It's an event of historical magnitude: One of the most popular Open Source projects, LibreOffice, is now available directly from Apple's Mac App Store. You can get LibreOffice on OSX with automatic updates, long-term maintenance, and optional professional support, for the first time.
The company behind this move is Collabora, an open source consultancy firm from the UK that also offers LibreOffice for enterprise customers.
There are two editions of LibreOffice available on the Mac App Store: LibreOffice from Collabora and LibreOffice Vanilla. While the Vanilla edition can be downloaded free of cost, LO from Collabora has a price tag of $10.
The paid version is targeted at the business and public sector and comes with three years of maintenance updates. There are many differences between the two versions, Michael Meeks, the vice-president of productivity at Collabora and a board member of The Document Format explained to me: "Vanilla is the latest 'fresh' code branch produced by volunteers at TDF. LibreOffice-from-Collabora is based on the LibreOffice 'stable' code branch with some featured back-ports, and is maintained long-term (3 years vs 6 months for Vanilla).''
Those customers who plan to deploy LibreOffice by Collabora can also get professional training and fast-response support as additional service from Collabora.
LibreOffice is already available for download from the web so what value does does the App Store bring it to? As Meeks told me, "Clearly bringing a big chunk of Free Software to the App Store and making it easier to install should (I hope) improve uptake, and ultimately (we hope) increase our developer base working on improving LibreOffice for all platforms & distribution channels. Luckily some large percentage of the code - say 95%+ is common to all platforms. Of course, it's great to get more Open Document Format users out there too."
There are now three versions of LibreOffice out there: LibreOffice that's offered by TDF for direct download, LibreOffice by Collabora, and LibreOffice Vanilla. While it's clearly understood that the paid version is aimed at enterprise customers and comes with support, I was left wondering what the differences are between the Vanilla LO and the one available directly from TDF? Meeks explained: "This is similar to the difference between a RHEL kernel and an upstream Linux kernel: it's a matter of taste, base version, cumulative fixes and of course the availability of long term support. The difference between LibreOffice Vanilla and upstream LibreOffice is the addition of a small and easy to dismiss nag dialog that encourages people to support TDF (since they miss the TDF download page that does this), and also tells people about LfC."
What about mobile?
Meeks gave me a demo of LibreOffice running on Android at FOSDEM back in 2012. Work on it has been proceeding apace. One of the earlier challenges for the team was to clean the code that they acquired from OpenOffice before making it run well on mobile devices.
Since Collabora is now entering the App Store, I asked Meeks if there are any plans for iOS. He said, "We have no current plans for a native iOS LibreOffice app like the one for Android. However, there is a prototype iOS viewer in the code in a rather basic state. It needs love; interested developers are more than welcome to join in with the community and hack on that. Of course, if you have an iOS device you will be able to use LibreOffice Online in-browser with basic editing, as that arrives over the next months. Currently LibreOffice also runs via third party apps on iOS such as RollApp and AlwaysOnPC. There is also an Impress Remote control app for iOS that can control a copy of LibreOffice for Desktop."
The Suite is available for immediate purchase and download from the App Store. If you run Mac OS X, go ahead and show your support for Open Source by purchasing the Office Suite.
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