Apache Software Foundation OpenOffice

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Apache Software Foundation

by Faulkner Staff

Docid: 00018879

Publication Date: 2101

Report Type: PRODUCT


The Apache Software Foundation’s OpenOffice is a free workplace productivity
suite with applications that are designed to resemble Microsoft Office.
To date, OpenOffice has been downloaded nearly 305 million
times (January 2021). The release is also, however, part of a crowded field that includes a variety of
commercial and freely available options for office software. This profile takes a look at
the various elements of OpenOffice, the key components of its
most-recent update (version 4.1.8), and its top competitors.

Report Contents:


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The Apache Software Foundation’s OpenOffice is a portfolio of open-source
desktop applications that serve as an alternative to Microsoft Office,
with software comparable to Word (Writer), Excel (Calc),
and other familiar Microsoft programs.

Microsoft Office 365 Product
Kingsoft WPS Office Product

OpenOffice also includes Impress (multimedia
presentations), Draw (illustration tool), Base
(databases), and Math (mathematical equations creator). 

The OpenOffice group was founded in 2000 when Sun Microsystems donated
more than 7.4 million lines of source code. In 2011, OpenOffice was
donated to the community-based Apache Software Foundation by Oracle, its
main corporate sponsor. (Oracle no longer offers a commercial version of
OpenOffice, as it once did in the forms of Oracle OpenOffice and
StarOffice.) Around this stage of OpenOffice’s history, some of the
developers working on the software pursued another project, called
LibreOffice, which is now a free suite of applications that includes
similar components to those included in OpenOffice.1

As with
any code base brought to Apache, OpenOffice underwent an incubation period
in which it was reviewed by committee members. The project was
developed as a podling in the Apache Software Foundation Incubator under
its meritocratic process (“The Apache Way”). In 2012, it became a
"top-level" project. A distinguishing technical feature is that OpenOffice uses the OASIS
OpenDocument Format.

Apache Software Foundation
1901 Munsey Drive
Forest Hill, MD 21050
Phone: (617) 921-8656
Fax: (919) 573-9199
Web: http://www.apache.org/
Type of Vendor: Software
Founded: 1999
Service Areas: Worldwide

One major difference between OpenOffice and other commercial software such as
Microsoft Office is its licensing. Apache lets users install OpenOffice as widely as they like for free, regardless of how or in what
industry, and can even distribute it freely to
others. According to Apache, OpenOffice had been downloaded nearly 305 million times (January
2021), which is up 8 percent – or 22 million – from 283 million downloads for the same date,
one year prior.2 The statistics, it should be noted, do not include
copies downloaded from sources other than Apache.

Table 1 describes OpenOffice applications in
greater detail.

Table 1. Apache OpenOffice Applications
Software Description Common Features
Writer Word processor with design and features
comparable to Microsoft Word
  • Style and formatting options
  • Spelling auto-correction
  • Tools for inserting indices and tables of content
  • Wizards for creating documents such as faxes, agendas, or
    minutes or for doing mail merges
  • Supports .doc, OpenDocument Format (.ODF), .PDF, and .html
  • Backward compatibility with older versions of Word
Calc Spreadsheet program for pulling in and
converting raw data from corporate databases
  • Formats cells, applies borders and backgrounds, and creates
  • Automatically subtotals cell data
  • Exports data as .pdf or native .xls
  • Backward compatibility with older versions of Excel
Impress PowerPoint-like software for creating
multimedia presentations
  • 2D and 3D design tools
  • Outline, slide, note, and handout views
  • Support for .ppt, .pdf, and .swf extensions
Draw Vector graphics tool for creating
graphics and charts
  • Manipulates .bmp, .gif, .jpg, .png, .tiff, and .wmf formats
  • Exports designs to Flash or embeds them in an Impress
  • 2D and 3D object manipulation
Base Database management for creating and
modifying tables, forms, queries, and reports through an HSQL
database engine
  • Forms and reports wizards for exporting data into printable
  • Supports Access, Adabas D, MySQL, and PostgreSQL
  • Connects with supported ODBC and JDBC drivers to access
    information from existing databases
Math Equation editor for text documents
  • Available as a standalone tool
  • Treats an equation as an object inside the text document
  • Equations can be used in other programs, including Calc and

Figure 1 shows OpenOffice Writer.

