The Document Foundation Blog


Getting Close to LibreOffice 4.1

Filed under: Community, Foundation, LibreOffice — italovignoli @ 00:07

I still remember the second I pushed the “send” button of the very first TDF press release, on September 28, 2010. A simple gesture, and a giant leap forward for the free office suite ecosystem.

On that day, though, the feeling was completely different.

Salto AngelWith some friends, I have made the following parallel to give a sense of the challenge: the decision to launch an independent foundation focused on the future of OpenOffice – and, as a consequence, to fork the software – was like diving from Salto Angel into the pond some 900 meters downhill instead of getting a regular shower during a hot summer day.

In both cased, you end up wet and refreshed…

Michael Meeks, who is British and definitely more rational than myself (the old grumpy emotional latin of the group) has a more rational take.

We were a group of friends who gathered – for different reasons and objectives – around OpenOffice between 2001 and 2005, and then spent the following 5 years in endless discussions about a different vision for the future of OOo.

A fundamental part of this vision was to create a happy home for developers and a welcoming atmosphere for all contributors.

At the time of the announcement, LibreOffice had 20 developers, and we all knew that 20 developers were not enough to manage and improve the 12 million lines of LibreOffice source code. Because of this fact, our announcement raised more than one eyebrow amongst people who – for different reasons – were not directly involved in the project.

Growth of DevelopersBut we had the vision of the happy home, which was strong enough to attract over 80 developers during October 2010, and then another 580 since then. Developers who come to see and then decide how much they want to get involved in the project.

The histogram shows that we have been able to attract developers on a regular basis. Even after three years, we continue to enjoy working with new developers each week. We’re grateful for all the work that lots of people have contributed to our project so far, and we will try to maintain the welcoming atmosphere in the future.

Developers on a Monthly BasisIn fact, the number of regular contributors has grown from just over 50 per month in the second half of 2011 to around 100 per month in the first half of 2013. This has been reflected in the number of developers active during the last 12 months which is now over 350.

This means that about 50% of all developers attracted by the project have contributed during the last 12 months. Furthermore, there is a growing number of core developers who get paid to hack LibreOffice code and therefore are working on a full time basis.

Long TailIf we look at the distribution of the 352 developers active during the last 12 months by number of commits, we realize that there is a long tail of contributors (which is healthy for the project). In addition, if we look at the pie of the 49 top developers with 50+ commits during the last 12 months, we find a lot of volunteers (which is even healthier for the project).

The two donut charts visualize the growth of diversity in our project, both in term of contributions by companies and groups and in term of individual contributors. Both charts compare the situation at the end of the first 12 months (September 2011) with the situation at the end of June 2013.

Donut Chart OneThe first shows the growth of the number of companies contributing to the project and the increasing weight of code developed by volunteers, SUSE and RedHat. At the same time, it shows the shrinking weight of legacy code inherited from OOo.

The second shows the distribution of contributors by affiliation. The largest group are volunteer developers, followed by the shrinking slice of OOo hackers, and by the many companies and organizations contributing to LibreOffice.

Donut Chart TwoFor completeness, these numbers also credit a few developers at Apache for work of theirs imported to LibreOffice. Naturally, we do not claim them as LibreOffice contributors, although we are grateful for their work.

LibreOffice 4.1 will be our sixth major release, and another giant leap forward in term of interoperability with proprietary file formats.

We have already provided a wealth of information on this subject, through the blog posts of Fridrich Strba, Eilidh McAdam and Miklos Vajna, three of the hackers most involved in creating or improving filters for proprietary file formats.

In addition, Michael Meeks has extensively described the less visible development activity focused on making LibreOffice source code leaner and cleaner. You can read the different steps here, here and here.

We have also summarized in a web page the most significant features of the best free office suite ever. LibreOffice 4.1 will be a landmark for interoperability, with dozens of improvements and new features focused on this specific issue.

