OpenOffice used to be the best free alternative to Microsoft’s Office, but now it seems to be falling on hard times.
Development on the open-source productivity suite is down to just 16 people, according to a report last month by LWN.net, with 381 changesets over the last year. By comparison, LibreOffice (another open-source Office alternative) saw 22,134 changesets from 268 developers.
A recent draft report (via ExtremeTech) to the Apache Foundation board, which oversees the project, paints a bleaker picture: OpenOffice currently doesn’t have a release manager, and is short on mentors that can help new volunteer developers get started. While OpenOffice’s support channels remain active, the report admits that new development is practically non-existent.
The impact on you: If you’re using OpenOffice today, it’s not just going to disappear, but the lack of contributors and a release manager means that new versions are slow-going. The last OpenOffice release, version 4.1.1, came in August 2014, and there’s no word on when 4.1.2. will arrive. LibreOffice, meanwhile, has seen one or two new releases every month over the last year, making it the obvious choice for users who want routine updates.
OpenOffice’s next steps
Publicly, OpenOffice is hinting of change on the horizon. An Apache Foundation blog post from last week admitted that the project needs more developers, and argued that work on OpenOffice benefits other open-source projects such as LibreOffice, NeoOffice, and AndrOpen Office. The blog post invited “all the most relevant OpenOffice derivative products and their communities or vendors to join us in discussing further ideas for collaboration and improvements.”
Meanwhile, the draft Apache board report notes that OpenOffice has held intensive talks with one project in particular. The report didn’t name names, but keep in mind that OpenOffice and LibreOffice are based on the same code, the latter being a fork that arose when Oracle took over OpenOffice five years ago. (Oracle donated the project to Apache in 2012.)
Now that the politics behind the split are history, perhaps it’s fitting for the two open-source Office alternatives to merge back into one.