OpenOffice.org (OO.o or OOo) is a free cross-platform office application suite available for a number of different computer operating systems. It supports the ISO standard OpenDocument Format (ODF) for data interchange as its default file format, as well as Microsoft Office '97–2003 formats, Microsoft Office 2007 format (ability to "open" documents in version 3), among others.
OpenOffice.org was originally derived from StarOffice, an office suite developed by StarDivision and acquired by Sun Microsystems in August 1999. The source code of the suite was released in July 2000 with the aim of reducing the dominant market share of Microsoft Office by providing a free, open and high-quality alternative; later versions of StarOffice are based upon OpenOffice.org with additional proprietary components.
The project and software are informally referred to as OpenOffice, but this term is a trademark held by another party, requiring the project to adopt OpenOffice.org as its formal name.
|Build 638c||October 2001||The first milestone release|
|1.0||May 1, 2002|
|18.104.22.168||May 2, 2003||Recommended for Windows 95|
|1.1||September 2, 2003|
|1.1.1||March 30, 2004||Bundled with TheOpenCD|
|1.1.3||October 4, 2004|
|1.1.4||December 22, 2004|
|1.1.5||September 14, 2005||Last release for 1.x product line Final version for Windows 95|
It can edit OpenOffice.org 2 files
|1.1.5secpatch||July 4, 2006||Security patch (macros)|
|2.0||October 20, 2005||Milestone|
|2.0.1||December 21, 2005|
|2.0.2||March 8, 2006|
|2.0.3||June 29, 2006|
|2.0.4||October 13, 2006|
|2.1.0||December 12, 2006|
|2.2.0||March 28, 2007||Included a security update;|
Reintroduced font kerning
|2.2.1||June 12, 2007|
|2.3.0||September 17, 2007||Updated charting component|
|2.3.1||December 4, 2007||Stability and security update|
|2.4.0||March 27, 2008||Bug fixes and new features|
|2.4.1||June 10, 2008||Security fix, minor enhancements, and bug fixes|
Originally developed as the proprietary software application suite StarOffice by the German company StarDivision, the code was purchased in 1999 by Sun Microsystems. In August 1999 version 5.2 of StarOffice was made available free of charge.
On July 19, 2000, Sun Microsystems announced that it was making the source code of StarOffice available for download under both the LGPL and the Sun Industry Standards Source License (SISSL) with the intention of building an open source development community around the software. The new project was known as OpenOffice.org, and its website went live on October 13, 2000.
Work on version 2.0 began in early 2003 with the following goals: better interoperability with Microsoft Office; better performance, with improved speed and lower memory usage; greater scripting capabilities; better integration, particularly with GNOME; an easier-to-find and use database front-end for creating reports, forms and queries; a new built-in SQL database; and improved usability. A beta version was released on March 4, 2005.
On September 2, 2005 Sun announced that it was retiring the SISSL. As a consequence, the OpenOffice.org Community Council announced that it would no longer dual license the office suite, and future versions would use only the LGPL.
On October 20, 2005, OpenOffice.org 2.0 was formally released to the public. Eight weeks after the release of Version 2.0, an update, OpenOffice.org 2.0.1, was released. It fixed minor bugs and introduced new features.
As of the 2.0.3 release, OpenOffice.org changed its release cycle from 18-months to releasing updates, feature enhancements and bug fixes every three months. Currently, new versions including new features are released every six months (so-called "feature releases") alternating with so-called "bug fix releases" which are being released between two feature releases (Every 3 months).
OpenOffice.org, therefore, inherited many features from the original StarOffice upon which it was based including the OpenOffice.org XML file format which it retained until version 2, when it was replaced by the ISO standard OpenDocument Format (ODF).
OpenOffice.org aims to compete with Microsoft Office and emulate its look and feel where suitable. It can read and write most of the file formats found in Microsoft Office, and many other applications; an essential feature of the suite for many users. OpenOffice.org has been found to be able to open files of older versions of Microsoft Office and damaged files that newer versions of Microsoft Office itself cannot open. However, it cannot open older Word for Macintosh (MCW) files.
