The Document Foundation role is to support and grow the LibreOffice & Document Liberation project and promote Free Software and Open Standards. You will notice in this statement two key points; first, it is not directly the role of the Document Foundation to develop the LibreOffice code: the community of volunteers is in charge of that and second, the actual role of the foundation is actually to protect and cater to the community’s needs and logistics.
Microsoft consistently opposed the policy, which the software giant saw as its last chance to overturn the UK government’s broader plans for open standards. As emails seen by Computer Weekly reveal, the decision became an issue in the supplier’s Seattle boardroom, and brought the lobbying powers of the software giant into full force in Whitehall.
There has been speculation about the role played by senior government minister David Willetts, then minister of state for universities and science in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), but who later left the post in David Cameron’s 2014 summer reshuffle.
An investigation by Computer Weekly has revealed that – according to well-placed sources – Microsoft turned to Willetts to help win its case, with the supplier’s global chief operating officer (COO) Kevin Turner getting involved. But neither BIS nor David Willetts himself is willing to discuss the role the minister played in Microsoft's attempts to influence this obscure but vitally important part of government IT policy.
Willetts was the government’s liaison point for Microsoft, as a major employer and investor in the UK economy. He also served as co-chair of the Information Economy Council, a body set up to enable dialogue between Whitehall and the IT industry over future policy.
For our first magazine interview, we got some cheap flights and headed out to Kaufbeuren, an attractive Swabian city an hour’s train ride from Munich. This is where we met Florian Effenberger, Executive Director at The Document Foundation (he was chairman at the time of this interview), and Alexander Werner from the Foundation’s membership committee. This is the non-profit organisation at the heart of LibreOffice, the famous fork of OpenOffice.org now dominant in every Linux distribution. We were able to ask Florian about the split, about arguments over a new name and what wheat beer he’d recommend as a souvenir for our journey home.
A new minor release of the hugely popular open-source office suite LibreOffice has been made available for immediate download.
LibreOffice 4.3.3, the third minor update in the 4.3.x series and the first since the September release of 4.3.2, comes packed with plenty of stability and performance fixes, but no major new features to sing of.
Comparing LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice is like comparing identical twins. Even people who know them well have trouble distinguishing one from the other, and, when you find a difference, it is often trivial. All the same, the differences are growing, and LibreOffice has at least eleven advantages over OpenOffice – see the list below.
Both of these free office suites are descendants of OpenOffice.org (just don't ask in a crowd of Linux users which is true descendant of OpenOffice.org unless you're fond of flame wars). They have identical system requirements and feature sets. Both are supported by libraries of templates and extensions, and, if one acquires a new feature, the other frequently adds the feature in the next release.
Those who know me know that I am partial to OpenOffice, an open source project that I contribute to. So I am extremely pleased to see it continue to advance in all fronts. Since coming to Apache, OpenOffice’s name recognition has grown from 24% to 39% and the user share has grown from 11% to 18%, while keeping user satisfaction constant. This is a testament to the hard work of the many talented volunteers at Apache.
In the case of the Document Foundation, the LibreOffice project needed an independent, solid and meritocratic entity dedicated to support it. In other terms, the OpenOffice.org community wanted to be its own boss and stop relying on corporate – or even third party – good will. If you attend the Community Track on the 31st you will be able to learn more about the Document Foundation and the other entities, but my message here is that while there is no silver bullet in these matters, forcing a community be hosted or to bend to a software vendor never works. It bends if it wants to; it goes whereever it wishes to go. In the case of the Document Foundation, independence and community rule prevailed over convenience; today the results do not need to be proven anymore. But it does not mean we hold the truth more than anybody else: we just ensured the community was in charge.
In just three days, the Swiss open source community Wilhelm Tux reached its crowdfunding target of 10,000 CHF (about 8000 euro) to add support for digital signatures in PDF documents. The feature will be added to LibreOffice, a free and open source suite of office productivity tools. The project is awarded to Collabora, an open source IT service provider, which will deliver the new functionality in April.