OpenOffice.org Project Update

by Sam Hiser

OpenOffice.org
("OOo")--the development project behind OpenOffice.org 1.0
("OOo1"), the open-source office suite--declared its 2nd birthday
on October 13th, 2002, and
the
tone was optimistic
. On that day,
the
Community announced
8.5 million binary downloads tracked
over the life of the Project, with about 5 million of those coming
after the launch of version 1.0 in May 2002.These numbers caused the trade and open-source press to prick
up their ears sharply, a contrast to the laconic well-wishing that
colored the 1.0 release a few months prior. The numbers also
stimulated
some FUD
from the direction of Washington State. So there
is a palpable sense of obligation in the Community to the large
amount of work ahead, as well as great anticipation.OpenOffice.org 1.0, the software, seems to have struck a
chord based on the combination of its low price (free) and its
promise of file format compatibility and continuity. The suite
allows users to open and save-as the file format of the leading
suite (from Word 6.0/97/2000/XP). In addition, OOo1's
well-documented implementation of the
XML file format offers
guaranteed access to work created in the OOo suite (since future
changes to the XML standard, properly implemented, will always be
continuously accessible if not backward-compatible).Government Interest: CompellingWhile OOo1 download-by-country statistics resemble any chart
of GDP per capita (or total number of PCs per 1,000 people) you've
ever seen in The Economist, the countries we
hear about at the Project level that are most active in planned
adoptions are extremely motivated to move. There are installations
in place or in planning stages in the German Bundestag, the Maltese
Prime Minister's office, to name just two. The governments of
Italy, England, Canada, China, Peru, Chile, Costa Rica and many
other countries have taken a view that these platforms can help
them manage and control both smaller, more efficient IT budgets and
establish for the first time a path to universal access to public
documents.Other Early Adopters: Cops and
MercenariesNot surprisingly, other early adopters of OOo1 are the same
kinds of people and organizations who were early supporters of
Linux: military, security and police agencies. I'll never forget a
New Jersey State Trooper's depth of interest in the project when I
spoke with him at LinuxWorld NY, back in February 2002. The guy
still had his gun on while we chatted, and he was clearly a serious
user. He got more utility out of his Palm device in front of me
that day than anyone I have ever seen tapping away on the subway.
These adopters today are agencies with urgency: those who pay
attention to the quality of their tools, who need infrastructure
that works and who care about their budgets. So it's no shock at
all when we notice that the
US Defense
Information Systems Agency (DISA)
is a dedicated user of
open-source software. Furthermore, it is rumored that the Office of
Homeland Security does not use IIS or Outlook.There is no question that governments and agencies get open
source, Linux and OOo1 at the IT level. In the UK, for example,
early adopters of these tools are the Central Scottish Police and
Scotland Yard.Corporate AdoptionAgainst this backdrop, the question of when corporations will
wake up to open source is germane. But they are--at least in the
City that Never Sleeps--evaluating open-source tools, including
Linux, OpenOffice.org 1.0/StarOffice 6.0 and thin-client
arrangements. Dan Ravicher, a hip intellectual property lawyer here
at Patterson Belknap, NY, along with Jim Gleason, President of
NYLUG.org, hosted a breakfast for folks to chat about how Disney,
Morgan Stanley, Dreamworks, Credit Suisse First Boston, Merrill
Lynch and others are hot on open source.The reasons companies to-date seem deaf to the words "open
source" and "Linux" are multifaceted. Large companies can't simply
let employees install free software: they need to reorganize their
IT and legal departments to deal with technical and licensing
integration into complex heterogeneous environments. But another
major factor is that their site licenses for things like
proprietary office suites have time on them, say two years left to
run. That means the 150-more seats added in the new desk at a Brown
Brothers Harriman costs them next to nothing--until their existing
site licenses expire (for those who did not take to "software
assurance").So the corporations are planning, in that inimitable way they
do. A large investment bank I speak with thinks that Linux might
one day deserve about a 20% share of their desktop infrastructure,
if only to keep their vendors honest. I think they will more likely
see worker-bee productivity gains and penetration more like 50%.
It's Cluetrain all over again, but look for
the migration stats to favor Linux & Co. in the glass house in
'03-'05. These things take time. Red Hat, with a new arrangement on
systems integration with IBM, should do well in this spell.How Am I Doing?So it's almost needless to say that
rave reviews about
OOo1
are beginning to appear. Let's face it, people expect
this software to be much more dog-eared than it really is at the
price. Conversely, users (particularly LaTeX users) love to tell us
how dog-eared the suite looks, especially the fonts. And we are
pleased to hear it, because the OOo Community is extremely open to
(and dependent upon) constructive criticism, the more specific, the
better.RoadmapOOo sees the next few builds focusing on smoothing bug fixes
and integration with other suites and environments.
Developer
build 643
, just released, already looks and feels
noticeably slicker on Linux, although it is suitably
unstable.Figure 1. OOo Developer Build 643:
smoother look and feel. One notable new feature is native export to
PDF--midway on the dropdown.
Figure 2. OOo1 Writer. Nice
fonts!
An effort is being made to coordinate if not standardize file
formats with the other open-source office suites. The Community is
extremely excited about the work going into the
OpenOffice.org
1.0 for Mac OS X
, with a developer build now available in
beta that is sufficient for daily use. The OS X port, led by Ed
Peterlin and his group of independent developers, is important to
OOo because of the passion of the Mac user community. We are likely
to get lots of sparks flying and good cheer from Mac enthusiasts
when the final version is announced.This current build for OS X runs on X11, and Peterlin has
outlined a path to a Cocoa build with full Aqua look and feel. He
estimates it will be out in 12 to 18 months. Anyone who has Mac and
UNIX skills, step right up and help us accelerate this
schedule.GroupwareThere has been a lot of discussion over the need for a
groupware or PIM solution to go into OOo. The present thinking of
the OOo Groupware Project, led by Gary Frederick, is to not
reinvent the wheel but to fit it around open standards like iCal,
Mozilla Mail and perhaps others. They want to find a good
open-source server and integrate with other existing groupware
software.Ximian has already been integrating OOo1 into their Red
Carpet distribution environment and are looking into integrating
OOo1 more suavely into GNOME. I believe integrating OOo1 with
Evolution could be a really neat solution for Linux, and we
completely support the idea. But that leaves a few other OS
platforms in the OOo constellation unaddressed (Windows, Solaris,
Mac OS X, FreeBSD, to name only the available platforms). If OOo
and Ximian could work together to bring Evolution alongside OOo1 to
Win32, then we'd have a goer.No doubt, too, Mitch Kapor's
Chandler is
interesting. Although
it's
no Outlook killer
, integrating Chandler with OOo1 could
create an office suite-cum-PIM solution that's popular in the
middle and lesser developed markets, where OOo currently is
thriving.Development PartnershipsOOo is working with some interesting partners on integration.
OEone--a fledgling
creator of a full-function, media-enabled Linux desktop and
contributor of some key parts of the Mozilla code--is working on
some
groupware integration with OOo1
.The OOo ProjectsOn the OOo Project side, the Community is focusing on
building its global native-language communities, in which members
converse in local languages. Six non-English-speaking "Langs" are
going to date: French, German, Brazilian Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish
and Italian. We'd love to have others: Vietnamese, Chinese, Polish,
Russian--the sky's the limit as long as there is motivation, and we
know there's interest. Speak to project leaders, Louis Suarez-Potts
and Guy Capra, about forming a new Lang in you neighborhood
today.The Porting Project, led by Kevin Hendricks and Martin
Hollmichel, is extremely important to the overall Project and looks
to be supporting more platforms than were originally
imagined.Ports of OpenOffice.org 1.0 now available include:

