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OpenOffice for Mac OS X Goes Alpha

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OpenOffice for Mac OS X Goes Alpha

By Masha Zager

NewsFactor Network

July 26, 2002


Sun contributed code, assistance and support to the OpenOffice project team for Mac -- in spite of the fact that Sun has no plans to release a Mac version of StarOffice.

OpenOffice.org on Thursday announced an alpha release of the Mac OS X version of its open source office suite. While the software is not a final release, according to OpenOffice.org, the organization presented it as an important milestone in the effort to create free office productivity software that runs on all major platforms.

Much work remains to be done to make OpenOffice for Mac usable, OpenOffice.org said in a statement. The software is still buggy and unstable, and it needs more functionality and documentation. Also, it does not yet work with Mac's Aqua interface.

The organization is calling for programmers and end users to participate in completing and testing the software. OpenOffice.org said it hopes the current release will "show the possibilities of OpenOffice on Mac OS X and Darwin and help attract developers to the project."

Waiting for Help

"Everyone who is working on the OS X port is a volunteer who works on their project in their spare time," Ed Peterlin, one of the developers working on the Mac OS X release, told NewsFactor.

"There are only two of us working on it right now, but the project is ready for more volunteer developers to come help us work all the kinks out of it and get things stable enough where end-users could try the project out," Peterlin said.

Open to All

The OpenOffice project was started by Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW) after it purchased the StarOffice suite in 1999 and decided to make the code open source. Although Sun continues to sell StarOffice, future versions of that software will be built using the OpenOffice.org source code.

Programmers from Sun and other organizations participate in the OpenOffice project. According to OpenOffice.org, the project is open to anyone, even to nonprogrammers who contribute ideas and help test the software.

The OpenOffice suite includes programs for word processing, spreadsheet, drawing and presentation and uses file formats compatible with those used by Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Office. It is already available for Linux, Solaris, Windows and other operating systems, and it has localized versions in more than 25 languages.

OpenOffice Advantages

The software has advantages other than being free of charge. Because it runs on all major platforms, OpenOffice.org called it "ideal for anyone in an environment using mixed operating systems." In addition, the suite is allegedly similar enough to Microsoft Office that Office users can begin using it without further training.

According to OpenOffice.org, the Mac version of OpenOffice received a boost from Sun Microsystems, which contributed code, assistance and support to the project team. Sun made the contribution in spite of the fact that it has no plans to release a Mac version of StarOffice.

Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL) , while not directly involved with the project, helped make it possible by releasing Darwin, the core of Mac OS X, to the open source community and by providing free developer tools with Mac OS X.

According to OpenOffice, this "enables a large number of open source community projects to offer Mac OS X compatibility."

Peterlin noted, "There are few free open source office suites that come with word processing, presentation and spreadsheet capabilities in a single, tightly integrated package, and even fewer for Mac OS X."

Lasting Effects

Apple has a relationship with Microsoft that goes at least as far back as Microsoft's investment of US$150 million in the company and the promise of continuing to make the Microsoft Office suite available to the Macintosh platform.

Given OpenOffice's popularity on other platforms, it is not difficult to speculate that OpenOffice adoption on the Macintosh platform will have a significant impact on sales of Microsoft Office for Macintosh -- and perhaps even on the relationship between Microsoft and Apple.

Whether the OpenOffice move to Macintosh will enhance Apple's relationship with the open source community remains to be seen. Some speculate that unless Apple follows Sun's suit and gets involved directly with OpenOffice.org, the introduction of OpenOffice will do little to strengthen Apple's relationship with the open source community.

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