What's next after 4.0?
Meeks said that although the LibreOffice developers have been doing lots of QA and unit testing to ensure that the project's code is of high quality, a few minor glitches are always likely to crop up in any major LibreOffice release.
"At least in the free software community, it's relatively expected that there may be a few bugs and rough edges we haven't managed to iron out yet," Meeks told El Reg. "If you're a conservative business user, you should probably be waiting until the 4.02 or 4.03 release – or even better, paying for a commercially supported release that's even more hardened."
LibreOffice operates on a timed release schedule, where a new major point-release ships every six months. In between major releases, a minor point release appears roughly every month – so the more production-ready version of the suite, LibreOffice 4.02, should arrive in two months.
Meeks explained that LibreOffice releases are timed to go out a couple of months before the major Linux distributions ship their new versions, so that LibreOffice 4.02 will likely be the first build of the new version of the suite to ship with Fedora or Ubuntu.
Of course, customers who like to live on the bleeding edge are always welcome to download LibreOffice 4.0 now. Bug reports from those intrepid souls will be particularly appreciated.
And then there's always the future to consider. The Document Foundation has been talking about online and mobile versions of LibreOffice for some time, but although Meeks says these things exist and are still being developed, they still have a way to go before they are ready for wide distribution.
"Fitting into the 50MB limit for the Android app store is a bit of a problem with the whole office suite, even when we start ripping out the UI base code," Meeks said, though he added that the effort gave the LibreOffice developers an incentive to try to shrink down the code, which is good in itself.
Meeks also said that work is being done on a version of LibreOffice that can be streamed from a server and run from inside a web browser window, with broadly identical functionality to the desktop version, though he said this is only at the prototype stage at the moment.
As for developing a complete, integrated suite of office applications and online services, however – the way Microsoft is doing with its Office 365 offering, for example – the Document Foundation's Vignoli says the opportunity is wide-open ... for someone else.
"We do not see The Document Foundation offering the complete solution, as this would be a departure from our objectives," Vignoli told The Reg in an email. "Companies such as large software vendors or ISPs would be able to pick up the different pieces and build the complete solution, provided they accept to become good community players such as Red Hat and SUSE, and give back a portion of their income by paying developers or giving money to support the project."
Neither was Meeks willing to compare the direction of LibreOffice to that of OpenOffice.org, the parallel project now being maintained by the Apache Foundation. Apache promoted its version of the suite to a top-level project in October 2012, but we've heard relatively little of that effort since.
"I don't think there's any great interest in comparing ourselves to Apache, generally," Meeks said. "I think the vast majority of the market is in Microsoft's camp, pretty firmly. We're growing our feature set and our user base pretty vigorously. We're pretty happy with where we are. So I just don't think we need to measure ourselves against anyone except the major competitor." ®
That's a very blinkered and crazy point of view.
Libre Office is very good for the vast majority of business users. Why? The vast majority of business users use their entire Microsoft Office suite to:
* write the odd letter, maybe even mail merge
* record a few values in a spreadsheet
While there are a large number of users that use more advanced features and there are a lot of (suicidal) organisations that somehow run their entire operation on Excel Spreadsheets, their number is considerably less than the majority. The majority of business workers do not sit in finance offices juggling Excel or Word macros across multiple documents, they sit in grotty offices using Microsoft Word in place of a type writer.
I like Libre office (and Open Office prior to that), and use Microsoft Office extensively, but what I'd like even more is for Libre Office to be challenging MS Office much closer and forcing Microsoft to actually improve their product rather than just change the user interface skin every few years and somehow make the entire thing larger, slower and more bloated with every release.
The key lock in to the Microsoft Office suite is Microsoft Outlook. Unfortunately despite being awful in a huge number of ways, it's the best email and calendaring client there is.
Re: Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office?
Oh go on then, I'll bite.
So everyone should just give up and buy MS or Adobe products? Please.
I use GIMP and Photoshop extensively, predominantly GIMP. And the only thing I really need Photoshop for is CMYK image support. If GIMP had that then my entire design workflow could be completed with GIMP/Inkscape.
When it comes to LibreOffice, I've seen more improvement in LO in the last 12 months than I had in OO over 3 years. It's almost equal to Office XP, which I still run because it's insanely fast on hardware from the last 5 years. The only things where LO wasn't so good: pivot charts were a bit crashy, boggy graph performance, lack of a presenter view for multi-monitor/projector setups in presentations. Other than that LibreOffice has had 95% of all users covered in the last few years.
I'll leave you to your ribbon interface and horrible bloatware but don't ruin it for people who actually use this software and appreciate the hard work of others. I'll be giving this new version a go tonight.
The problem is that people just think Word, Excel, Powerpoint. Why would anyone buying a computer from PC World be aware of any alternatives.
Being driven in droves to LibreOffice??
As a home & hobby user (but formerly a newspaper publisher and journalist) I've been intrigued with the development of OO and now LO ... and have heard endless complaints and criticisms that "nothing works like Office but genuine MS Office!"
But now with the arrival of Office 2013 on the store shelves (let's set aside the Corp/Govt distro channels for now) one slaps US $139.99 for a cute little box, not large enough to hold a CD. Opening said box at home, one finds two slips of paper: one is a keycode; the other is a download URL. WTF??
This purchase entitles the customer to a download to one machine install ... period. One machine, one user. If the hard drive pukes, pay another US $139.99; if the machine is burnt/stolen/replaced, pay another US $139.99. Want to transfer that copy to an offspring for college? Nope ... pay another $139.99. With no CD, there is no possibility of a reinstall, period. BigBro controls the install/activation, and allows no second chances. Check out the terms:
Such liberal terms and respect for customers is certain to have one effect: M$ will be driving 'em in droves to LIbreOffice !!