Apache OpenOffice

Wednesday December 18, 2013

Join Apache OpenOffice at FOSDEM 2014 - Submit a talk proposal

Apache OpenOffice and the other Open Document Editors will have a dedicated track at FOSDEM 2014, 1 February 2014, Brussels. The devroom is organized by Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice and will give every project in this area a chance to present ODF related developments and innovations.

We invite submission of talks for the Open Document Editors devroom, to be held on Saturday, February 1st, from 10AM to 6PM. Submission deadline is Sunday, 22 December 2013.

Length of talks should be limited to 20 minutes, as we would like to have questions after each presentation, and to fit as many presenters as possible in the schedule. Exceptions must be explicitly requested and justified.

Technical talks (code, extensions, localization, QA, tools and significant adoption related cases) about Apache OpenOffice, other open document editors or the ODF format are welcome.

Submissions must be done using the Pentabarf system:


While filing your proposal, please add a few lines about yourself (although your profile might already be stored at Pentabarf) and specify what product or topic (Apache OpenOffice, LibreOffice, both, other editor, ODF in general...) your talk is about.

The deadline is Sunday, December 22, 2013. Accepted speakers will be notified by January 5, 2014.

You can send any questions to the OpenOffice dev list or to the devroom mailing list

Thursday December 05, 2013

Call for Comments: Apache OpenOffice Distributor Best Practices

Apache OpenOffice (formerly OpenOffice.org) is the leading free and open office productivity suite.  We have many millions of users.  In the past two years we've seen over 80 million downloads from our website, and millions more from 3rd party websites. 

Although most users are able to download OpenOffice successfully, we do get occasional requests for a CD.   This is something that we (the Apache Software Foundation) do not currently do.  We make the OpenOffice source code, and installable versions of OpenOffice, available for free download.  But we're not involved in distributing CDs.  However, the Apache License 2.0, like most open source licenses, allows 3rd parties to copy and distribute copies of the software and even to charge for the copies.

So the open question is this:   Would it be beneficial for the Apache OpenOffice project to maintain, as a public service, a list of 3rd party CD distributors, on our website?

Also, it is probably reasonable to ask CD distributors, in return for giving them a listing on our website, to adhere to defined best practices.  An example draft Distributor Best Practices page is on our website.  Is there anything that should be added or removed from that list?

We invite public comments on this topic, as comments to this blog post, or in an email to our public marketing mailing list.  Comments are welcome from anyone, especially users, potential distributors and the wider Apache community.  Please submit comments by January 15th for our consideration.

Friday November 15, 2013

Apache OpenOffice 4.1 to Bring Enhanced Accessibility Support

The Apache OpenOffice project is pleased to announce that it has successfully integrated support for the Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) and IAccessible2 interfaces.  Support for these interfaces enables screen readers and other assistive technologies to work with Apache OpenOffice, which in turn enables greater productivity by OpenOffice users who are blind or who have low-vision. 

The new accessibility code, based on the donation of IBM's Lotus Symphony, will now undergo extensive testing.  The plan is to ship the new accessibility support in Apache OpenOffice 4.1, early in 2014.  With this support added Apache OpenOffice, the leading open source productivity suite, also becomes the most accessible one.

The IAccessible2 interface was developed as a superset of MSAA interfaces, to enable enhanced support for document editors,  including support for rich text, tables, spreadsheets, etc., while allowing assistive technology developers to preserve their existing investment in MSAA support.  IAccessible2 is supported by assistive technologies such as JAWS, MAGic, Window-Eyes, NVDA and ZoomText.

As we did with the award-winning Side Panel UI in Apache OpenOffice 4.0, and all other features we develop, we will publish the IAccessible2 code under the Apache License 2.0.  This allows anyone to use, copy and redistribute OpenOffice freely.  The license also allows others to take our source code, integrate it into their products and develop it further.  That is what open source is all about.  In a healthy open source ecosystem code flows in both directions.  A new feature is developed in OpenOffice, and the code is taken by downstream consumers.  As that code is tested further ("Every new class of users finds a new class of bugs") and fixes are made, these fixes should be contributed upstream.  This reduces future merge costs for the downstream consumer.  It is also the right thing to do, to help improve the code that your project benefits from and which your users depend upon.  We invite all downstream consumers to engage with the Apache OpenOffice project, especially those that have so far neglected to do so, in order to improve the accessibility code that is of mutual benefit and that is so critical for the open source community.  Help your neighbor.  Be a hacker, not a hoarder.  Our website has further information on how to contribute patches.

If you want to receive notification of when Apache OpenOffice 4.1 is available you can sign up for our announcements mailing list by sending an email to announce-subscribe@openoffice.apache.org.   You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  If you want to help test the new accessibility support, before it is released, you can send a note to our QA mailing list to learn more:  qa@openoffice.apache.org.

Wednesday October 30, 2013

75 Million Downloads of Apache OpenOffice

We are pleased to report that yesterday, October 29th, someone downloaded the 75,000,000th copy of  Apache OpenOffice™.   The 75 million downloads have occurred in the less than 18th months since the first release of Apache OpenOffice on May 8th, 2012. 

