back to article Apache OpenOffice 4.0 debuts with IBM code side and centre

The Apache Software Foundation has released OpenOffice version 4.0, a leap forward from the previous 3.4 edition let into the wild in March 2012. The Foundation's talking up over 500 enhancements, foremost among them a new sidebar built with code IBM cooked up for the Lotus Symphony productivity suite*. The sidebar comes in …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm on it!

    I was a huge LibreOffice fan, but LO has been making a mess of formatting MS Word-generated legal documents. Apache OOo 3.4 handles the formatting very well in comparison. I also used Symphony a bit, although it had slowness and crashing problems on my systems. But I liked the sidebars and the ribbons they were trying to implement.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: I'm on it!

      So far so good - quick install under Debian. Did not need to uninstall 3.4.1 this time. Seems quite zippy compared to the slowness I'm used to. The GUI is not the old Symphony one - just the normal OOo GUI with an optional Symphony sidebar. I found the sidebar fits well on my widescreen monitor, but it's a bit more cramped on my non-widescreen monitor.

    2. JDX Gold badge

      Re: I'm on it!

      Does this mean we could end up with LO & OO being even slightly incompatible with each other's documents?

      1. gerryg

        standards, standards, standards

        LibreOffice 4.1: a landmark for interoperability

        "Interoperability is a key asset for LibreOffice, which is the de facto standard for migrations to free office suites since early 2012. Numerous improvements have been made to Microsoft OOXML import and export filters, as well as to legacy Microsoft Office and RTF file filters. Most of these improvements derive from the fundamental activity of certified developers backing migration projects, based on a professional support agreement."

        I have no reason to think OOo has other goals - other office suites may vary

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: standards, standards, standards

          "Interoperability is a key asset for LibreOffice"

          But it still completely sucks at it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @JDX - Re: I'm on it!

        If both will comply with ODF standards, there should be no incompatibility at all.

      3. A J Stiles

        Re: I'm on it!

        I very much doubt it.

        Even if the worst happened, you could take the "save" code from one and graft it into the other. You might end up with undistributable code, thanks to licence compatibility issues; but stitching the code together in this way and running it is Fair Dealing for the purpose of copyright law, and thus does not require any licence, as it is already permitted by the law of the land.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm on it!

      This crud is only suitable for the most basic of home users. And if you don't need your documents to work on a real version of Office.

      It just sucks so much in comparison.....

      1. hplasm

        Re: I'm on it!

        "...a real version of Office.

        It just sucks so much in comparison....."

        Yes, Office does suck.

      2. KitD

        Re: I'm on it!

        "suitable for the most basic of home users"

        Ie 95% of typical MS Office users.

      3. keithpeter Silver badge

        Re: I'm on it!

        "This crud is only suitable for the most basic of home users. And if you don't need your documents to work on a real version of Office."

        Well, yes, I am at home. And I can be pretty basic at times.

        I'm wasting a bit of time here as a break from writing. I'm on page 73 of a revision/study guide for Foundation GCSE Maths for adult students. I'm not allowed to use 'Joy of X' as the title (Koerner thought of that one before I did, but he wasn't allowed to use it either).

        Written from scratch in the version of LO distributed with CentOS 6.4. So far, we have around 18k words, 300 objects, 50 or so tables, 25 drawings and lots of headings and sub headings. Around 1.3Mb file size. No problems as yet (cross fingers, Shape and Space is yet to come, and that will be fifty to 100 drawings). Projected length is around 120 pages A4.

        I'm using Calc for the charts and graphs and find the drawings easier in Impress for some reason. By using Impress, I can also pull the diagrams out separately to put into interactive whiteboard software later.

        Why LO and not LaTeX or Lyx with (say) R and pyxplot for graphics? I can pop Portable App version of LO on a USB stick so colleagues can edit/chop/change. My colleagues can cope with an Officey type interface. Learning LaTeX isn't happening.

        Why not MS Office? I use Linux at home, and the mathematical formula editor is less annoying in LO. And, no, I don't need my document to work in a 'real' version of Office. But I am greatly concerned with any differences in the files produced by oOo and LO as mentioned up the screen.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This crud is only suitable

        Ooh look!

