Open Letter to Apache OpenOffice

Today marks 20 years since the source code to OpenOffice was released. And today we say: LibreOffice is the future of OpenOffice. Let’s all get behind it!

It’s great to have a rich and diverse set of free and open source software projects. Hundreds of millions of people around the world have benefited from the choice and customisation that they bring. But sometimes, users can lose out when they’re not aware of newer alternatives, or when one brand overshadows another.

OpenOffice(.org) – the “father project” of LibreOffice – was a great office suite, and changed the world. It has a fascinating history, but since 2014, Apache OpenOffice (its current home) hasn’t had a single major release. That’s right – no significant new features or major updates have arrived in over six years. Very few minor releases have been made, and there have been issues with timely security updates too.

In recent years, almost all development activity has taken place in LibreOffice, with 13 major releases and 87 minor releases. In 2019, LibreOffice had over 15,000 code commits, while OpenOffice had only 595. LibreOffice has a flourishing community, yearly conferences, professional support options, development and migration certification, and a robust commercial ecosystem.

In addition, LibreOffice has integrated many features essential for end users in 2020:

  • Export in Microsoft Office OOXML formats (.docx, .xlsx etc.)
  • ODF, OOXML and PDF signing for improved security
  • Major performance improvements in Calc, the spreadsheet
  • A fresh new NotebookBar user interface
  • …and a lot more

But still, many users don’t know that LibreOffice exists. The OpenOffice brand is still so strong, even though the software hasn’t had a significant release for over six years, and is barely being developed or supported.

If Apache OpenOffice still wants to maintain its old 4.1 branch from 2014, sure, that’s important for legacy users. But the most responsible thing to do in 2020 is: help new users. Make them aware that there’s a much more modern, up-to-date, professionally supported suite, based on OpenOffice, with many extra features that people need.

We appeal to Apache OpenOffice to do the right thing. Our goal should be to get powerful, up-to-date and well-maintained productivity tools into the hands of as many people as possible. Let’s work together on that!

The Board of Directors at The Document Foundation

Update: Discussion on Reddit and LWN


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