In the recent time I have observed more and more “attacks” on Apache OpenOffice by people that think the developer team and users to should stop “wasting their time” working on it and rather work on LibreOffice. For example in this recent acticle on Unixmen.
That’s not very surprising as that basically the same thing that I hear as KOffice/Calligra developer for the past years. There are continually coming people who ask why I would still work on it and waste time that could better be spend on contributing to OpenOffice. Well there are numerous reasons why I do that e.g. I like to work with the team, I like to work on Krita and time isn’t wasted if you had fun spending it. People think that the is only one way to create an office suite and that everyone should follow it and work on the same project.
So this are the reasons for me as developer. Would it be better for everyone if we all worked on the same project? I don’t think so
There is a common thinking that you could just throw together some developers from different groups and they would like to work into one unique direction. If you e.g. take the GNOME and KDE communities and assume you wanted to merge them, it would simply not work as the visions of the desktops are different. In the same way many LibreOffice/OpenOffice users probably wouldn’t like my changes.
I think one of the nicest thing in that people can fork and try new ideas. Some will continue to evolve, some will be merged back and some will die. The same will happen with Apache Office and LibreOffice. Over time each team will put work into different areas, which causes the projects to slowly diverge. Eventually some users will prefer the one and others will prefer the other suite.
One thing I think the Unixmen article confuses is customizability and diversity. Customizability is actually quite limited e.g. no matter how much you customize KDE, it won’t become GNOME and vice versa.
I guess there has been so little competition between different office suite that people might think that a monopoly is inevitable. Currently everyone is following the approach to put everything into one gigantic suite and approximate in a one size fits all fashion what the users might need. The whole design hasn’t even changed much since the 80s. I think once office suites will get more diverse, we could see that users are going for more specialized suites that fit there needs better.
Best example are web browsers. Just a few years ago we basically had IE that did 95+% of all web surfing. There wasn’t much change in the whole thing before a number of open source browsers emerged. Now we have also Firefox, Chrome etc. and browsers are released every few weeks. One can only imagine how the landscape would look today, if the KHTML developers had joined the Mozilla team and WebKit had never existed.
Remember a few years back there was a label on many website “Best viewed with XY”? Once the browsers got more diverse, that disappeared more and more and the browsers themselves become more and more standard compliant.
Office suite basically have the similar problem, just much worse. A long time every big suite could do what they wanted, without having to watch other. We have come to a point were everything is judged on the basis of some crude ancient binary formats and the compatibility to them. The most important thing is to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself and I think the best way to do that is to have different suites that implement the standard.
Of course I can’t predict the future and say how it will all unravel, but I think Apache OpenOffice could be a nice addition for the open source world.
Even more important in my opinion is that people stop to attack the other teams. Respect the work of other people and don’t accuse them of working for the wrong project, doing pointless work or stealing developers.