The Apache Software Foundation offers a suite of office productivity software named Apache Open Office. Based on the download page, you would never guess the last major release of the software was made available in 2014.
With that bit of release history in mind, would it be fair to consider Apache Open Office as an un-maintained project? In this blog post, I share a quick recap of the history behind Apache Open Office, and my opinion on why The Apache Software Foundation’s actions may be masking the answer to this question.
In the beginning, StarOffice was created
A proprietary office suite was developed in 1985 by a company named Star Division, aptly named StarOffice.
The SUN shined, and OpenOffice.org was released
LibreOffice joins the party
LibreOffice was first released in 2010 based on the OpenOffice.org source code. LibreOffice is actively maintained by The Document Foundation, a non-profit created by members of the OpenOffice.org community for the express purpose of managing and developing LibreOffice.
Oracle gives OpenOffice.org to The Apache Software Foundation
Oracle, having acquired Sun Microsystems in 2010, now owned the OpenOffice.org trademarks. The year following the acquisition, Oracle provided the OpenOffice.org trademarks and any related Oracle-owned code to The Apache Software Foundation. This resulted in the creation of Apache Open Office.
Apache Open Office dies, and refuses to leave
Between its first release with version 3.4 in 2012, and its last major release with version 4.1 in 2014, Apache Open Office integrated IBM Lotus Symphony, after it was donated to The Apache Software Foundation, added a reworked sidebar and some other new features, as documented in the 4.1 release notes.
Since 2014… Bug fixes, dictionary updates, bug fixes, dictionary updates, whitespace “fixes”, dictionary updates, dictionary updates and did I mention dictionary updates!?
Things start to get weird
You might want to sit down before opening the next link. Take a look at the apache/openoffice commits made over the last several years.
What do we find? A lot of commits that don’t actually amount to much at all. In many cases, the commits don’t even make any change to the program, because they are only changing the blank space that surrounds the source code.
Why would someone do this? Two possible reasons:
- There are legitimate whitespace issues that need to be addressed.
- There is an incentive to make a project appear as though it were active, when it is actually inactive.
While the first is fair to assume in most cases, when we look at the list of commits made to the repository, we find that whitespace changes are not just part of the commits that Apache Open Office has been receiving, whitespace changes make up a substantial amount of the commits added to the repository.
Projects become unmaintained every day. This is a fact of life, and is not the issue I am taking with The Apache Software Foundation. It is the way the foundation, and its contributors, do not disclose information relating to the lack of substantial updates or changes for nearly a decade, and seems to intentionally mask the lack of development.
What we can do about it
We can tell The Apache Software Foundation that we, as a community of users, do not support the foundation’s actions in regard to their management of Apache Open Office. If this blog post motivated you, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org saying something along the lines of:
To whom it may concern,
Apache Open Office has not received substantial updates nor changes in nearly a decade, yet there is no mention of this anywhere on the download page. In the best interest of the community, please consider mentioning this information, as well as providing a link for users to download other actively maintained office software.
The Apache Open Office GitHub repository receives regular commits, but these changes seem to largely be whitespace-only. This gives the impression that the repository is more active than it really is, as non-substantial changes seem to make up a large number of the commits added. Please archive the repository if active development has ceased.