For many years Open Office was one of the best free alternatives to Microsoft Office – ideal for users with relatively basic needs wanting broad compatibility with MS Office without the expensive licensing costs.
Then last year it all went rather pear shaped as Oracle threw in the towel and handed Open Office over to the open source community where it was eventually taken up by the Apache Software Foundation.
At the same time many former members of the Open Office project ‘forked’ right off to create Libre Office – another free office suite (initially based on Open Office) which I have recommended before.
Whilst Libre Office benefitted from continuous updates over the last year (version 3.5.3 was released on May 2nd), Open Office languished without updates – seemingly unloved and all but forgotten. However, now it’s back.
Open Office has been resurrected, rebranded and updated – today sees the release of the new Apache Open Office 3.4 which takes up where Open Office left off [Open Office was a leading free office productivity suite, with more than 100 million users worldwide although those numbers may have crashed in the last year]
- Support for Windows, Linux (32-bit and 64-bit) and Macintosh operating environments
- Native language support for English, Arabic, Czech, German, Spanish, French, Galician, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese
- Improved ODF support, including new ODF 1.2 encryption options and new spreadsheet functions
- Enhanced pivot table support in Calc
- Enhanced graphics, including line caps, shear transformations and native support for Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)
- Improvements in performance and quality
Apache Open Office 3.4 is available for free download here.
Comparison To Libre Office
Libre Office is by now a better known quantity and has received more development in the last year. Whether Apache Open Office will catch up remains to be seen – version 3.4 certainly looks a welcome improvement on the previous year old version.
However, a side by side comparison (see chart here by SUSE and Gnome specialist Michael Meeks) suggests that Apache Open Office still has some way to go.
For users of Libre Office there is no compelling reason to switch to the revived Apache Open Office. However, existing users of the old Open Office suite who had put off switching can now benefit from this updated version.
Similarly, users looking for a free office suite who have heard of Open Office and are afraid to try another ‘brand’ will likely find Apache’s new release well worth downloading.