A port for Mac OS X exists for OS X machines which have the X Window System component installed. A port to OS X's native Aqua user interface is in progress, and is scheduled for completion for the 3.0 milestone. NeoOffice is an independent fork of OpenOffice, specially adapted for Mac OS X.
|Writer||A word processor similar in look and feel to Microsoft Word or WordPerfect and offering a comparable range of functions and tools. It also includes the ability to export Portable Document Format (PDF) files with no additional software, and can also function as a basic WYSIWYG editor for creating and editing web pages.|
|Calc||A spreadsheet similar to Microsoft Excel or Lotus 1-2-3 with a roughly equivalent range of features. Calc provides a number of features not present in Excel, including a system which automatically defines series for graphing, based on the layout of the user’s data. Calc is also capable of writing spreadsheets directly as a PDF file.|
|Impress||A presentation program similar to Microsoft PowerPoint. It can export presentations to Adobe Flash (SWF) files, allowing them to be played on any computer with the Flash player installed. It also includes the ability to create PDF files, and the ability to read Microsoft PowerPoint's .ppt format. Impress suffers from a lack of ready-made presentation designs. However, templates are readily available on the Internet.|
|Base||A database program similar to Microsoft Access. Base allows the creation and manipulation of databases, and the building of forms and reports to provide easy access to data for end-users. As with Access, Base may be used as a front-end to a number of different database systems, including Access databases (JET), ODBC data sources and MySQL/PostgreSQL. Base became part of the suite starting with version 2.0. Native to the OpenOffice.org suite is an adaptation of HSQL. While ooBase can be a front-end for any of the databases listed, there is no need for any of them to be installed.|
|Draw||A vector graphics editor comparable in features to early versions of CorelDRAW. It features versatile "connectors" between shapes, which are available in a range of line styles and facilitate building drawings such as flowcharts. It has similar features to Desktop publishing software such as Scribus and Microsoft Publisher.|
|Math||A tool for creating and editing mathematical formulae, similar to Microsoft Equation Editor. Formulae can be embedded inside other OpenOffice.org documents, such as those created by Writer. It supports multiple fonts and can export to PDF.|
It is not possible to download these components individually on Windows, though they can be installed separately. Most Linux distributions break the components into individual packages which may be downloaded and installed separately.
OpenOffice.org Basic is a programming language similar to Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) based on StarOffice Basic. In addition to the macros, the Novell edition of OpenOffice.org 2.0 supports running Microsoft VBA macros, a feature expected to be incorporated into the mainstream version soon.
OpenOffice.org Basic is available in the Writer and Calc applications. It is written in functions called subroutines or macros, with each macro performing a different task, such as counting the words in a paragraph. OpenOffice.org Basic is especially useful in doing repetitive tasks that have not been integrated in the program.
As the OpenOffice.org database, called "Base", uses documents created under the Writer application for reports and forms, one could say that Base can also be programmed with OpenOffice.org Basic.
Sun Microsystems has developed an ODF plugin for Microsoft Office which enables users of Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint to read and write ODF documents. The plugin currently works with Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft Office XP and Microsoft Office 2000. Support for Microsoft Office 2007 is only available in combination with Microsoft Office 2007 SP1.
Several software companies (including Microsoft and Novell) are working on an add-in for Microsoft Office that allows reading and writing ODF files. Currently it works only for Microsoft Word 2007 / XP / 2003.
Microsoft provides a compatibility pack to read and write Office Open XML files with Office 2000, XP and 2003. The compatibility pack can also be used as a stand-alone converter with Microsoft Office 97. This might be helpful to convert older Microsoft Office files via Office Open XML to ODF if a direct conversion doesn't work as expected. The Office compatibility pack however does not install for Office 2000 or Office XP on Windows 9x.
Note that some office applications built with Microsoft components may refuse to import OpenOffice data. The Sage Group's Simply Accounting, for example, can import Excel's .xls files, but refuses to accept OpenOffice.org-generated .xls files for the reason that the OOo .xls files are not "genuine Microsoft" .xls files. This is said to be an example of trusted computing.
