Why is Apache clinging to OpenOffice’s corpse?

Why is Apache clinging to OpenOffice?

It’s dead. Its last major release was version 4.1, from 2014!

In contrast, LibreOffice‘s release schedule is robust:

Timelines of major product releases. OpenOffice is light blue, LibreOffice is green. (source)

In 2020, LibreOffice wrote a constructive letter, outlining a path for OpenOffice to acknowledge reality.

Apache’s OpenOffice page doesn’t hint that it’s dead.

By declining to set the record straight, Apache is misinforming a lot of users, as the OpenOffice brand appears to have parity with LibreOffice:

Apache needs to declare OpenOffice dead, focus attention elsewhere, and redirect people to LibreOffice. Why is Apache not doing this?

P.S., Yes, I know, OpenOffice is not technically “dead”. Some users still cling to it for legacy reasons, and there could be a case for some maintenance releases. That doesn’t excuse Apache’s refusal to acknowledge reality, which is certainly misleading users.

32 thoughts on “Why is Apache clinging to OpenOffice’s corpse?”

  1. It seems that both LibreOffice and OpenOffice are declining in popularity. The Google trend chart shows both on a steady downward trajectory. Are people moving to alternatives such as Microsoft Office or Google Docs (or iCloud apps)?

    Or are people simply less interested in word processors and spreadsheets in general? Is the “age of Word” coming to an end?

    1. Online office apps have an edge WRT collaboration. It may well be that the era of the standalone office suite is reaching its end.

      What would it take to make LibreOffice a web-centric app companies could host themselves? Maybe Apache’s resources could be directed that way.

      1. > What would it take to make LibreOffice a web-centric app companies could host themselves?

        For any open-source product, I imagine it would require a lot of funding to pay for a whole order of magnitude more complexity than what you deal with just by writing desktop software. The complexity could include cloud services, authentication system, storage, and more.

    2. Google docs is a) free and b) easier to get and c) a heck of a lot less glitchy.

      Last time I tried to open LibreOffice, it froze allocating all my RAM and then crashed when my system finally said no.

      1. Yea, but Google Docs (and I’m a big user) is enormously limited compared to most/all office suites. For Pete’s sake, it just got “Block Text” editing in May of 2022!
        Sure, argue all you want about “…. most users don’t need …”, but it doesn’t change the fact that a lot of the “Online” doc tools are pathetically cut-down. The one exception (though it makes me gag to say it) is Microsoft Office 365.
        Say what you will, M$ certainly put their money where their mouth is for their office suite, and a lot of big organizations who had used Google Docs are moving to 365. From the ones I’ve worked with, one of the primary reasons is always “lack of functionality” in Google Docs.

    3. I think it’s both.

      Cloud tools are undoubtedly the future of office products for the vast majority of people.

      Robust editing functionality or other office suite-like tools are pretty common across many products, so that, too, reduces the need for a traditional office suite. Even things like Google Docs, etc. are evolving past what a traditional desktop office suite might do.

    4. I think both your theories have merit.

      My experience suggests that it’s mainly because people are switching to online tools. For personal purposes, I use Google Docs extensively, rarely opening Word unless I have a legacy need to do so.

      While your second theory has merit, I think that inflection was years ago. Things I would have once used Word for have been replaced by email, blogs (this!), social media, or other tools. These tools have been around for years.

  2. I moved my entire family to SoftMaker Office. It is much speedier and easier than LibreOffice. LibreOffice feels so cluttered and bloated to me.

    1. May be better (i do not know) but is neither free nor open source…
      while the first will take out most people (most people think: if i’m going to pay, i will pay for MS office directly), the second take out most open source supporters… and don’t forget that many people still pirate the MS office and be done with it

  3. The main reason is hidden in the contracts between Oracle and the Apache foundation. It has to do with trademarks and other things. Oracle at the time refused to hand over the trademarks to the Document Foundation. That was one of the reasons it is called LibreOffice ;). It was quite a harsh fight between ASF, Oracle and the Document Foundation. Also a lot of ego on all sides, leading to the current situation.

    Disclaimer: I was part of those discussions at the time.

      1. Absolutely. It was a farce at the time, it is a farce today. The ODF format and the Libre Office ecosystem is doing well and the Apache Software Foundation has lost any connection to reality in this case, IMHO. What a waste of time, goodwill and (ultimately) money. Le sigh.

  4. I about 8 month ago i wrote a email to my kids IT teacher exactly because of this, we was recommending openoffice and i wrote to him to recommend libreoffice instead, as openoffice was long dead and libreoffice in much better state to be used everyday.
    Many people are stuck in that old openoffice version and as there is no update, no one even notice that they have a better alternative

  5. Reading all of these comments here tells me that this OpenOffice situation is really just a problem of the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    Since like Higuita said: “Many people are stuck in that old OpenOffice version and as there is no update, no one even notice that they have a better alternative”

    We have likely mostly a situation where most people are just fine with whatever they have. It works. Or well enough for them that is.

    But then you have folk like the blog owner here who are noticing that search results are going down. (Apparently. I did not bother to double check on that.) If such is true, and likely is due to the logic behind the earlier mentioned bit about people mostly being fine with it; then really the situation isn’t so much that it is ‘dead’ but more-so that it is just not used by folk like Aren.