Apache OpenOffice (formerly called OpenOffice.org) is the leading free and open source office application suite for Windows, Mac and Linux. 

Although we're all very busy now with working on our next major release, Apache OpenOffice 4.1, it is worth taking a few minutes to explore some of the trends that can be discerned from our download data.  The information we have gathered, relative to desktop OS versions, 64-bit Linux use, etc.,  may be of special interest to other open source projects to consider in their planning.

First a scatter plot of daily download numbers, with a 7-day moving average overlay.  Each of our releases is marked by a vertical line.  You can clearly see the increase in interest since the release of Apache OpenOffice 4.0.


We are able to break down these trends along several other dimensions.  One is by country, looking at where the download request came from.  This information is gleaned from the IP address of the machine making the request.  Since each IP address is part of an assigned block of addresses, and blocks are assigned geographically, we can create a table of downloads by country, territory, etc.  We show the full table on our website, of all 238 countries, territories, etc., but here are the top 10:

#1 United States 14,148,707
#2 France 9,622,464
#3 Germany 7,363,242
#4 Italy 6,239,913
#5 Japan 3,944,256
#6 United Kingdom 3,316,827
#7 Spain 2,756,638
#8 Russia 2,693,113
#9 Canada 2,177,430
#10 Poland

Another approach is to look at which localized versions of Apache OpenOffice were downloaded.  We can see these trends in the following dot chart:


We can also look at the trend over time of downloads by operating system.   (Note the log-scale on the Y-axis.)  OpenOffice is a mainstream open source desktop application, so the OS distribution reflects overall desktop operating system market shares:


Since we have Linux versions of OpenOffice packed as RPMs (e.g., for RedHat) as well as DEBs (e.g., for Ubuntu), we can look for trends in the ratio of requests for these two packaging formats over time:


Also, we have 32-bit and 64-bit Linux downloads, and we see a gradual increase in demand over time for the 64-bit version, now reaching 50%.  (The drop in July-September is not fully explained, but may have been an error in our download page that was not recommending 64-bit downloads appropriately.)


Although we don't have detailed download data for different Windows versions (we have a single download for all Windows users) we do have information from website visitors (nearly 7 million visitors per month) that tells a similar story.  Windows 7 remains the most popular Windows version for our users, accounting for over half of Windows visitors.  Windows XP ties with Windows 8 for second place, though Windows XP usage is declining quickly.


Looking at the similar data for web browsers, we see the rise in Chrome users among our website visitors:


The above charts were made in R, using data from SourceForge's REST API and from Google Analytics.   The processing of the SourceForge data was automated via a custom Python script.

Tuesday October 01, 2013

Announcing Apache OpenOffice 4.0.1

[Bob Burman, race car driver]  (LOC)

The Apache OpenOffice project (formerly OpenOffice.org) is pleased to announce the immediate availability of Apache 4.0.1.  Building upon the success of our award-winning Apache OpenOffice 4.0 release, which was well-received by both users and reviewers, the 4.0.1 maintenance update brings new translations, performance enhancements and bug fixes. 

You can download OpenOffice 4.0.1 from our download page

New translations introduced in this release are:  Basque,  Khmer, Lithuanian, Polish, Serbian Cyrillic, Swedish, Traditional Chinese, Turkish and Vietnamese.   It is an important part of our Public Service Mission to support, with help from our translation volunteers, minority and regional languages that are typically ignored by commercial vendors.   We now ship OpenOffice in 32 languages.  With your help we could support many more. 

This update also includes many bug fixes, including performance fixes.  For example, one common scenario saving Microsoft Excel files was sped up 230%.   A repaint issue reported by several 4.0.0 users was fixed.  In general the most common issues reported by 4.0.0 users are fixed in this update.  A full list of changes can be found in the Release Notes.   

In parallel with work on 4.0.1 the project has also been working on 4.1.0 items.  Although no date has been set for this release, areas of focus include:  improved interoperability with Microsoft Office, integration of IAccesible2 accessibility support, and (of course) new translations and bug fixes.

Monday August 26, 2013

Back to School with Apache OpenOffice

Chesterfield County school bus and students

As August comes to a close it is time for millions of children and young adults to return to school.   In preparation, parents empty their wallets for a variety of necessities: clothes, shoes, backpacks, notebooks, pencils, calculators, etc.   But with one common back-to-school item parents and students often overpay by $100, $200 or more.  In many cases parents can save money by using open source equivalents of commercial application software.  For example, Apache OpenOffice is a desktop productivity suite -- absolutely free -- that can be used instead of Microsoft Office.

Open source software is software that is made available to the public at no charge, free to use and copy.  Those who know how to program can even freely modify the software if they want.  The Apache Software Foundation is a non-profit organization whose charitable mission is to publish open source software for the public to use.  That's what we do.   One program that we publish that is especially useful to students is Apache OpenOffice,  the free and open productivity suite, for Windows, Mac OS and Linux, including the tools that every student needs:  a word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation editor.