The document file format used is based on XML and several export and import filters. All external formats read by OpenOffice.org are converted back and forth from an internal XML representation. By using compression when saving XML to disk, files are generally smaller than the equivalent binary Microsoft Office documents. The native file format for storing documents in version 1.0 was used as the basis of the OASIS OpenDocument file format standard, which has become the default file format in version 2.0.
Development versions of the suite are released every few weeks on the developer zone of the OpenOffice.org website. The releases are meant for those who wish to test new features or are simply curious about forthcoming changes; they are not suitable for production use.
This issue has been particularly pronounced on Mac OS X, whose standard user interface looks noticeably different from either Windows or X11-based desktop environments and requires the use of programming toolkits unfamiliar to most OpenOffice.org developers. There are two implementations of OpenOffice.org available for OS X:OpenOffice.org Mac OS X (X11): This official implementation requires the installation of X11.app or XDarwin, and is a close port of the well-tested Unix version. It is functionally equivalent to the Unix version, and its user interface resembles the look and feel of that version; for example, the application uses its own menu bar instead of the OS X menu at the top of the screen. It also requires system fonts to be converted to X11 format for OpenOffice.org to use them (which can be done during application installation).OpenOffice.org Aqua: After a first step (completed) using Carbon, OpenOffice.org Aqua switched to Cocoa technology, and an Aqua version (based on Cocoa) is also being developed under the aegis of OpenOffice.org, with a Beta version currently available. Sun Microsystems is collaborating with OOo to further development of the Aqua version of OpenOffice.org for Mac.
Among the planned features for OOo 3.0, set to be released in mid-October 2008 , are:
Other projects run alongside the main OpenOffice.org project and are easier to contribute to. These include documentation, internationalisation and localisation and the API.
There is also an effort to create and share assorted document templates and other useful additions at OOExtras.
A set of Perl extensions is available through the CPAN in order to allow OpenOffice.org document processing by external programs. These libraries do not use the OpenOffice.org API. They directly read or write the OpenOffice.org files using Perl standard file compression/decompression, XML access and UTF-8 encoding modules.
Optionally it provides, free for personal and professional use:
In a private meeting of the French Ministry of Defense, macro-related security issues were raised. OpenOffice.org developers have responded and noted that the supposed vulnerability had not been announced through "well defined procedures" for disclosure and that the ministry had revealed nothing specific. However, the developers have been in talks with the researcher concerning the supposed vulnerability.
As with Microsoft Word, documents created in OpenOffice can contain metadata which may include a complete history of what was changed, when and by whom.
Development is managed by staff members of StarOffice. Some delay and difficulty in implementing external contributions to the core codebase (even those from the project's corporate sponsors) has been noted.
Currently, there are several derived and/or proprietary works based on OOo, with some of them being:
In May 23, 2007, the OpenOffice.org community and Redflag Chinese 2000 Software Co, Ltd. announced a joint development effort focused on integrating the new features that have been added in the RedOffice localization of OpenOffice.org, as well as quality assurance and work on the core applications. Additionally, Redflag Chinese 2000 made public its commitment to the global OO.o community stating it would "strengthen its support of the development of the world's leading free and open source productivity suite", adding around 50 engineers (that have been working on RedOffice since 2006) to the project.
In September 10, 2007, the OO.o community announced that IBM had joined to support the development of OpenOffice.org. "IBM will be making initial code contributions that it has been developing as part of its Lotus Notes product, including accessibility enhancements, and will be making ongoing contributions to the feature richness and code quality of OpenOffice.org. Besides working with the community on the free productivity suite's software, IBM will also leverage OpenOffice.org technology in its products" as has been seen with Lotus Symphony. Sean Poulley, the vice president of business and strategy in IBM's Lotus Software division said that IBM plans to take a leadership role in the OpenOffice.org community together with other companies such as Sun Microsystems. IBM will work within the leadership structure that exists.
