Libreoffice vs openoffice

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.

LibreOffice Homepage
Apache OpenOffice Homepage 

There Are 8 Comments

  1. I have been LibreOffice on my Mac for a while now. It’s got a good interface and rather easy to use. The files created in Microsoft Office edit properly.

    I haven’t tried any major editting on excel work to see if there really is perfect compatibility with Office, but it definitely is a good free software if you don’t want to shell out a lot of money for Microsoft Office

  2. Also, one advantage that LibreOffice has is that they can take code from the Apache OpenOffice project but not the opposite. This is due to their different open source licences.

    As you said, LibreOffice developement is in full swing and mostly all Linux distros deploy it now.

  3. I used OpenOffice on my Mac in college (2008). It was great, except that I always had to remember to open my documents on a Windows PC in Microsoft Office before handing them in. There are some minor issues with formatting between them that couldn’t be ignored.

    • I remember having some issues with OO in the mid Ot’s but since version 3.3 I have not had issues with the OO conversion to MS format. Not that I write essays too often – OO is mostly used for my resume. When MS office converted to an XML format output, it became easy to do the conversion. I think MS office now also supports the opendoc format.

      I suppose I should check out LibreOffice, but with the limited need of a document editor at home (at least until my daughters are old enough to need to start writing essays) there is no pressing need.

  4. this article was way too short, what it had was nice, but from the title i expected a comparison of the two different office suites, something showing where and how they are different and this article did not show that at all

    • The differences right now are still minimal since it hasn’t been that long since LibreOffice forked OpenOffice. So the background I thought was more important than looking at the couple features they have different.

  5. “Also, one advantage that LibreOffice has is that they can take code from the Apache OpenOffice project but not the opposite. This is due to their different open source licences.”

    is that because of the (restrictive) GPL licence?

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