Ten Reasons Use Apache OpenOffice for School

  1. OpenOffice is free.  Commercial alternatives cost $100 or more.
  2. Because it is free you can install OpenOffice on all of your computers without any additional charge.  Commercial products make you pay extra for the ability to install on multiple computers.
  3. You can install and use OpenOffice, with no subscription fees -- ever.  Updates are free as well.
  4. School districts, by using OpenOffice in the classroom, can save money in their budget, but also allow their students (and their parents) to run the same software at home for free.   This is the open source advantage.
  5. OpenOffice works the same on Windows, Mac OS and Linux.  You are not trapped in a single operating system.
  6. OpenOffice speaks your language.  It is available in over 20 languages, with many more translations in progress.
  7. You can run OpenOffice from a USB-stick and so work everywhere using your personal settings, even if OpenOffice is not yet installed on your friend's PC. 
  8. There are over 1000 document templates for OpenOffice, free to download, including many templates designed for education.
  9. OpenOffice is extensible with 100's of free extensions that you can download.
  10. As an all-volunteer open source project we welcome students, teachers and parents interested in helping us develop the next great version of OpenOffice. Learn new skills and gain valuable experience working on an open source project, while helping to improve the tools that you use yourself.

You can download our latest release, Apache OpenOffice 4.0, here.

Wednesday July 31, 2013

Developer in AOO, 1year celebration

1 year as developer with AOO [Apache OpenOffice]


Many of the big open source software packages are to a high degree driven by developers employed by companies who sponsor manpower. The sponsorship allows a faster development than otherwise possible which is a benefit for everybody. There is however a negative side to this, today we see some packages being in reality controlled by the sponsoring companies.

It has from time to time been alleged that AOO is controlled by a company, my 1year in the community shows that individuals who care have a much higher influence that any sponsoring company. In ASF [Apache Software Foundation] (and AOO in particular) there is a sound balance between sponsorships and active volunteers, that balance is part of what makes ASF and AOO really cool communities.

This month a year ago, I joined the Apache OpenOffice community, as with many things in life it happened by accident. I needed to upgrade my OpenOffice program and determined that it was not available in Danish. A short mail to dev@openoffice.apache.org started a chain of events. I got a mail back telling me that danish was nearly completed, and if I would be interested in translating the missing part.

While doing the translation (and compiling AOO, after all I am a full blooded developer), I saw how awkward the translation process was and started to document it, that caused many funny discussions on the mailing list, and I am sure that my stupid (seen in the rear mirror) questions must have driven one or two to the edge, but everybody was helpful and did their best to help me gain the needed knowledge. Having documented the current process I started on a bigger challenge, to define an automated failure proof work process.

My motivation and curiosity was rewarded by the community with committer status. I thought, they did it, to stop my flow of small patches (as committer I am allowed to change source/web etc. directly) but reality is that the community wanted to embrace my ideas. I learned that AOO does not have a steering committee that accept/reject patches, all committers have equal rights and responsibilities. AOO works The Apache Way, all members of the community are equal, there is a group (PMC [Project management committee] ) that handles project logistic. The biggest and most positive surprise came when we had to decide on a new release, ALL community member were asked to vote and give their opinion. That freedom and trust gave my motivation a big kick.

slowly over time, I got deeper involved. wiki.openoffice.org suffered from lack of maintenance, that brought me in contact with an internal ASF project called "infra". INFRA is a group of volunteers that keeps the ASF infrastructure floating. Infra gave me the possibility to install a new vm, reinstall the wiki and maintain it. Infra used the same method as the old AOO community members, they let me do things alone, helped when asked, but silently watched me and held a hand out when I was about to fall.

The AOO community can best be viewed as loads of specialists, each concentrating on their field of interest, but at the same time everybody are patient and open to help each other.  Some of the members spent a lot of time on the community itself, making sure its a nice place to be and that everybody is listened to.

About half a year ago, we had some strong discussions about the LO/AOO split, to me the split is really wasting human resources. The discussion was mixed with accusations that IBM controlled AOO. I found it interesting to note that the volunteers I knew was IBM employees did have quite different opinions (not following the company line, as others claimed) and was just individuals like the rest of us. I complained and argued that our PMC should do something, because I saw the PMC as a steering committee (hence the name), but I soon learned the hard fact, PMC is not controlling anything, but merely a group of volunteers that among others care for the community as a whole.

One day my inbox contained a new surprise, an invitation to be part of PMC.  Being PMC focused my interest on other corners of the community, and It interesting to see that developers are just a corner of the community, there are other parts equally important like QA, marketing, web site maintenance.

Today I maintain together with other volunteers our core services, participate in design discussions, and develop my own little part (a new translation workflow). I am also deeply involved in infra work, where I  integrate a new monitoring system, that covers services and vms for all Apache projects.

A big thank to ASF and AOO for showing me, how software can be developed in a true free spirit !

Give it a try, you don't need to use as many hours as I do, to feel how motivating the free spirit can be.


jan I

Danish, living in southern Spain. I have designed/developed network protocols, embedded OS and SCADA systems since '77.

