If you are one of the people that happens to be running a bleeding-edge 'alpha 1' version of Ubuntu Linux on your main desktop machine (and who isn't?), you may have noticed a particular change in recent days: OpenOffice has been replaced by LibreOffice for the upcoming (next April) Ubuntu 11.04 release.
What is OpenOffice, what is LibreOffice, and what is the difference?
For those unaware, both OpenOffice and LibreOffice are free open-source office software suites which include word processor, spreadsheet, presentation apps, graphic design tools, and database systems. Both of these suites are available for multiple platforms, including Windows, Mac, and Linux.
LibreOffice itself is a fork of OpenOffice. That is UNIX-speak for “LibreOffice began as a rebranded OpenOffice, but now includes its own unique features and bug-fixes”.
LibreOffice includes the enhancements pioneered by the Go-oo project. Go-oo is another, pre-existing, fork of OpenOffice. Go-oo includes performance fixes, improved platform integration, UI improvements, and better file format compatibility with apps such as MS Works.
Go-oo began life due to the fact that certain patches to OpenOffice were not accepted by Sun (the company that owned OpenOffice at that time) for varying reasons. Go-oo has now been discontinued, as all of the improvements are rolled back into LibreOffice.
Why the switch to LibreOffice?
Short answer: Oracle acquired Sun.
Slightly Long answer: The Oracle acquisition precipitated several key OpenOffice team members to pack their bags and begin work on LibreOffice. Oracle's past behavior, such as what they have done with OpenSolaris (kill it), leaves their long term direction for OpenOffice in question.
That question, for Ubuntu at least, was answered when Mark Shuttleworth announced “Office productivity software is a critical component of the free software desktop, and the Ubuntu Project will be pleased to ship LibreOffice from The Document Foundation in future releases of Ubuntu.”
So what will existing Ubuntu OpenOffice users need to do when they run the dist-upgrade from 10.10 to 11.04? Nothing. The openoffice.org package has been replaced with a transitional package that will upgrade the suite to LibreOffice.
The transition should not be of concern to most users. LibreOffice will simply appear to be a slightly improved update to OpenOffice. Don't fear, though. It's not as if they replaced the menus, with which you're already familiar, with a ribbon or anything crazy like that. You will not have to re-train your users.