Apache OpenOffice

Monday April 13, 2015

Collaboration is in our DNA

Apache OpenOffice is living in interesting times, and this is a good moment to reflect on future scenarios.

The old OpenOffice.org project spawned numerous derivative products and we are proud to see how the OpenOffice ecosystem, taken as a whole, has grown so far.

Apache OpenOffice is distributed under a license (the Apache 2 license) that by design permits anyone to reuse the code and create derivative products almost under any license, ranging from copyleft to proprietary. The Apache Software Foundation has been really successful in creating and nurturing open source communities leveraging code distributed under the Apache License, and we aim to be one of those successes.

When considering collaboration between a project and its derivatives one important aspect is how and if upstream changes are submitted to the original project. Basically, permissive licenses like the Apache License are forward-compatible with nearly any other kind of license, but backward-compatible only with other permissive licenses.

Image credit: Morin et al., A Quick Guide to Software Licensing for the Scientist-Programmer, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002598.

We are really glad to be able to provide other open source projects as well as proprietary products with a rock solid platform to build on top of. Projects like AndrOpen Office, LibreOffice, NeoOffice, Ooo4Kids and others are all benefiting from our work, and we’d love to be able to keep releasing new versions at a steady pace and make all of  this possible.

We fully understand that some of these projects rely on their customizations as an “added value”, but it is also true that collaborating with the main OpenOffice project -  if the partnership is limited to working on the common functionality - would be a win-win, since needs are basically identical.

Considering that OpenOffice is currently in the need to expand the number of its developers, we believe that seeing our release cycle slow down would damage the whole OpenOffice ecosystem.

We want to continue serving all those different communities, and to do that we need your help. We invite all the most relevant OpenOffice derivative products and their communities or vendors to join us in discussing further ideas for collaboration and improvements. For example, we could organize what would be the first "OpenOffice Ecosystem Meetup", but we are open to explore all options.


Would it be an idea to merge with LibreOffice and continue with one code base under the Open Document Foundation? They use a copyleft license, so there is forward compatibility and it means the code and community stays open to prevent dead ends. They have a very active community that could sure help with expanding the number of developers working on the core code and speed up the release cycle. There was an interesting article about the community activity recently: https://lwn.net/Articles/637735/

Posted by Mark on April 14, 2015 at 11:09 AM UTC #

The picture/diagram examples confuses different things. The license and the kind of applications one can create. Bespoke and Commercial applications can also be non-proprietary.

Posted by guest on April 14, 2015 at 10:04 PM UTC #

You might want to look at the MPLv2 license, as used by LibreOffice. Such works can be included in Apache projects because it is both backward and forward compatible see https://www.apache.org/legal/resolved.html#category-b That way you can collaborate on the core code with the LibreOffice community.

Posted by on April 15, 2015 at 02:35 PM UTC #

These are examples. It is typical in this category that source code is not disclosed or is not available under one of the licenses higher in the diagram. Of course, bespoke software can be developed and made available as open source. I have done that, with the client's consent.

Posted by Dennis Hamilton on April 16, 2015 at 07:29 PM UTC #

Just give it up already guys. AOO is a fork and IBM isn't going to bankroll forever. Copyleft is way more sustainable then the Apache license for a word processor software. Massive respect when a person admits they are mistaken. Join TDF.

Posted by Guy on April 18, 2015 at 03:39 PM UTC #

A merge with LO or any other suite is not the answer. Sharing with other open source projects should be limited - the world needs a true variety and not similar products with different names... AOO should have a tight collaboration with academic institutions around the world. Bugzilla issues can serve as projects for computer science students.

Posted by Paul on April 22, 2015 at 08:15 AM UTC #

It's definitely not a win-win situation. For users, permissive licenses like Apache are downright harmful. These licenses allow anyone to take the code and close it up, meaning additional features added to the core (rendering, format support, etc.) wouldn't be available in open-source implementations. If a user starts relying on these features, they're effectively tied to a proprietary product. If you're serious about collaboration, why not switch to the MPL? That would allow you to share code with LibreOffice and the user would be in control of their documents. Win-win.

Posted by on April 24, 2015 at 03:16 PM UTC #

European developers just don't like hostile takeovers from American institutions and their inefficient and self-important management culture. They cut the old inefficiency and turned development into a smooth and open process. Competition was opened and the inefficient side lost traction.

Posted by Chris on April 24, 2015 at 09:27 PM UTC #

I think that the project is touching ceiling. The changes that are generated in the derivative projects incline too much to cosmetic changes that they are not going to taste to the whole world (I like the current interface). Some attempt of adding a project management application in the style of Calligra Plan (KPlato)? I think that there would be many more interested parties if this type of functionality was added to the Suite.

Posted by Alexander on April 28, 2015 at 02:26 AM UTC #

All the information above is good.... Just one question.... When are you guys planning to release a new updated Open Office Version this year?

Posted by Derick Brits on May 07, 2015 at 10:22 AM UTC #

I must say I cannot imagine joining with LO. Our company switched to LO for faster working on Win8. And the first thing we noticed was that they, LO, were changing a lot making Writer less usable (more clicks to do the same thing and so on). And above all, they still do not follow "an average user's needs", but instead, like Microsoft :), they employ their own "fan devs" ideas. Just simple examples: non-printing characters are blue now. Anybody who worked hours editing texts knows that the colours decrease readability. No one-click "remove formatting" to default. Why? Because some people, when copying text from websites, want to save it with active links but remove all other formatting. It is clear that there is nobody there who control these wet dev fantasies in a direction "it has to work, not to be fun". So I hardly see that anybody of OO could explain to these teenagers, at least mental ones, that an office suite is for work.

Posted by Piotr on May 08, 2015 at 07:23 AM UTC #

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