Of course, if you want to dig deeply into the single new features, the pages we prepared for each major announcement might help in getting a better picture: 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 4.0 and eventually 4.1.

I look forward to firing another major release announcement in a few days. This time, I will push the button with a completely different mood, as most of our dreams have already come true.

Today, we have (1) a free office suite we can be very proud of, based on the superior qualities of the copyleft license; (2) a solid and independent foundation which represents a large and diverse global community, based on meritocracy and independence from a single corporate vendor; and (3) a bright future.

HINT: double clicking on visuals will open a larger image, which can be used for publication.

Sources of Data: Ohloh for histograms and pie charts, The Document Foundation for donut charts.


  1. Congratulations for reaching this far, thanks for the retrospective and all the hard work! :) It would quite nice if we had updates on how much the code has been cleaned up to date, and what are the perspectives on the UI.

    Comment by Nicolae Crefelean — 2013/07/22 @ 01:05

    • Is the UI still ugly?

      Comment by Dave — 2013/07/22 @ 07:40

      • No, it’s not ugly. It’s just follows the old UI standards, which for some reasons bugs various people accustomed to the new ribbon interface introduced by Microsoft.

        Comment by Nicolae Crefelean — 2013/07/22 @ 09:14

      • I don’t think “ugly” is correct, although it is quite outmoded, and in desperate need of a rethink. With screens of such high resolution and large size nowadays, the current toolbar/menu combination requires far too many mouse movements to be efficient. I was on the UI revamp mailing list for OO prior to the split to Libre Office, and repeatedly urged more use of context/right-click menus that were sensitive to the location of the mouse pointer. I am no fan of the MS Ribbon either, because again, it obliges the user to take their focus away from the workspace to gain access a tool. In effect the Ribbon is little more than a toolbar. Users deserve to have the tool they want at their mouse pointer, not on the other side of the screen. Floating palettes seem to always be in the way, and a sidebar is just a relocated toolbar made wide. That said, I like LO and think the Foundation is working pretty hard, producing impressive results for the resources available. And with LO feature-rich, perhaps it is time to update the UI.

        Comment by Michael Pless — 2013/07/24 @ 06:43

  2. Good work and much appreciated.

    It might be interesting to see doughnuts of the other teams, such as documentation. Some, such as Marketing or User Support are difficult to quantify in any meaningful way. Also it would be interesting to see Apache’s equivalent doughnuts to see if they give credit to code that was developed for LibreOffice or written for both at the same time.

    Dave, you could try personalising your UI
    (easiest answer that is quickest to implement), or you could join in with the Design Team at TDF’s LibreOffice, or you could theme your whole OS or even move to a less ugly OS. The Design Team is quite tiny and a lot of work gets done outside the team so if you did join the team you might find you could push your ideas forwards more easily and gain skills&knowledge from the rest of the team on how to do so.

    Anyway, getting back to the original 20! Good work all!!! :)
    Regards from
    Tom :)

    Comment by Tom — 2013/07/22 @ 10:02

  3. Kudos – and from us users, many thanks – to the developers !…


    Comment by mhenriday — 2013/07/22 @ 10:55

  4. Hi :)
    I found it interesting that only 75% of the devs are volunteers. There’s a 12% of devs hidden within the old legacy OOo code that we can’t really pin down as to how many of them were volunteers. It’s interesting to see that of the remainder most seem to be from SuSE but there are others from Redhat, Canonical, Apache and others too.

    From the other doughnut we see that the 75% contribute around 33% of the commits despite not being able to spend all their working day working at it. Of the paid devs it seems that Redhat devs commit about the same amount as SuSE employees but i think part of the skew there is due to one SuSE employee being a lot like a team leader or top-level manager and also doing other vital work as well as getting into the code. Top marks to both Redhat and SuSE! :D

    Congrats to all and many thanks again from
    Tom :)

    Comment by Tom — 2013/07/22 @ 20:35

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