As of October 02, 2007, Michael Meeks announced (and generated an answer by Sun's Simon Phipps and Mathias Bauer) a derived OpenOffice.org work, under the wing of his employer Novell, with the purpose of including new features and fixes that do not get easily integrated in the OOo-build up-stream core. The work is called Go-OO a name under which alternative OO.o software has been available for five years. The new features are shared with Novell's edition of OOo and include:
Details about the patch handling including metrics can be found on the OpenOffice.org site.
OpenOffice certainly doesn't lack features compared to the market leader, and most of its ease-of-use issues stem from people's familiarity with Microsoft Office rather than an inherent problem with the program itself. As such, you should certainly try OpenOffice's offering before donating another GBP 100 or more to Microsoft's coffers.
Although Microsoft Office retains 95% of the general market as measured by revenue, OpenOffice.org and StarOffice have secured 14% of the large enterprise market as of 2004 and 19% of the small to midsize business market in 2005. The OpenOffice.org web site reports more than 98 million downloads.
Other large scale users of OpenOffice.org include Singapore’s Ministry of Defence, and Bristol City Council in the UK. In France, OpenOffice.org has attracted the attention of both local and national government administrations who wish to rationalize their software procurement, as well as have stable, standard file formats for archival purposes. It is now the official office suite for the French Gendarmerie. Several government organizations in India, such as IIT Bombay (a renowned technical institute), the Supreme Court of India, the Allahabad High Court, which use Linux, completely rely on OpenOffice.org for their administration.
On October 4, 2005, Sun and Google announced a strategic partnership. As part of this agreement, Sun will add a Google search bar to OpenOffice.org, Sun and Google will engage in joint marketing activities as well as joint research and development, and Google will help distribute OpenOffice.org. Google is currently distributing StarOffice as part of the Google Pack.
Besides StarOffice, there are still a number of OpenOffice.org derived commercial products. Most of them are developed under SISSL license (which is valid up to OpenOffice.org 2.0 Beta 2). In general they are targeted at local or niche market, with proprietary add-ons such as speech recognition module, automatic database connection, or better CJK support.
In July 2007 Everex, a division of First International Computer and the 9th largest PC supplier in the U.S., began shipping systems preloaded with OpenOffice.org 2.2 into Wal-Mart and Sam's Club throughout North America.
In September 2007 IBM announced that it would supply and support OpenOffice.org branded as Lotus Symphony, and integrated into Lotus Notes. IBM also announced 35 developers would be assigned to work on OpenOffice.org, and that it would join the OpenOffice.org foundation. Commentators noted parallels between IBM's 2000 support of Linux and this announcement.
Version 1 depended on the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) being present on the user’s computer for some auxiliary functions, but version 2 increased the suite’s use of Java requiring a JRE. In response, Red Hat increased their efforts to improve free Java implementations. Red Hat’s Fedora Core 4 (released on June 13, 2005) included a beta version of OpenOffice.org version 2, running on GCJ and GNU Classpath.
The issue of OpenOffice.org’s use of Java came to the fore in May 2005, when Richard Stallman appeared to call for a fork of the application in a posting on the Free Software Foundation website. This led to discussions within the OpenOffice.org community and between Sun staff and developers involved in GNU Classpath, a free replacement for Sun’s Java implementation. Later that year, the OpenOffice.org developers also placed into their development guidelines various requirements to ensure that future versions of OpenOffice.org could be run on free implementations of Java and fixed the issues which previously prevented OpenOffice.org 2.0 from using free software Java implementations.
Between November 2006 and May 2007, Sun Microsystems made available most of their Java technologies under the GNU General Public License, in compliance with the specifications of the Java Community Process, thus making almost all of Sun's Java also free software.
The following areas of OpenOffice.org 2.0 depend on the JRE being present:
and proprietary freeware such as:
Microsoft also provides Administrative Template Files ("adm files") that allow MS Office to be configured using Windows Group Policy. Equivalent functionality for OpenOffice.org is provided by OpenOffice-Enterprise, a commercial product from Open Office Technology, Inc.
One of the greatest obstacles to its cross compatibility has been a lack of open specifications. OpenOffice.org has been forced to reverse engineer proprietary binary formats. However, in February 2008, Microsoft released the specifications for its binary Office file formats, making this less of a concern.