LibreOffice Is an Important Open-Source Project

When Oracle bought Sun Microsystems they acquired the rights to OpenOffice, an open source equivalent to Microsoft Office. Sadly, Oracle is not known for its openness or contributions to open source projects. It began to look like OpenOffice would become OracleOffice.

Thankfully, some of the OpenOffice contributors decided to fork the code and create LibreOffice. The first stable version of LibreOffice is now available.

I’m sure there are many folks wondering why they should care. Sure, Microsoft Office is big and bulky but alternatives like Google Docs, ThinkFree and Zoho are readily available and quite good.

Open source lets people innovate

Open source projects create a breeding ground for new ideas and innovation. Just take a look at browsers. Where would browsers be today if the Mozilla Foundation hadn’t offered an alternative to Internet Explorer? I’d bet that most of the world would be running IE4!

Companies only innovate and advance when they face competition. One of the reasons Apple innovates so much is self-preservation. Until the iPhone appeared, Apple was always the ‘other company making personal computers’. Let’s hope they never lose that instinct.

Clearly office suites need a re-birth. Microsoft Office has been around for over 20 years. It is big, bulky and desktop centric. Copying that model and going head-to-head with a tough competitor like Microsoft makes little sense.

We need new ideas for what an office suite is and what it does. Companies like Google can help but they will only do things that serve their own interests. Open source projects like LibreOffice operate in the best interests of their communities. They innovate because they want to, because it’s fun, not because they have to.

LibreOffice can set a new direction

Office suites have been and will remain a very important software segment. They will morph into smartphone and tablet suites as we become a more mobile workplace. Having a strong and vibrant open source project in the segment is needed.

You may not want or need to install LibreOffice but keep it in mind. If is freely available for Windows, Mac and Linux systems.

No, it isn’t 100% compatible with Microsoft Office 2010 but nothing else is either. Does compatibility really matter? All the major office suites contain far more functionality than any person or workgroup will ever use. Focus on what you need to do. Chances are LibreOffice can do it.

Updated: January 25, 2011 — 10:32 pm