Monday July 29, 2013

Interview with the developers of PrOOo-Box

Most of the posts on this blog are about the Apache OpenOffice product and the community of volunteers that develops it.  But occasionally we write about interesting things in the broader Apache OpenOffice project, the ecosystem of extension developers, consultants, trainers, etc., that help users get value from OpenOffice.  Today I'm pleased to feature another part of the ecosystem in this interview with the developers of PrOOo-Box.

What is PrOOo-Box?  How does it differ from what a user downloads fromthe Apache OpenOffice website?

With the PrOOo-Box, a user not only gets Apache OpenOffice, but also other interesting programs from the open source area, such as Lightning, Sunbird, Inkscape and FreeMind. Also included are a part of the documentation and useful OpenOffice-specific templates, extensions and macros. In addition, a user gets the programs for different operating systems.

What does the name "PrOOo-Box" mean?

The name PrOOo-Box is a pun, that "OOo" comes from OpenOffice.org.

Pro = It is good. OOo = OpenOffice.org.  In a Box = In the past, the CD was delivered in a Box. For the future, we will use the name PrOOo-Box although OpenOffice.org is now called Apache OpenOffice, but the name "PrOOo-Box" has a long history, we don't want to change it rashly.

What is the history of PrOOo-Box?

The PrOOo box is a creation of the OpenOffice.org German community that was started in the early 2000s. The box was active up until to the secession of the LibreOffice fork. The development of the box was not continued after 2010.   Then we, the new team of PrOOo-Box (currently Jörg Schmidt, Jan-Christian Wienandt and Detlef Nannen), have taken care of the PrOOo-box and its development since 2012.

Is PrOOo-Box free?

Yes, the PrOOo-Box is free, in the sense of free software. The contents of the box are available under various free licenses. Downloading the ISO images is free and will remain free. In the future, as well as earlier, the physical box is also sold in order to cover our costs (e.g., servers) and to support the local community.

What feedback have you received from users of PrOOo-Box?

The PrOOo-box has a long history, and in course of time received a lot of positive feedback, e.g., from computer magazines or private persons. For example we received the following comment from a German user:

"I think it's great, that you continue the project. Believing in OOo was the right decision."

Have you thought of extending PrOOo-Box to support other languages?

In principle it would be possible, but we don't have enough capacity yet. At the moment we are a team of 3 persons, who created the PrOOo-Box only by volunteer work.

What next?  Do you have any other things you would like to bring to PrOOo-Box?

At the moment we have, in addition to the web-site, only a DVD version of the PrOOo box. In the future we want to provide CD versions, which will contain only the content for a specific OS such as Linux. We also plan to publish a version specifically for business users, and we are working on a "live" version which only will contain specific content for users in the church.

If someone wants to help further develop PrOOo-Box, what should they do?  Where can they go to learn more?

Interested parties can contact us either via our web site www.prooo-box.org or directly via email info-AT-prooo-box.org.

Interview mit den Entwicklern der PrOOo-Box

Die meisten Beiträge in diesem Blog handeln von Apache OpenOffice und der Community, die es entwickeln. Aber manchmal schreiben wir über interessante Dinge im weiteren Apache OpenOffice-Projekt, dem Ökosystem Entwickler von Erweiterungen, Berater, Trainer, etc., die Benutzern helfen, die Vorteile von OpenOffice nutzen zu können. Heute bin ich froh, in einem Interview einen anderen Teil des Ökosystems vorzustellen, die PrOOo-Box uns deren Entwickler.

Was ist PrOOo-Box? Wie sieht es aus, was unterscheidet die PrOOo-Box vom Download von der Apache OpenOffice Webseite?

Mit der PrOOo-Box, erhält ein Benutzer nicht nur Apache OpenOffice, sondern dazu weitere interessante Programme aus dem Open-Source-Bereich, wie Thunderbird, Sunbird, Inkscape und FreeMind. Ebenfalls enthalten sind ein Teil der Dokumentation und nützliche OpenOffice-Templates, Erweiterungen und Makros. Darüber hinaus werden den Benutzern diese Programme für verschiedene Betriebssysteme zur Verfügung gestellt.

Was bedeutet der Name "PrOOo-Box"?

Der Name PrOOo-Box ist ein Wortspiel, dass "OOo" kommt von OpenOffice.org.
Pro = Es ist gut. OOo = OpenOffice.org. In einer Box = In der Vergangenheit wurde die CD in einer Box geliefert.

Für die Zukunft werden wir den Namen PrOOo-Box vorerst weiterverwenden, obwohl OpenOffice.org jetzt Apache OpenOffice heißt. Der Name "PrOOo-Box" hat eine lange Geschichte, wir wollen den Namen nicht vorschnell ändern.

Was ist die Geschichte der PrOOo-Box?

