4 released. Note that it’s not called “OpenOffice.org” anymore, and is instead called “Apache OpenOffice”.
Given all of the complexity over the events that occurred it comes as no surprise that most of the Linux distributions are already bundling LibreOffice with their OS releases. Development on Apache OpenOffice isn’t nearly as vigorous as that of LibreOffice, and so that means LibreOffice will continue pulling ahead when it comes to features and functionality. So if you’re trying to determine which free office suite you should go with I’d recommend LibreOffice.