        It's EADON's evil twin.

        Either that or somebody stuck a mirror of opposite alignment in his hallway last night.

  2. Dagg Silver badge

    Open office now screwed!

    As an ex IBMer I was forced to use sym-phoney and it stank big time! I can completely disagree with the writer on that point.

    I just hope they took only the good parts (I never found any) or else OO is dead!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Open office now screwed!

      No, it's not Symphony - you need to try it. The sidebars are optional - just uncheck them under the View menu if you don't want to use them. They are still using the normal OOo or LO GUI - not the old Symphony one.

  3. Captain DaFt

    Now this is the way of the future of open software!

    LO and OO going mano a mano, and actually adding features we want and need!

    It beats the hell out of the way OO was the way before the fork, no real competition, just "Yeah, we're all ya got, use us or Microsoft, here's this year's tweak."

    Lately, the improvements have been piling on in both, and MS Office is feeling some heat.

    Now if something like this could just happen to Gimp...

    1. batfastad

      Re: Now this is the way of the future of open software!

      GIMP is so close it annoys me. I'm tempted to set up some sort of crowd-funding project to get CMYK support (full switch to GEGL engine needed I believe) added to GIMP. That's the only thing stopping me switching my entire workflow.

      Better batch facilities would be good as well. At the moment I tend to just use ImageMagick for that kind of stuff that I've built up over the years.

  4. Gordan

    Any improvements in there...

    ... that didn't also go into the LibreOffice code tree as well? No? Didn't think so.

  5. Joseph Haig


    I have had to suffer Symphony for a few years (hey, guess who I work for) and one of the things I actually liked about it was the sidebar. I am surprised that the author of the article missed it after "hundreds of hours in its word processor". My main gripe with it was that (as far as I could make out) they had forked an old OpenOffice build and so was always going to be lagging behind.

    I will reserve judgement on whether MS Office compatibility has improved. This was never particularly good in Symphony, and generally worse than the latest OOo.

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Sidebar

      I have to stick my hand up and also admit I never saw or used the sidebar in the recent IBM Symphony :S (Ex Lotus Notes 8 user)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sidebar

        @Captain Scarlet - >" have to stick my hand up and also admit I never saw or used the sidebar in the recent IBM Symphony :S (Ex Lotus Notes 8 user)"

        I found the Symphony "Sidebar" to be a big, gaudy, slow nuisance. This OOo 4.0 version, however, seems to be very fast, well behaved, and the user can easily dismiss the sidebar at their choosing.

  6. batfastad


    I'm a pretty heavy user of LibreOffice and have been since the fork. The improvement in LibO in these last few years is staggering compared to the progress OO had made previously. With LibO performance and stability appear to have improved massively, I believe they're gradually re-writing loads of old Java code and replacing it with Python. It still loads slower than Office XP though on most of my machines.

    The only things that I stumble on are probably also problems in OO. Performance in Calc bogs a bit when you have a few graphs/charts going on. Though pivot tables no longer crash spectacularly like they used to in OO before I switched (often taking the document with it!). I wish there was some sort of "presenter view" in Impress like there is in PowerPoint.

    Overall though either of these basically have 98% of users covered. The problem is habit and awareness. It's a difficult battle to win when an MS Office trial is bundled with new PC purchases and people just think Word, Excel, Outlook etc.

    1. system11

      Re: LibreOffice

      Even harder when you consider that MS Office is *actually quite good*. Even as a Linux guy I find myself working on spreadsheets via Office in a Windows VM in preference to using LO/OO, because the software is simply better. I could certainly live with LO/OO most of the time, although some MS generated documents do turn into a mess, it's not as bad as say video editing where there's nothing as good as Sony Vegas available.

  7. William Boyle

    Compared with LibreOffice 4.1?

    How well does it stack up with the lated LO version?

    1. keithpeter Silver badge

      First impressions - Re: Compared with LibreOffice 4.1?

      Thanks to the wonders of yum localinstall I now have oOo4.0 and LO4.1 installed along with the 'official' LO3.4 on this Stella Linux (CentOS 6.4 + sane repos for some packages) box with nvidia card and proprietary drivers. All three installations have the memory setting at 256Mb for the program and 16Mb per object. All three have java unticked, and are set to hide icons in menus and not show font previews.