Die PrOOo-Box ist eine Entwicklung der deutschen OpenOffice.org-Gemeinde, und begann in den frühen 2000er Jahren. Die Box war aktiv bis zur Abtrennung des LibreOffice-Fork. Die Entwicklung der Box wurde nach 2010 nicht fortgesetzt. Ab 2012 hat das neue Team von PrOOo-Box (derzeit Jörg Schmidt, Jan-Christian Wienandt und Detlef Nannen), die Pflege der PrOOo-Box und die Weiterentwicklung übernommen.

Ist PrOOo-Box frei?

Ja, die PrOOo-Box frei, im Sinne von freier Software. Die Inhalte der Box sind unter verschiedenen freien Lizenzen verfügbar. Der Download des ISO-Images ist kostenlos und wird frei bleiben. In der Zukünftig soll es auch wieder eine die physische Boxgeben, die verkauft wird, um unsere Kosten zu decken (z. B. Server) und die lokale Gemeinschaft zu unterstützen.

Welches Feedback haben Sie von den Nutzern PrOOo-Box empfangen?

Die PrOOo-Box hat eine lange Geschichte, und im Laufe der Zeit erhielten viel positives Feedback, z.B. von Computer-Zeitschriften oder Privatpersonen. Zum Beispiel erhielten wir den folgenden Kommentar von einem deutschen Benutzer:

"Ich finde es toll, dass Sie das Projekt fortsetzen. Mein Glauben in OOo war die richtige Entscheidung."

Haben Sie daran gedacht sich PrOOo-Box in andere Sprachen zu unterstützen?

Im Prinzip wäre es möglich, aber wir haben nicht genug Kapazität. Im Moment sind wir ein Team von 3 Personen, die die PrOOo-Box nur durch ehrenamtliche Arbeit pflegen.

Was kommt als nächstes? Haben Sie andere Dinge, die Sie gerne mit PrOOo-Box bringen würde?

Im Moment haben wir  neben der Website nur eine DVD-Version der PrOOo-Box.  In der Zukunft wollen wir eine CD-Versionen bereitstellen, die nur den Inhalt für ein bestimmtes OS wie z. B. Linux enthält. Wir planen auch eine Version speziell für Business-Anwender zu veröffentlichen, und planen eine "Live"-Version, die nur bestimmte Inhalte für Benutzer in der Kirche zur Verfügung stellt..

Wenn jemand helfen will, die PrOOo-Box weiter zu entwickeln, was sollte sie oder er tun? Wohin können sie sich wenden, um mehr zu erfahren?

Interessenten können uns entweder über unsere Website www.prooo-box.org erreichen oder direkt per E-Mail an  info-AT-prooo-box.org.

Tuesday July 23, 2013

A short celebration, and then back to work

Society of Artists' Selection Committee, Sydney, 1907 / photographer Henry King

Cheers to the community on the successful release of Apache OpenOffice 4.0.  Full details of release can be found in our Release Notes.  You can download Apache OpenOffice 4.0 here.

This was a major release and a major effort for the many volunteers who worked on coding, testing, translation, support, marketing, documentation and other aspects of the project.  And thanks are due to ongoing support from other parts of the Apache Software Foundation, especially the Apache Infrastructure Team for their outsized effort to support our outsized project. 

It is summertime, at least for volunteers in the northern hemisphere,  and August is vacation time.  Many of us will be taking a break and enjoying time with friends and family.  But then we'll be back and working at full force, with a focus on:

  • Bringing additional language translations to AOO 4.0.  There are quite a few languages that are "almost done", but did not make it into this release.  But rather than wait until 4.1 we'll release these languages, in batches, as they become available.   Tentatively we're aiming for mid-September for the first batch.  If you want to help with a particular translation, we'd love to hear from you.
  • Apache OpenOffice 4.1.  We've jotted down some proposed ideas on our wiki.  We now need to turn that into a plan, ideally for a 4.1 release at the end of 2013.

Finally, as we transition from one major release to another, this is a great time for new volunteers in all areas to join the project.   If you are interested helping us make the next great version of OpenOffice, then we want to hear from you.  We're not only programmers, but are a community of testers, UI designers, web designers, technical writers, accessibility experts, translators, social media experts, etc.    Volunteers in all areas are welcome.   More information can be found on our Get Involved page.

Tuesday July 16, 2013


rejected stamp

Apache OpenOffice 4.0 Release Candidate 1 (Build 9702) has been rejected.  It was not good enough. Detlef, in our German-language community, first noted the crash two days ago, which was passed on to the developers by Regina.  We immediately started further testing to narrow down the problem.

Samer, in Canada, independently reported the crash a few hours later.  We then determined that the crash only occurred on Windows 8 64-bit systems.  Rob, in the United States, then worked with Herbert, in Germany, to find out where in the code the problem was.  After a few more emails and chats, we had a proposed fix to test. 

As community members in Germany and North America slept, Yuzhen was testing the fix in Beijing. And now, this morning, the fix is confirmed and we've agreed to produce a new Release Candidate.  If the new Release Candidate is free of serious issues it will be released next week.

This is how a global community of volunteers produce quality open source software.  There are skills required -- technical and social -- to coordinate a fix like this.  But it also requires something much more important:  a dedication to quality.  We know that OpenOffice is more than just another software tool for our users.  It is how you do work, how you write and communicate.  If OpenOffice crashes then your productivity crashes. 

