Both Libre Office and Open Office released new versions this week, and the changelog indicates a good amount of shared code between the two, at least in this go-round. The animosity between the two—Libre Office is a fork of Open Office, dating to before the time Oracle spun the project off to Apache—may thus be overstated.
The projects are worth watching. I don’t know how many curmudgeons like me are hanging on to Microsoft Office 2003 to avoid the ribbon interface—even after six years, I’m still more productive with the old interface, though I’m finally able to get work done with the ribbon—but for those of you who are, these two open-source projects are worth watching. In less than nine months, Office 2003 will no longer be receiving patches. That means upgrading to a newer version of MS Office, switching to Word Perfect, or one of these open-source suites. Going open source is the cheapest of the options.
Both of these versions introduce a sidebar, an answer to Microsoft’s ribbon developed by IBM/Lotus, that takes advantage of the often-underutilized horizontal space on modern monitors. Vertical space has always been less plentiful than horizontal space, and in this HDTV world we live in now, that’s even more true. A context-sensitive sidebar living on the right-hand side makes more sense than consuming 10 percent of the available horizontal space with a bulky ribbon.