The Challenges of OpenOffice, the Rise of OpenDocument

News today that KDE’s open source “KOffice” will be coming to Windows next year. The situation continues to get more complex for OpenOffice, which saw forks to both IBM Lotus Symphony and Go-OO in the past few weeks. The future of as the premier open-source office productivity distribution may be in doubt.

But things can’t be better for OpenDocument, the open standard for sharing information that was pioneered by OpenOffice and is the default format of OpenOffice, KOffice, Go-OO, and Symphony. By standardizing on what a document is, the artificial monopolies around word processors, spread sheets, and presentations are torn down, allowing the competition to center around what-is-best and not merely what-was-possible.

I first fell in love with an early version of OpenDocument while working on my computer science thesis, taught it in classes to college seniors, and even use it to save and export from GoogleDocs. Whatever the fate of itself, the ISO and OASIS standard OpenDocument format that it pioneered is the future of infoworker data interchange.

2 thoughts on “The Challenges of OpenOffice, the Rise of OpenDocument”

  1. When I bought a new computer last year, I saved $200 by foregoing Microsoft Office and using OpenOffice. Other than the inconvinient fact that I can't download OpenOffice onto DoD computers where I work, everything has been great.

    GoogleDocs works less well for me.

  2. Ironically, it was a bit of Microsoft generosity long ago that convinced me that OpenOffice is such a good idea.

    When I was a kid, we got Microsoft Office everything edition in exchange for participating in an MS marketing research survey. (Actually, it was a choice of any Microsoft software, and in spite of wanting Fury3 [1] I went with the responsible choice.) It was so much fun — and so educationally – to be able to hack around with a full-featured OfficeSuite, doing macro programming for kicks, seeing what all the components did.

    That's an educational opportunity that every child should have. But for too many, the choice was either find a pirated copy, if you could, or go without. With OpenOffice (and all sorts of other first-class open source software: apache, mysql, php, perl, etc.) more doors are open for more people.

    And that's a good thing.


  3. I love your love for OpenDocument. However, your statements about OpenOffice being split are wrong. Lotus Symphony is a UI job on a really old version of OO and Go-OO is no split but a cutting edge distribution.


  4. Sean,


    There's a virtuous cycle between having a widespread free office program and a widespread open office format — we're lucky to have both now.


    Thank you for your comment.

    Why is fork an incorrect term? There are three different distributions with three different powerful distributors (SUN, IBM, Novell), after all.

    That said, as long as the best ideas from all distributions are shared, users will still benefit.

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