FAQ OpenOffice.org and NeoOffice

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What is OpenOffice.org

OpenOffice.org is the name of productivity application suite, the project and the website. Please note the .org part of the project name, which is needed for legal reasons.

Users and many organizations benefit from the power and the generous license of the project. The original license even allowed taking all the code, documentation, templates, etc. and not contributing anything back into the project. This resulted in many forks:

  • the core project: OpenOffice.org
  • StarOffice (from SUN)
  • Lotus Symphony (from IBM)
  • RedOffice (from RedFlag)
  • Go-OOo (from Novell)
  • OxygenOffice
  • NeoOffice (from Planamesa)
  • PlusOffice( from OpenZone)
  • Luxuriosity Office
  • MagyarOffice
  • etc.

There are different kinds of collaboration between the projects. They all have in common that they take the new features, improvements, and the many bugfixes from the core project and extend it to their needs. Some of the projects contribute all their changes back. Some projects contribute developer power for isolating problems. Some projects contribute by writing good bug reports to get the upstream developers involved. Some projects just replace the branding and sell it as their product. Some just take and never give back and instead threaten with lawsuits if the core project touches their niche market.

Since specialized needs of these forks are sometimes not directly applicable to the core project and the effort needed to integrate their changes into such a complex multi-platform, multi-language office suite require valuable development and testing resources there will always be the temporary need for specialized branches of the core project. The core project aims to be as generally useful as possible, so the need of forks is reduced.

OpenOffice.org Aqua

OpenOffice.org Aqua is the OpenOffice.org core project with native support for Mac Aqua. Since version 3.0 of OpenOffice.org was released Mac Aqua is another primary platform of the core project.

Mac OS X port Home: [Mac OS X port Home] Aqua links: [Aqua Version of OpenOffice.org] Blogs: [Developers blogs]

What is NeoOffice?

NeoOffice is a fork of the core project, which specialized in making it available for Mac OS X independently from OpenOffice.org's Aqua port mentioned above.

Fork meaning that NeoOffice is another project, and is not OpenOffice.org. The NeoOffice project does not contribute back to OpenOffice.org and usually does not help to enhance the core project.

Using Java/Cocoa binding, its look is like native integration with the Mac OS X system. This means, for example, native access to all the fonts in Mac OS X a different way than OpenOffice.org does (OpenOffice.org does use all Apple fonts, but not the same way). It is built on top of OpenOffice.org X11 by using Java/Cocoa bindings for the User Interface (UI).

NeoOffice used a subclause of OpenOffice.org's license to change it to another license which is incompatible with the core project. so, to avoid legal issues, OpenOffice.org developers had to rewrite some subsystems, since NeoOffice code cannot be used in OpenOffice.org. Even when the licence for a fork change was compatible with the core project other kinds of legal threats were were used.

More informations in About NeoOffice


Q1: Where can I find OpenOffice.org or NeoOffice?

A: You can download both from respective sites.

Download OpenOffice.org from here (openoffice.org)

Download NeoOffice from here (neooffice.org)

Q2: Why does there seem to be several parallel efforts?

A: This is a very normal situation in open source. And because of historical and personal choices.

This mail from Kevin Hendricks provides some historical details.

If you want to really understand the situation, here's some additional reading for you: History of NeoOffice and OpenOffice.org, Quote from Patrick may explain some of the licensing situation, and finally, you may also want to read another FAQ

Q3: Where do I get support for OpenOffice.org Mac/Aqua ?

A: The OpenOffice.org support page is the starting point for all support related to core project.

Q4: It's OpenSource, so one project should freely use the other projects code

A: Due to license incompatibilities this is not possible.

In the OpenSource world there were always issues with license incompatibilities, e.g. switching the license of revised-BSD-code to GPL has always been legal, the reverse is not true though. Since a change like that is one-way only and prevents the generous original project from receiving fixes from the derived project, this is usually considered an unfriendly act.

Q5: But it would be more efficient, if there would be only one effort...

A: Probably. A proposal to work together has been made, and NeoOffice developers refused.

OpenOffice.org does concern several developers who are working on their free time only. Any change is for OpenOffice.org project, and the name of the developer who wrote the code does not appear in the code after integration : this is community project.

The NeoOffice project is a Patrick Luby and Ed Peterlin project only.

The problem is : there is curently no possibility for OpenOffice.org to use NeoOffice code, even if this code is interesting, because of the licensing issues. So every change must be rewritten for OpenOffice.org project, using another implementation.

A big part of changes are using Java in NeoOffice, and this is as wrote Ed Peterlin, a short term choice. The Java part of NeoOffice is not interesting for OpenOffice.org since OpenOffice.org project wants to use only Cocoa/Carbon.

Further informations are available at: http://porting.openoffice.org/mac/

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