The Cloud’s Not The Limit For LibreOffice

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LibreOffice’s first annual conference shows it to be in rude health following its fork from OpenOffice, says Iris Cheerin

Once upon a time, open source software was the domain of the truly geek imbued, and Linux was an operating system that only the most vehement opponents of Microsoft aspired to running on their machines; an ideology that many thought would never get off the ground and garner wide-spread popularity.

Since then, much has changed, with a plethora of easier-to-install, friendly faced flavours and applications evolving through global collaboration by dedicated coders and tinkerers alike.

One of these gems of the open source community is LibreOffice, the community-driven fork of that was founded last year, under the stewardship of The Document Foundation (TDF).

25 million users after one year

Italo Vignoli

Since its inception, both its development and popularity have enjoyed a meteoric rise, with an enterprise edition having been released only 10 months after its launch and a total 25 million LibreOffice users worldwide, according to TDF calculations, in line with its expectations and target of 200 million users worldwide before the end of the decade.

LibreOffice was formed a year ago because of fears that Oracle would kill OpenOffice having bought its then-guardian Sun Microsystems and has since seemed to be ahead of the OpenOffice strand, in reviews.

Ironically enough, OpenOffice appears to have a solid future too, since it is under the guardianship of the Apache Foundation, and money worries have been dispelled.

At the first annual LibreOffice Conference, held in Paris last week, the Foundation made several encouraging announcements regarding the project’s future, including the development of a browser-based version of LibreOffice for the ever-growing cloud, LibreOffice Online – in a bid to provide an open-source alternative to Google Apps and Microsoft’s Office 365.

According to the foundation, LibreOffice Online is based on GTK+ framework and HTML5′s canvas, and has been developed by SUSE’s Michael Meeks, built on GTK+ Broadway from RedHat’s Alex Laarson.

TDF further aims to port LibreOffice to Android and iOS, based on the voluntary work of Finnish SUSE developer, Tor Lillqvist. According to the TDF website, “The LibreOffice Android and iOS port has the objective of bringing the office suite to iPads and Android tablets, and eventually smaller devices. The user interface work has yet to start in earnest but the bulk of the code is compiling. These are not products available to end users, but advanced development projects which will become products sometimes in late 2012 or early 2013.”

During the conference, it was also announced that the French government would be showing its support for the project by not only becoming a member of TDF Advisory Board, but also switching 500,000 of its desktops at several French Government entities from OpenOffice to LibreOffice, increasing the Windows installed base of LibreOffice by five percent in a single move, and distributing 800,000 USB keys with LibreOffice and other free software to students of the Paris Region to raise awareness and popularity of open source software.

According to Foundation spokesperson, Italo Vignoli (pictured above), “LibreOffice is the result of the combined activity of 330 contributors, including former developers. The developer community is well balanced between company-sponsored contributors and independent community volunteers. All that effort is yielding results. Faster, more reliable, with richer features than predecessors, the LibreOffice experience is the best yet in the evolving heritage of the former StarOffice codebase.”

Linus Torvalds must be so proud, and open source users will look forward to the next chapters of this story.

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