For Apache OpenOffice 4.0, over 20 QA volunteers executed 1,221 regression test cases on 5 operating systems.  495 reported issues are resolved in this release, including many bugs reported in earlier releases.

We hope that you join us in encouraging these priorities.  We look forward to presenting you a high-quality OpenOffice 4.0 really soon.  Apache OpenOffice 4.0 is quality worth waiting for.

If you also have a passion for quality and attention to detail, then you might be interested in volunteering on our QA team.  You can read more about volunteering with the Apache OpenOffice project on our Get Involved page. 

Friday July 05, 2013

Facebook fanpage and the growing fanbase

A bit more then a year ago, we discussed the topic social media on our list. We decided to create official channels on different social media. I jumped in to join the administrator team of the official Apache OpenOffice Fan page. Since then, the number of fans has increased a lot.

At the beginning, the Facebook fan page was not really promising. We were happy if we got eight to twelve new fans per day. This is not a lot for a project that has 50 million downloads per year. But our group started growing more and more. Now we have 40 new fans every single day, and we have about two users per day who post on our pinboard.

Statistic about the growing number of the Apache OpenOffice Facebook fanpage

But it's not the number of fans that makes the Apache OpenOffice Fanpage so special. It's the activity of our fans we like so much. You know, as community members we are often a bit separated from the users. I mean, we don't see them...it's not like a band who, playing a concert, see their fans from the stage. Of course, we have download numbers, and we can assume that our product is widely used out there. But for real feedback we have to go to our social media.

We are surprised by the enthusiasm of the fan page community. Some of them are more then just fans. Sometimes we get really valuable feedback. And others have already asked how become a part of the community. For those who want more than just being a fan, I propose to join our dev mailing list. And for the rest we like to say a "big thank you Apache OpenOffice Fans!"

Monday July 01, 2013

Not interested

After midnight selling extras. There were many young boys selling very late these nights. Washington, D.C, April 1912

We get many emails, several per week, of individuals and companies wanting to "do business" with us.    Some of it is obviously spam, but some of it is quite serious.   The proposals do not have bad intentions, though they are often incompatible with our status as a non-profit organization.  We try to respond to these notes and in a respectful manner.

In general, if you are offering us money in return for a favor, we're not interested. The Apache OpenOffice project operates as part of the non-profit Apache Software Foundation.  We're publishing open source code for the public benefit.  We must operate fairly, without giving special advantage (or disadvantage) to any 3rd party. 

Some specific things we're not interested in:

  • We're not interested in bundling your application with our install in return for money.  But the Apache License permits you to make and distribute your own bundle.
  • We're not interested in endorsing your product.
  • We're not interested in adding a link to your website in return for you adding a link to ours.
  • We're not interested in taking your money in return for a special "advisory" role in the project.  We're a meritocracy.  Membership is not for sale.

But make no mistake -- we're not antagonistic to businesses or commercial use of OpenOffice.  In fact our license, the permissive Apache License, is one of the most business-friendly licenses around.  We want you to use our code.   But we cannot have "partners" in the same way that a for-profit corporation can.

Our lack of commercial entanglements with 3rd parties means that you can operate commercially without fear that your competitor has a "special relationship" with the project, giving them an unfair advantage.

On the other hand, we do encourage things like:

  • Contributions to the Apache Software Foundation, which benefit the ASF as a whole.  Dozens of companies that sponsor the ASF are acknowledged on the Thanks Page.
  • Contributions of code to the OpenOffice project, that helps us extend its capabilities.
  • Send us links to articles, news stories, tutorials, extensions, or other materials, related to OpenOffice.  If it is good, relevant and non-spammy, then we might link to it.  But we're never going to link to something purely for the sake of a link exchange.
  • If you offer services related to OpenOffice, then we welcome your profile submission for our consultants listings.
  • If you are doing something really interesting related to OpenOffice, maybe we'll interview you for an article on this blog.  Stories related to what the broader ecosystem is doing are interesting to our readers.

Monday June 17, 2013

With Apache OpenOffice you get what you don't pay for

Juichende jongens bij VSV-DFC / Boys cheering when their  favorite team scores

Apache OpenOffice is and always will be free to download from our website.  The license allows you to use it yourself and share copies with friends and families or even total strangers.  You may use it on home machines, in the office, with your small business, school, church, gardening club, etc.  And if you know how to program software, you can take the source code for OpenOffice and modify it and share it with others as well.  This is what open source means.

So it is sad when we receive emails from users, reporting that they have paid real money, as much as € 30 ($40 US), to websites in return for a link to our website.  These websites promise the user immediate access to "open source office software with support for the lowest price", claim that "supplies are limited" and that prices are "50% off, if you order within the next 2 minutes".  But after entering your credit card, or authorizing payment via SMS, you are merely redirected to the www.openoffice.org  website, where you can download the same Apache OpenOffice software that everyone else downloads for free!