    Which brings me to what I wanted to say to you and ask you Aren.

    Why does it matter so much to you that a piece of software exists; even if not used/updated as much as you arbitrarily believe to consist of it being ‘dead’ or not? I mean, from what it seems to me, by the logic you are displaying thus far; I would hazard a guess that you would consider a aging distribution of Gnu/Unix dead just because there are more Microsoft Windows users.

    See what I am getting at? Hopefully so, and I am going to continue with saying that updates don’t really matter when determining if something is dead or not either. How so?

    GPU drivers, might not be the best example; but it’s an example. Sometimes they get a bunch of updates in a row; or none for a loooong ass time. To be fair, usually it is somewhere in the middle. But the point is that just because something isn’t being updated, doesn’t mean it is dead or doesn’t work, or whatever. It just means it’s not being regularly maintained, perhaps as much as you would prefer for instance.

    And that should be just fine. If the developers aren’t bothering with it, because the users aren’t complaining about it, and so the software itself is becoming dated; that doesn’t make it dead. It makes it obsolete due to age alone perhaps, but not dead. Dead would imply no one uses it.

    And clearly people still do.

    Now, the one last thing to mention. The Apache/Oracle situation.

    One of the nice things about opensource software; is that you can essentially just copy and paste the code, fix said code, or update it; and then call it a ‘better version of X software it came from’ when you release it.

    My point here is that if it really is dead, people can still revive it if they so wish. Give it new form, and even function.

    Meanwhile, you seem to just want more people to get onto the LibreOffice bandwagon. No offence, but that really is how all your replies and comments and even post all come off. So far at least.

    Anyways. I’m sure you mean for the best, but Apache/OpenOffice doesn’t need to do anything you are saying. They just need to keep on doing what keeps their ‘current’ users happy.

    Not the ones who aren’t going to use their software anyways.

    You have a nice day now.

  6. Apache is a Foundation, it does not run the projects or dictate things like this to them. It would not be appropriate or expected for Apache to tell one of its PMC’s that they should direct users to another location. So your beef is with the OpenOffice PMC and needs to be directed to them.

    If the PMC is not fulfilling its duties then the Foundation could start discussing whether the project needs to be moved to the Apache Attic but AFAIK that is not where things stand today.

    1. A foundation can show leadership and direction. Apache could choose not to be a dumping ground for cruft. It could choose to require its projects to address crucial misunderstandings.

      If Apache wishes to do the right thing, the very least it could do is encourage people to switch to LibreOffice.

      1. You’re on the right track here. Apache requires projects to show a minimum amount of activity in order not to move them to the Attic. And for years, most commits to the apache/openoffice repository have been whitespace/cosmetic commits, and nothing else of substance. Funny, eh?

        1. Sounds like Apache can choose to be rule-bound (the commits meet the rule, so we’ll pretend the project has value) or it can “be real” and do the right thing: kill OpenOffice.

          Including accurate information on the OO website, which would encourage people to go to LibreOffice instead, would be a great first step towards killing OpenOffice.

  7. Is LibreOffice better, or just newer? Every time I’ve tried either one, in the past 5 or 10 years, I’ve run into huge showstopper bugs. Like being unable to scroll to see all of my document. And their online support just says “Oh, yeah, that can sometimes happen. It’s a known bug.” Aurgggh!

    1. So… what was the bug ID of this scrolling inconvenience? Since it’s a known one, it must be listed on their bug tracker, along with several comments complaining about the unfixed functionality.

    2. As a rule, something that is actively maintained is better than something that is not.

      LibreOffice is the only one actively maintained.

      Rules have exceptions, but OpenOffice is not the exception.

  8. LibreOffice has had new versions twice a year for the last 12 years, and each one with new features over the previous one.
    Also, scrolling has never been an issue, not even with huge documents (of course, there are other issues, but not so trivial ones).
    The problem with Apache OpenOffice is that the project was created by IBM to kill LibreOffice, and even after it has been abandoned by IBM is staffed by people who hate LibreOffice for a personal reason.
    I will not make names, but for some people recognizing that OpenOffice is dead would mean admitting that they are blatantly incompetent, as 12 years ago they vocally supported Apache OpenOffice and not LibreOffice, just because IBM was backing the project (and in the process they insulted in several ways LibreOffice supporters).

      1. Hi! Just my 2 cents. I prefer OpenOffice.org over LibreOffice for one main advantage : it is more robust and crashes less often. During the last four years I tried all the versions of both softwares and my conclusion is the strongest versions are OOo 3.2.1 and OOo 3.3. Even the newer versions of OpenOffice are more robust than the last versions of LibreOffice on both Windows 10 and Ubuntu. It is very frustrating to lost randomly many pages of creative writings. Maybe I have a weird computer but that is what I noticed. Until LibreOffice become rock solid like Microsoft Office I prefer OpenOffice.org to not close.

        1. It is fine for Apache to keep OpenOffice alive if enough people value OpenOffice.

          My main beef is that mainstream users should not be tricked into starting out with OpenOffice. Constructively, Apache is supporting this trickery by declining to inform users of this at https://www.openoffice.org/.

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