  • Mac OS X v10.2 (PowerPC)
  • Solaris 7 & 8 (Sparc & Intel x86)
  • Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP (Intel x86)
  • Linux (Intel x86 & PowerPC)
  • FreeBSD

Ports in development include:

  • Linux (Alpha)
  • Linux (ARM)
  • IRIX
  • Tru64 (Alpha)
  • NetBSD (Sparc)
  • OS/2
  • VMS
  • BeOS

Language porting activities are also critical to making OOo1
available and useful in the new and rapidly growing markets around
the world that are not as yet saturated with PCs and office
software. New language porting initiatives come to our attention
frequently. We encourage the local developers responsible for the
language porting to form a Native-Lang web site and start a
community conversation that increases the tensile strength of OOo's
awesome motley fabric.The QA Project is growing, and its role in checking out
issues and bug triage has never been more critical to us. We would
love to see more folks come on board to assist here.The Marketing Project, led by Nick Richards and myself, is
working on expanding global impact through guerilla methods and
massive locally based communications and support efforts. Nick is
just now taking over from Josh Berkus, who made critical
contributions throughout the Project in its early growth phase.
Nick is articulating a fresh vision for the future of OOo and its
marketing that will be apparent to Project watchers 2003.Marketing is always expanding its "MarCon" (Marketing
Communications) network of members around the world who manage
press release information flow, so the project is synchronized on
messages in all the necessary languages. We are also looking at P2P
distribution as an option for when download demand gets
urgent.Pick a project and
come
aboard
.DistributionPresently, our bundling news is positive. Red Hat 8.0 and
SuSE 8.1 have packaged OOo1 in their respective standard editions,
and Ximian is including OOo1 in its Red Carpet update and
dependency interface (which I personally enjoy). Lindows OS has
both OOo1 and StarOffice 6.0 in its "look-Ma-no-hands"
click-and-run service. If I've left anyone out, please let me know.
Xandros is known to have something brewing, too. And OEone's
offering (above) will be on the horizon soon.The community of Linux distributors is one group I,
personally, would like to monitor more closely from OOo. Not only
do you have sophisticated users internally who have the ability to
contribute productively on the bug front and with integration, but
OOo would like to track the Linux distribution's' own release
schedules more closely so that we can plan our own release schedule
with mindfulness. Please see me after class, and we'll put some
people together.Please HelpThe Community could use
more
testimonials like Verizon's
, where they are saving many
millions of dollars by switching to Linux and OOo1/SO6, among other
things for their system developers. Please don't hesitate to tell
us if you are using OpenOffice.org 1.0.Also, we would love to have some true ROI data and anecdotes
to use to support the argument for adoption. We are happy to
protect identities if we use your data.One final request: downloaders and installers of
OpenOffice.org 1.0, please link to the OOo User Survey when the
installation wizard prompts you. The information you give is all
optional, and it's really helpful to the Community's effort to
improve the software and respond to user needs.Come and visit our booth at LinuxWorld Expo in New York on
January 22-24, 2003, where OpenOffice.org will share an area in the
dot-org Pavilion with the Linux Terminal Server Project and quite
possibly a pod in the Sun booth. We enjoy hearing from you.ResourcesOpenOffice.org 1.0 is dual-licensed under the LGPL and SISSL
and is free to all users. It can be downloaded at
www.openoffice.org.
There, you'll find useful documentation, links to Howtos and
mailing-list based support.Enterprises and educational institutions might look to Sun's
StarOffice
6.0
for value-added features and contractual
support.Sam Hiser is a contributor
to the Marketing Project and member of the Release Committee of
OpenOffice.org. He teaches middle-school English in the Bronx and
consults on desktop productivity in media, financial services and
education.

email: swhiser@openoffice.org

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