Of course, the fact that you are reading this blog is evidence that you are familiar with OpenOffice and know that it is free.  The people who will be tricked into paying are those who do not read our blog, those who are not already familiar with OpenOffice. 

But with your help we can reach those in need of a free office suite, and make them aware of Apache OpenOffice and let them know that they can download it for free.   The more people who know about OpenOffice, the fewer people who will be fooled.   To help, go to our download page and the "Help Spread the Word" section.  Use any (or all) of those links to share the word about OpenOffice to your friends and family.   Let's try to make as many people as possible aware of OpenOffice!

Monday June 10, 2013

When will OpenOffice version X be released?

Grayson, Westley, Stanislaus County, Western San Joaquin Valley, California. Seventh and eighth grad . . ., 05/09/1940

I'm always impressed by the enthusiasm of OpenOffice users to try out the next great release.  A frequent question is, "When will it be released?"  I see this question on Facebook and Twitter, the Forums and mailing lists.    "When will version <insert next version> of OpenOffice be ready?"    I'd like to answer the question fully here, so we can refer users to this answer in the future.

It is tempting to give the response, "It will be released when it is ready".  But that sounds a bit snarky, although it is accurate.   But the truth is software engineering schedule estimation is notoriously difficult and predicting a specific date is a sure way of looking foolish later on.

There is a well-known diagram in the software industry of a triangle, with the sides labeled: "good", "cheap", "fast" and with the title, "Pick any Two".  This expresses the ever-present trade-off between quality, cost and schedule. 

In commercial software development arbitrary dates can (sometimes) be met, by dropping quality (or features) or by adding resources to tasks (increasing costs).  To some extent open source projects can also try to hit arbitrary dates by dropping quality.  But unlike commercial endeavors open source projects don't have the same ability to add resources to recover a schedule slip.  On the Apache OpenOffice project we are mainly volunteers, dedicating free time to the project, and that time varies according to school and holiday schedules and other personal needs.  So we cannot stick to a schedule in the same way that a commercial software publisher can.

OpenOffice is a mature product and users expect it to just work.  They are not looking for surprises.  Users want to spend time doing their task, their work, their business.  OpenOffice is a tool, a means to an end, and having a stable, familiar tool that gets the job done is golden. There is little pleasure in getting a new hammer and screwdriver every month, with new bugs, except for the small minority of technologists who relish the challenge and risk of frequent updates.  The rest of us have real work to do and don't want to worry about whether the feature that worked last week still works today.

So generally, we've been aiming for two high-quality release of Apache OpenOffice per year, with a cycle that looks approximately like this:

  • Brainstorm and discuss possible features.  Even before version N is released we're discussing what will be included in version N+1.  This includes specific new features, enhancements, new languages, bug fixes, etc.  Much of this is tracked in our Bugzilla issue tracker (for bugs and enhancements) and on our mailing lists and wikis (for major features).  The contents of the release are determined by the volunteers who do the work, based on their interests and motivations.  These are discussed, documented on the wiki and become the goal for the next release. 
  • Development of the new features occurs, the coding often occurring in "branches" which are segregated areas in our Subversion version control system which help the developers to not step on each other's toes when stabilizing their code.
  • As features are completed they are "merged into the trunk".  We regularly build install sets from the trunk, so project participants can try the new features as soon as they are ready and give feedback.
  • Once all the feature work is done for a release, we translate and test.
  • We iterate on testing and fixing bugs until we've eliminated all "release blocking" bugs and have something of sufficient quality to call a Release Candidate.  We then vote on the Release Candidate, and if approved it becomes the new release.
So rather than asking about dates, the smart question is to ask, "Where in the release cycle are you now?".  In the case of Apache OpenOffice 4.0, we're on that last step, finishing the translation and test work.  How long that step will last will depend on how many bugs are found, how many of them are release blockers, and how long it takes to fix them.  These are things that are not easy to predict.  Again, it comes down to the old saying: good, cheap, fast -- pick any two.

We welcome help from new volunteers in all parts of the Apache OpenOffice project.  If you want to learn more please have a look at our Get Involved page.

    Tuesday June 04, 2013

    The Sidebar: New And Improved

    Usually the phrase "new and improved" does not make much sense because something either is new or did already exist and was improved upon.  For the sidebar the situation is a little different.  The core implementation is new but the content, the panels, did already exist.  The concept, but not the name, of a sidebar has existed for many years both in Apache OpenOffice (and OpenOffice.org before that) and in IBM Lotus Symphony.  In OpenOffice.org it was named "task pane" and was used primarily in Impress to give access to backgrounds, layouts, and shape and slide animations.  Symphony renamed this to "property panel", extended it to all applications and covered even more frequently used tasks.

    Screenshot of Impress with sidebar.

    So, what did you improve?

