OpenOffice.org is the second most commonly-used office suite on the planet, and it is the fastest-growing in number of users. It has been downloaded more than 100 million times, and is used by possibly 130 million people around the world. (See the latest download statistics at the Stats Project page.)
Natively using the ISO standard ODF file format, and also highly compatible with the formats used by Microsoft Office, OpenOffice’s components are Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheet), Impress (slideshow presentations), Draw (vector graphics), and Base (database). It also includes a mathematical equation editor, HTML composing tool, and programming interface.
OpenOffice is distributed under the LGPL license. In short, this means it is free for anyone to download, use and share, without paying anything at any time.
Not only is it free, but OpenOffice is very powerful and polished. It includes one-click export to PDF or Flash, sophisticated handling of images within documents, advanced style capabilities, a robust and standard XML-based file format of archival quality (OpenDocument Format, or ODF), and many other advanced features.
OpenOffice runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris, FreeBSD and other platforms.
General Information Links
- The OpenOffice.org Project Page.
- NeoOffice, OOo for Mac OS X.
- The OpenOffice.org Forum.
- The Official OpenOffice.org Newsletter.
- Bruce Byfield: OpenOffice.org Writer vs. Microsoft Word.
- Solveig Haugland’s OpenOffice.org Training, Tips, and Ideas.
You Can Help
OpenOffice.org is a Free Software project, but it can only succeed if people contribute some of their own time, skills and effort back into it. The best thing you can do is tell your friends and coworkers about OpenOffice and help them start using it. Additionally, there are volunteer opportunities in the project, not just for coders, but for marketers, artists, and others.
You can also donate money to the project to help support volunteer programmers who are working on it daily. I suggest donating to NeoOffice to help the Mac OS X port, which currently lags behind other platforms’ versions.
Having worked with and thought about OpenOffice for years, I have a lot of ideas for its continued development. Here’s as good a place as any to store them.
- Create a plugin for OpenOffice that allows it to automatically open documents from, and save them to, a user’s account in Google Docs & Spreadsheets or Zoho Writer. A user could work on the same documents from OOo at home, or from a web browser while he’s traveling. This is analogous to using a desktop client for your email at home and a webmail client while away.
- Promote OOo’s plugin architecture (which is similar to Firefox’s). This lowers the barrier to entry for potential contributors, who can create and maintain their own plugins as a way to begin contributing to the project. It also leads to an explosion of ideas, far more than any individual project team could ever generate on its own. The implementation cost to test each idea is also largely eliminated.
- Build a “Wiki Plugin” for OpenOffice.org.