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History of NeoOffice and OpenOffice.org: OpenOffice.org
This overview and history consists of several pages. Click on the links in the box to the right to move to the previous or next section.
History of OpenOffice.org and OpenOffice.org on Mac OS X
General History of OpenOffice.org
The software applications we know today as OpenOffice.org (OOo) and its Mac version OpenOffice.org Mac OS X (X11), Neolithic Office (NeoOffice®/C), and Neolithic Office for Java™ (NeoOffice®) have their roots in StarOffice™, a suite of office applications for Windows and various UNIX platforms created by the German company StarDivision in the late 1980s and 1990s. In 1999, Sun Microsystems bought StarDivision, hoping to use StarOffice to compete with Microsoft Office. In October 2000, Sun open-sourced the code to the forthcoming version of the suite, StarOffice 6.0, creating OpenOffice.org (an open-source community and a software application suite). This code included a partial port of StarOffice to Mac OS X, which formed the basis for OpenOffice.org on the Mac, as well as the two NeoOffice projects.
OpenOffice.org is an extraordinarily large project, consisting of over eight million lines of code. While as an open source project anyone is able to contribute code to OpenOffice.org, in practice the lion’s share of the development of core office program features is done by an entire "small company" of Sun engineers, the former StarDivision employees, who are paid to work solely on the project for release as Sun’s StarOffice suite. These engineers also maintain the Windows, Solaris, and Linux versions of OpenOffice.org and have the resources to keep up with the constant volume of changes they create.
Developing OpenOffice.org on Mac OS X
By contrast, the number of developers actively working on all forms of OpenOffice.org on the Mac is fewer than a half-dozen at any given time. Since 2000, a small number of dedicated, volunteer developers have toiled over the OOo code in their free time, and, aided by a slightly larger group of volunteer testers and forum members providing "user support," produced Mac OS X-native versions (aka OpenOffice.org/X11) of OpenOffice.org 1.0.3 and OpenOffice.org 1.1.2. OpenOffice.org 1.0.3 ran on Mac OS X 10.1, 10.2 and 10.3, while version 1.1.2 supported Mac OS X 10.2 and 10.3. While these versions of OOo are native Mac OS X applications in the sense they are PowerPC code and do not require a software emulator (such as VirtualPC, used on the Mac for running Windows applications designed for Intel processors), their appearance reflects the suite’s UNIX roots, running under X11, a common windowing system on UNIX platforms (Aqua would be a rough Mac OS X equivalent).
For each release prior to OpenOffice.org 2.0, some combination of four primary developers (Kevin B. Hendricks, Patrick Luby, Edward H. Peterlin, and Dan Williams) have spent several hundred hours just to get OpenOffice.org to build and be relatively stable on Mac OS X with X11. For the OpenOffice.org 1.1.x cycle, a few additional developers have released localized, Mac OS X 10.3.x-only or 10.4.x-only versions for their linguistic communities.
In addition to tireless QA work on OpenOffice.org's Mac OS X bugs, the late Terry Teague wrote the Start OpenOffice.org application, which was included with the official Mac OS X releases of OpenOffice.org up until OpenOffice.org 2.0. The application reduced complex UNIX/terminal commands for launching OOo to a true double-click. Start OpenOffice.org also provided integration of OOo under X11 with the Mac OS X Finder, allowing OOo documents to have Finder icons, supporting drag-and-drop and double-click opening of documents, and providing a drag-and-drop method of converting and installing Macintosh fonts for use with OOo. Start OpenOffice.org was also updated for each release of OpenOffice.org prior to 2.0 and to support new X11 options in later versions of Apple's X11.
Development Challenges for OpenOffice.org on Mac OS X and the Road to OpenOffice.org Aqua
Because of the chaotic, constantly-changing nature of the OpenOffice.org code, limited support from the larger OOo community, the limited number of developers capable of working equally as well in the UNIX/X11 and Mac/Cocoa/Aqua worlds, and limited resources, the Mac porting team had focused on releasing X11-based Mac versions of stable OpenOffice.org major releases. This was also due in part to the success in getting X11 working while the Quartz version would still not build. Later (during the late 1.0.x and 1.1.x cycles) it proved simpler to keep the X11 version running while more invasive development needed to support an Aqua version was done outside the OpenOffice.org structure (with which the original Mac OS X porting community had had some unpleasant experiences), in what became NeoOffice/C.
During the OpenOffice.org 2.0 cycle (2004-2005), the Mac X11 team was strengthened by new volunteers and contributors such as Eric Hoch, Éric Bachard, Florian Heckl, Nakata Maho, Pavel Janík, and others. In the summer of 2005, Éric Bachard took over leadership of the port and announced the team's intention to switch development effort away from the X11 version. In addition to the X11 PPC port, the team also produced an X11 Intel port of OpenOffice.org 2.0 (the first released Intel version of the X11 port was OpenOffice.org 2.0.3 in French and German, in late July 2006) to support new Intel-based Macs, and began a non-X11 port using Carbon and the remnants of the Quartz port from 2002.
Tensions between the new cadre of X11/Carbon developers and the NeoOffice developers who created the initial Mac ports of OpenOffice.org increased throughout the fall and winter of 2005, culminating in a complete split between the two groups in spring of 2006; OpenOffice.org removed all mentions of NeoOffice from the Mac Porting website and NeoOffice.org set the trinity.neooffice.org forums devoted to supporting the the X11 port to "read-only". (Some of the OpenOffice.org perspective on the relationship and history of tensions can be found here.) However, in summer 2006 NeoOffice attempted to mend the rift by serving as one of the Premium sponsors of OOoCon 2006, where NeoOffice developers provided a series of talks about Mac OS X porting and demonstrated NeoOffice 2.0 Aqua Beta. Limited cooperation was restored for a while (for example, NeoOffice incorporated and provided feedback and bug-fixes for the Mac OS X Address Book integration that was under development at the time).
In May 2007, Sun announced it was contributing engineers Philipp Lohmann and Herbert Duerr (graphics and VCL specialists) to Mac OS X porting. Later that year (July), Sun announced they were switching from the Carbon API to the Cocoa API in their Mac port. The fruits of Sun's labors were finally released as OpenOffice.org Aqua (for Intel Macs) with the release of OpenOffice.org 3.0 on October 13, 2008, and as the corresponding StarOffice 9 release, the first release of Sun's own branded product to natively support Mac OS X (bringing the Sun porting efforts full-circle, eight years later).
Screenshots of OpenOffice.org Aqua
See the GullFOSS blog for many screenshots of the Carbon and Cocoa versions of OpenOffice.org Aqua.
Screenshots of OpenOffice.org Mac OS X (X11)
OpenOffice.org 1.1.1 (First working 1.1 build, 19-Aug-2003)
(warning, 250 KB image!)
OpenOffice.org 1.9m71 (First launchable 2.0 build, 19-Jan-2005)
gallery of 12 huge screenshots