As resources dwindle and users of free, open-source office software continue to swing towards LibreOffice, the OpenOffice development team is considering its options — one of those being a retirement plan.
In a recent letter to contributors, vice president of Apache OpenOffice Dennis Hamilton said “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.”
It’s been a slow decline for OpenOffice ever since the LibreOffice fork was created in January of 2011. There were only two updates to the software in 2014, and only one in 2015 — the latter of which was a belated hotfix for a rather alarming security flaw. As Ars Technica reports, that one update was the result of a security issue that arose in July of that year – almost two months prior to the fix – during which time, one of the official suggested workarounds was to just use LibreOffice.
Partly because OpenOffice was first, it still has a fair few users. It was downloaded 29 million times in 2015. But developers have moved on to LibreOffice, and users have been following. It’s the official office app on many linux distros, and the features being added to it are rivalling even the top-end features of Microsoft Office. The fact that one can use a free Solver tool in LibreOffice Calc, with its genetic algorithms, is an amazing thing I think we take for granted.
Some developers have balked at the idea of retiring the software, one even positing that talking about it would begin a “self-fulfilling prophecy” after it hits the media. But the trend towards LibreOffice isn’t a spike or a fluke, and unless something changes fast, these seem like the right questions to ask.
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