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OpenOffice, the free office suite, is about to die

OpenOffice, the free office suite, is about to die

OpenOffice, the free office suite, is about to die

The closure of OpenOffice seems closer than ever after the project leaders themselves have already accepted that possibility.

For too long Microsoft completely dominated the office suite market with its Office, with small competitors that barely took away from it, but without any free alternative to match.

Then OpenOffice arrived. Born when Sun Microsystems released the StarOffice source code after purchasing it, the free software community found its savior, the project that could really make a difference and offer a free code office suite for all operating systems.

OpenOffice, from community hope to forgotten project

A lot of people turned to this project, from programmers to designers, and even just people who recommended the programs to their friends and acquaintances. Although it is true that OpenOffice initially left something to be desired (StarOffice had not managed to make a dent in Microsoft Office for that reason), little by little constant development was polishing the code and introducing new features requested by users such as compatibility with Office documents.

Then came Oracle Corporation, which I bought from Sun Microsystems in 2010, and who clearly had no interest in the project (Oracle and free software have never had a good relationship). Facing the prospect of losing the entire project, a good number of developers made a fork (a copy of the code) and continued development under the name LibreOffice.

Since then, LibreOffice has become a very mature project, which offers the majority of tools and possibilities that we could need in an office suite.

But what happened to OpenOffice? Oracle ended up passing the dead to Apache and since then has gone into the background; development has continued, but generally always in the shadow of LibreOffice, which has always received more love from the community.

A project that cannot even patch security bugs

Finally, it seems that this situation cannot continue, as the vice president of the OpenOffice project has admitted in a letter to all members of the project. In it he makes things clear: the ability of the Apache OpenOffice project to maintain itself is very limited, simply because there are not enough people.

It is not a problem of wanting to continue developing a free independent suite, but there are no programmers to do it; the majority who want to contribute do so directly to LibreOffice because your contributions are more likely to make a difference.

Right now half a dozen programmers maintain the project, but it is clearly insufficient for a code of this magnitude; the situation is so critical that OpenOffice knows they have security bugs, but they don’t have enough hands to fix them.

Last July, for example, the OpenOffice project issued a security warning: they had found a bug in the code that will allow an attacker to carry out a DDOS attack (denial of service) and run code on the system.

Something quite serious, but despite that they did not launch a new version of the program with the bug fixed. Instead, to avoid the bug in OpenOffice They were forced to recommend competing programs, such as LibreOffice or Microsoft Office.

A month later, in August, the patch that fixes the bug finally arrived, but we have to download and install it manually; The latest version available on the OpenOffice website is 4.1.2 dated October 2015, so everyone who has downloaded OpenOffice without knowing about the patch has this vulnerability.

The closure of OpenOffice, a very close possibility

When the time comes when you can’t even guarantee the safety of your users, is it sensible to close the doors? In the management they believe that at least it must be taken into account, and They have already raised the closure of OpenOffice as a possible option.

Of course, from the community they believe that OpenOffice can still have a place in the market. For example, instead of developing a suite for the end user, they could focus on developing a base (either in the form of libraries or a framework) so that other projects can develop their own programs. Another solution presented is to improve public relations so that both users and developers remember that OpenOffice exists and that it is an alternative.

Whichever solution the OpenOffice community finally opts for, one thing is clear: tough times await.