    The sidebar panels come from three different sources and have been improved in the migration process:

    • The property panels that let you for example change the size of text or the color of shapes have all been migrated from Symphony.  In the process we have cleaned up the code, made some improvements and fixed many bugs.  While the property panels work really well, their implementation could profit from more cleanup.  Removing duplicated code could reduce their code size and their complexity considerably.  The one new property panel for inserting shapes into draw documents has roughly one tenth the number of code lines of the text property panel and still has about the same number of controls.
    • The Impress panels come from OpenOffice.  They allow you for example to control animations of slides and shapes.  The new framework of the sidebar made big cleanups of their implementations possible.  They are not view shells anymore; they are now regular controls.  If you don't know what a view shell is, good for you.
    • The third group consists of non-modal dialogs like the Navigator, the Gallery, or the Styles and Formatting dialog.  Only small changes were necessary to plug them into the sidebar.

    And what is new?

    The core implementation of the sidebar and the framework provided for panel developers is completely new.  The sidebar looks similar to the Symphony property panel but shares no code with it.  One important new feature is that the sidebar is easily configurable via the, well, configuration.  Another one is that extensions can now add new decks and panels that can freely mix with existing decks and panels.  More on that later.

    What exactly is "the sidebar"?

    The sidebar is a window at the right side of the edit view of Writer, Calc, Impress and Draw.  It provides access to frequently used tasks when editing documents. The content in the sidebar is organized into decks and panels.  Decks are containers of panels, one or more of them.  In very few cases there may not yet be a panel available for the current task. You can switch between decks by clicking on buttons in the tab bar at the right side of the sidebar. A menu allows you to hide decks that you don't need.

    The deck that is open by default is the "Properties" deck.  Its set of panels is context sensitive and varies depending on what you are currently doing.  For example, if you are editing text in Writer then the "Text" panel allows you to change the font, text attributes, text and background color.  The "Paragraph" panel has controls for changing bullet style, text alignment and various indents.  The "Page" panel lets you change page size and orientation.  It is collapsed by default.  That means that you can only see its title bar.  One click on it and you can see the panel.  This avoids cluttering the user interface with panels that are only used occasionally while at the same time making them easily accessible for when they are used.

    The different parts of the sidebar

    Why do you call it sidebar and not...?

    The Symphony name "property panel" did not work for us because the sidebar contains more than just information about document properties.

    The OpenOffice.org name "task pane" came from the never realized idea of making OpenOffice.org more task oriented.  For example for the creation of form letters this could have been an adapted version of the mail merge wizard that would have displayed the general workflow and given access to templates, address books and so on.  This idea proved to be too difficult to realize.

    The name "sidebar" is generic enough to host very different content such as document properties, clip art, navigator or third party extensions.  At the same time it is descriptive enough to be remembered easily.  Should you ever turn off the sidebar by accident then you will have no problem finding the menu entry for the "bar" at the "side" of the edit view and turn it back on.

    Why add the sidebar now, why at all?

    Up to now, we, the OpenOffice community (developers, UXers, testers), were busy getting the project going at our new home in the Apache community.  After that came two releases and then graduation.

    Only after that did we finally have the time to tackle the major task of combining the sidebars of OpenOffice and Symphony.

    Many users have asked us in the past to add a Symphony-like sidebar to OpenOffice.  The feedback in the Apache community regarding the sidebar in the coming release is very positive.  Even downstream has started to integrate our implementation.  Some of the benefits of the sidebar are:

    • As in toolbars you have the most important functions for the current task available on a single click.  Unlike the toolbars it does that in a single place while some toolbars are docked above the edit view, some are docked below, and still others are displayed floating in front of it.
    • The position on the right side takes advantage of the form factor of most modern screens that have much more space in the horizontal direction than in the vertical.
    • The sidebar provides more space to its panels than the tool bar areas provide to tool bars.  Therefore panels can display more information better.
    • The sidebar has a constant size (unless you decide to change that size).  Context changes lead to different panels being displayed but do not change the size of the sidebar or the edit view.  Dock a context sensitive tool bar and you will know how annoying such size changes can be.

    What about extensions?

    A little known feature of OpenOffice is that extensions can provide panels for the task panel (now called sidebar).  These extensions are still supported.  But now there is a better way to do this.

    You can add a panel that is implemented in any language supported by the UNO API and display this panel in a deck of your choice or even in the properties panel.  The panel can react to context changes such as different selections.  But it does not have to.  You want a panel that is only displayed when editing tables in Writer documents? No problem.  You want to analyze a Calc document and display the result in real-time and always visible?  That is possible. Or you can display the current time or weather.

    Here is an example:  an extension adds a deck (see the clock icon in the tab bar) and a panel that shows the current time.

    Clock added to sidebar by extension.

    We need your input

    The toolbars and dialogs such as gallery and navigator are not yet scheduled to be disabled by default or even to be removed.  Not because we don't think that the sidebar works.  It does.

    The reason for keeping these established user interface elements is to let you become familiar with the sidebar in your own time.  We hope that you will use the toolbars and dialogs less and less.

    Apache OpenOffice is an open source project.  You can help by telling us what you don't like and what you miss. Share your ideas about how to make the sidebar better. Write a comment in the comment section below or subscribe to our development mailing list if you are willing to invest a little more time.  And Apache also accepts donations (not project specific).



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