      I ticked the 'experimental sidebar' box in LO4.1, so both oOo4 and LO4.1 have that sidebar thingy which does seem like it might be useful on a 1920by1080 monitor.

      oOo4 does not enable hardware acceleration, option is greyed out. LO4.1 does allow hardware acceleration, noticable difference when scrolling through a 70+ page document with a lot of graphics but not sure if that is the reason. Unticking 'antialiassed graphics' does make things a bit smoother. Both new packages appear slightly slower than LO3.4.

      Nothing amazing so far but I'll try a few things over the weekend, including some large but stupid spreadsheets (trig series).

  8. phil dude

    LO beats word...


    I am writing my DPhil thesis in LO+Embedded SVG Latex Mathematics+Zotero. Ironically, the only problem I have had is the PDF drivers used on printer/PC's etc when dealing with Landscape pages when printed from Windoze....

    As a plea to the LO developers, proper landscaping would be nice...;-)

    I moved to LO for the major reason I have been bitten with the M$ inability to maintain compatibility with itself and other proprietary format failures.

    If you have never used LO a major advantage is that images in documents are stored separately as files within the document, so they can be edited independently of LO, which is a real advantage when dealing with microscopy and other complex images.

    I use spreadsheets only minimally and MATLAB is preferable for real work, but I must agree with the comments above. A big failing of LO is that a bug in "oocalc" can bring down "oowriter". I worked around this using gnumeric instead, but it would put off newcomers.

    Finally, I was pleasantly surprised using ooimpress, that if you have multiple monitors it automatically sets up the slide show as "audience" and "notes" (this was under KDE).

    If LO was mandated to be used by school children, it would be a definite boost to breaking the M$ Office stranglehold.


  9. Ech00hcE

    Nice features but...

    Why does it still look so s**t compared to MS Office. Every time I open OO or LO I reminisce about how software looked 15 years ago...

    1. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: Nice features but...

      What are you running it on?

      If Linux have you installed the appropriate desktop integration package?

      Installations here (see post a bit up the screen) seem to integrate into general desktop ok. No 'slabby grey' bits.

      1. Ech00hcE

        Re: Nice features but...


        Windows of course, just like the vast majority of un-tech savvy desktop users. Baring Android, I can't say I know any average Joe's who use a Linux distro, or have even heard of Linux.

        Office 2010 looks clean and sleek, OOo looks old, grey and c**p.

        Come on OOo, invest a little time in making the product look great and you've won half the battle!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice features but...

        "have you installed the appropriate desktop integration package?"

        Still the same old Linux shite then. Not like Windows where its install and go....

    2. Jordan Davenport

      Re: Nice features but...

      If you're using an office suite based on what it looks like, not on what it can do and how easily it can do it, then you're using it for all the wrong reason... Honestly, who cares if it looks old? Yeah, it'd be nice if they gave it a visual refresh on at least Windows and OS X, but I'd rather have function over form.

      1. Ech00hcE

        Re: Nice features but...


        But as already stated in this discussion 95% of an Office suite isn't used by the average Joe, so features are irrelevant, aesthetics are. Just look at Apple, selling old, outdated technology, but people regularly pay 50% more to buy an iPhones or an iPads because of kudos, not because they're getting a fantastic, cutting edge product.

        If aesthetics don't matter, who is so much money spent ever year designing GUIs and on product design?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nice features but...

      "Every time I open OO or LO I reminisce about how software looked 15 years ago..."

      Because it is functionally a copy of Office XP from 15 years ago...Except more limited

  10. A J Stiles

    This is exactly what we need

    A bit of healthy competition in the office suite arena is exactly what we need. Nothing gets programmers adding features to their software like other programmers adding features to their software.

    Now, if Microsoft would only make their own office suite a bit harder to pirate, then things might get a bit more interesting .....

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have you tried to Pirate Office 2013? It's still highly secure and still not cracked properly - check the top 100 apps on TPB - about 4 versions of Office 2010, but no 2013....

    There are KMS type hacks, but they only work for a limited time and you cant update Office...

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