Figure 1. OpenOffice Writer

Figure 1. OpenOffice Writer

Source: OpenOffice

Figure 2 shows a sample of Calc spreadsheets in use.

Figure 2. OpenOffice Calc

Figure 2. OpenOffice Calc

Source: OpenOffice

Most OpenOffice applications have a set of common features, as listed in Table 2.

Table 2. Common Features
Feature Description
Learn Once, Use Everywhere Reflects changes made to the desktop.
Similar Tools Available across all applicable
File Open Launches the correct software
automatically when opening a file, regardless of which software is
used to open it.
Transferable Information Available between all packages. Also
interoperable with other third-party word processing, spreadsheet,
database, and presentation programs.
OpenDocument Format XML-based, for accessing data using any
compliant software. Can also be saved in competitors’ native file
Single Installation Single operation for installing software
using any installation process.
Distribution Model Does not require different packages or
user agreements, whether for individuals, businesses, government
agencies, or academic customers.
Cross-network Deployments Across networks with diverse or legacy

Latest Release

OpenOffice 4.1.8 was

in November 2020. This update is available in 41 languages for
Windows, macOS, and Linux. Primarily a maintenance release, the refresh includes
"important" bug fixes. Apache followed up this rollout with a fix to its version
for macOS 11 (Big Sur) in January 2021. This application specifically addresses
a crashing issue when opening, for example, .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx files.


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The base version of OpenOffice supports roughly 100 languages in all. Because it is free, it is
particularly useful for organizations in developing countries and for
users who do not want complicated license agreements or who do not need
(or cannot afford) support for proprietary software from Microsoft or
another commercial vendor. Particular areas of application include:

  • Government Agencies
  • Education Sector
  • Businesses
  • Nonprofits
  • IT Organizations
  • F/OSS Advocates


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OpenOffice applications run natively on many different operating systems.
It is released on Windows, Linux, and Mac OSs, with more communities joining,
including a mature FreeBSD port. Regardless of platform, a Java Runtime
Environment 1.5.x or newer deployment is needed; for Linux, GNOME 2.10 or higher
is also necessary.

These and other specifications are outlined in Table 3.

Table 3. Requirements
Platform Memory / Hard Disk Space Other
Windows XP, Windows 2003, Windows 2012, Windows
Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10
650MB available disk space
Java Runtime Environment (JRE) and Java
Access Bridge recommended. JRE is only required for complete
OpenOffice functionality and is a required installation for the
Base program.
OS X 10.7 (Lion) or higher 512MB RAM of free memory
400MB available disk space
JRE and Java Access Bridge recommended.
JRE is only required for complete OpenOffice functionality and is
a required installation for the Base program.
Linux kernel version 2.6 or higher, glibc2
version 2.5 or higher
256MB RAM of free memory
400MB available disk space
JRE and Java Access Bridge recommended.
JRE is only required for complete OpenOffice functionality, and is
a required installation for the Base program. A Gnome 2.10
installation is also recommended.


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Apache offers a complete OpenOffice support area with links for product
documentation, community support, bug tracking, professional services,
books about OpenOffice, online tutorials, and other resources. This area
is available at http://www.openoffice.org/support/index.html.


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The Apache Software Foundation offers OpenOffice as a free download at http://www.openoffice.org/download/.


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OpenOffice’s top competitor is Microsoft Office, perhaps even more so in
light of the cloud-based Office 365 family. Other competitors include Apple iWork,
Corel Office, Google Docs, Gnome Gnumeric, Kingsoft WPS Office,
LibreOffice, neoOffice, SoftMaker Office, and the Zoho Office suite.


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