Apache OpenOffice Might Be Dead Soon And I Won’t Even Cry

Apache OpenOffice Shutdown

One of the best open source alternatives to Microsoft Office, Apache OpenOffice might be shut down.

But this doesn’t come as a surprise, not to me and not should it be to anyone who keeps a keen eye on open source world. We all knew that this day would come one day. It’s the writing on the wall which many of were afraid to look at. Until now.

Dannis Hamilton, vice president of Apache Open Office, finally sent an email indicating its retirement plan. We’ll see the proposed ‘retirement plan’ but before that let’s see the history of OpenOffice, why OpenOffice is dying and why it not surprising or shocking.

OpenOffice: The glorious past

OpenOffice has seen better days. OpenOffice was born as Star Office in 1985. Sun Microsystems bought it in the year 1999 and released its source code the next year. This is how OpenOffice came into existence, a free and open source office suite.

OpenOffice continued to rise and gathered more and more users. But it all changed after the acquisition of Sun Microsystem by Oracle.

Within a year, Oracle discontinued the project and donated it to Apache Foundation. This was the beginning of the downfall of OpenOffice.

Apache Foundation renamed it to Apache OpenOffice and continued to support it.

Just to add, just before Oracle got the ownership of this project, it was forked into LibreOffice, a productivity suite that is being actively developed.

Why the demise of OpenOffice is not shocking!

It’s not murder, it’s euthanasia (or mercy killing). We have seen the pain and suffering of this premier open source project. Once backed by mighty tech giants like Sun Microsystem, OpenOffice is now reduced to just 6 developers and maintainers.

And that reflects on the development of this project. The last update to OpenOffice was in October last year. That’s almost a year. In fact, in last two years, it was updated only three times. At the same time, LibreOffice was updated 14 times in the year 2015 itself.

You can imagine that a software not updated in such a long time is not a good sign, for usability and for security.

As most developers left the project (several to join LibreOffice), Apache OpenOffice now has only half a dozen volunteers. No wonder that Dannis cites it one of the reason of the possible shutdown:

“It is my considered opinion that there is no ready supply of developers who have the capacity, capability, and will to supplement the roughly half-dozen volunteers holding the project together…”

The shutdown

The source code would remain available for people interested in using it, but the means of committing changes won’t be available. Installable binaries would available via an archived system but there will be no new updates at all.

In addition to that, other parts of the project would have to be shut down. That means public discussion mailing lists and mailing lists for developers and its social media accounts.

The project management committee would be disbanded as well. However, Apache would maintain an e-mail address to entertain requests to make use of the OpenOffice brand.

The inevitable

As I said before, this was the writing on the wall. In past few years, it had become obvious that the project won’t survive for long.

As the plug is being pulled, I am not going to shed a tear over the demise of the project that was once the pride of open source world. I close my eyes, I pay my respect to OpenOffice and I look forward to LibreOffice to continue the legacy of OpenOffice.

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  • My intro to Linux, like many of us who lost an expensive Microsoft OS – it was at least very useful. I am no fan of Microsoft (The Evil Zorg), but the Office suites are still popular for good reason – they are very good!

  • I want to use LibreOffice and i did for a long time but for the past few months i’ve used WPS Office, just because WPS Office seems more versatile (and, i’ll admit, more like M$ Word). I can remember Open Office and i never liked it, it always seemed to me bloated and slow.

  • Well I, for one, will mourn AOO since I have been using and enjoying it since 1999. I have since evaluated LibreOffice and found it ::BUGGY:: as hell. It is a steaming load, in fact. It doesn’t help that LIbreOffice has been touted as the be all/end all when in fact, it is crap compared to AOO regardless of the fact that LO is a fork of AOO. LO enjoys bandwagon status from the me-too crowd. That doesn’t make it quality or even usable. Just another 5 minute popular internet trend.

    • Interesting; I had the opposite experience just after the Libre Office fork. I moved to Libre because OO was so buggy and there was a period after the fork with no progress was made. I use Libre Office almost every day to write long technical documents and to make presentations in classes I teach. I cannot remember the last time Impress, Writer, or Calc crashed (Windows 7.64.Pro and Windows 10.64.Pro as well as Ubuntu 14.04 LTS). You might want to have another look.

      • I lost my operating system (Ubuntu 14.04) a few days after I switched from OO to LibreOffice — I was saving a file, everything froze, and I couldn’t even turn off the machine without unplugging it. It was almost surely a direct consequence of something that went wrong within LO. It took a full night of work to get to the point I could reload Ubuntu. (It was a personal disaster for me as I had inadequate backups at the time — at least there was a lesson learned there).

        Afterwords I read online something about LibreOffice being connected at a very low level into the operating system (?), which — the article claimed — was an exceedingly dangerous design scheme.

        Anyway, now I’m using Textmaker, which ain’t free but it’s cheap, and it seems more stable and better designed than OO (and certainly more than LibreOffice). I think it’s built on the same core code as OO.

        • @Kent

          Are you sure it was LO that crashed Ubnuntu? 14.04 has been discontinued (no more updates) in fact, the distro is now at v. 16.04 which I would avoid if you have a Broadcom wifi card because there is a legacy bug that Canoncial did not resolve that prevents users from connecting to wifi.

          I am using Lubuntu (well it is Ubuntu) v. 15.10 and strange things have been happening with other software since the discontinuation of updates to the OS. Eventually I plan to nuke Ubuntu all together and install OpenSUSE, instead, over the Lubuntu partition on my Win7 laptop but that is another story.

          LO, when I tested it on Lubuntu 15.10 and before Lubuntu 15.10 was upgraded, would not perform even the simplest operations in Writer or Calc. I immediately uninstalled it and installed AOO instead since it has never crashed or misbehaved for simple operations.

          I stand by my original assessment – LO is overhyped and very buggy and no one wants to admit it because they’ve all climbed on board the me-too LO bandwagon. It is a mistake to discontinue developing AOO. Just because the LO lemmings all want to hold hands and jump off a cliff (and happily) does not mean those of us faithful to AOO want to join them.

          P*ss on LO. I will NEVER use it.