Oracle acquired the free, open-source office suite OpenOffice.org when it bought Sun. After that, it apparently completely failed to engage the community of OOo developers, who “forked” the project and started LibreOffice. For a while, the two existed side-by-side, but a parade of major companies, including Red Hat, Novell, Google, and Canonical, lined up to support LibreOffice. So Oracle’s announcement just the other day was, perhaps, inevitable. OpenOffice.org is dead.


OOo users can breathe a collective sigh of meh, though, since LibreOffice is a perfectly acceptable alternative with big commercial supporters. I’ve already removed OOo from my system and switched to LibreOffice without a hitch.

One more reason to love open source software

This is not an example of why you should not use open source software. It is just the opposite. It is an example of why I use open source software whenever I can.

If Microsoft were to discontinue Word tomorrow, there would be no non-profit foundation that would keep the software alive. More likely, Microsoft would sue into oblivion anyone who tried to restore usefulness to your hard drive full of Word files. But when an enormous open source project like OpenOffice.org starts to flail, it nearly always gets picked up, preserved, and moved on.

(Sure, Microsoft is unlikely to discontinue Office in the near future, but in ten years, when cloud alternatives are stronger? Maybe.)

Make the switch to LibreOffice

Whether you are using OpenOffice.org or Microsoft Office, consider switching to LibreOffice. Cost savings are part of the reason, but so is document longevity. I have also been been impressed with how quickly the LibreOffice developers are moving it forward. While OpenOffice.org was starting to feel a bit long in the tooth compared to Microsoft Office, it won’t be long before LibreOffice is innovating out ahead of Microsoft.

LibreOffice is perfectly usable for a law practice. I used OpenOffice.org in a litigation-intensive practice for over six years, with no problems of compatibility (whether proposed orders to the court or shared 26(f) report drafts with opposing counsel). I see no reason why moving to LibreOffice will cause any problems. It’s also just as easy to create beautiful documents with LibreOffice as with Microsoft Office.

However, if you have a good reason to stick with Microsoft Office, don’t feel compelled to switch. PowerPoint is far better than Impress, for example. And any macros you have built for Office will need to be re-created in LibreOffice. There is a cost to switching, even if the software is free. It just may be worth it, anyway.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/1480233211/)