October 23, 2001

OpenOffice.org: A little over a year and 7.5 million lines of code later

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross -
OpenOffice.org, the huge office suite project, Open-Sourced its code a year ago this past week. The project, called the "largest Open Source project ever," celebrated with a birthday page, including testimonials and the latest build, build 638C.

Supporters of the project hail the Open Source version of Sun Microsystems' StarOffice as a huge success. The evidence: 3,600 registered members of the OpenOffice community and 1 million downloads. Evidence of the largest Open Source project ever: 7.5 million lines of code. (Is large, by that standard, necessarily a good thing?)

During the anniversary week, NewsForge asked Louis Suarez-Potts, community manager for the project and a consultant with CollabNet, and Zaheda Bhorat, marketing manager for OpenOffice.org, questions about OpenOffice and its relationship to StarOffice.

NewsForge: Why is there still a closed-source version of the software? Is it still

Bhorat: There is no closed-source version of the software. All development for the StarOffice code is out in the open through OpenOffice.org using CVS. The core code base is the same for both, so all developers including Sun developers, are working on the same code.

NewsForge: What are the differences between OpenOffice and StarOffice in terms
of functionality?

Bhorat: StarOffice contains some functionality that was not Sun's to open source [but] the remaining code base is the same. When Sun open sourced the StarOffice code, we were not able to make the database, spell checker, thesaurus, printing functionality and some fonts and filters available to OpenOffice.org, since this
was not Sun's intellectual property to open source.

However, the OpenOffice.org community has built and integrated a spell checker,
thesaurus and printing in OpenOffice.org, so the differences are much less.
StarOffice is Sun's branded version of the OpenOffice.org code with the
additional functionality already mentioned.

In addition, the OpenOffice.org 638C build is available for the Linux PPC
platform. Sun's goal is to provide a cross-platform tool for the heterogeneous
environments that Sun tended to work in.

NewsForge: How much development on OpenOffice and StarOffice is done by Sun
employees and how much is done by others in the Open Source community? Is this
mostly a Sun project?

Suarez-Potts: Zaheda will probably respond to this, too, but it's an interesting
question, for it's actually rather hard to easily discriminate who does what. Sure, most of our developers with commit access are Sun employees, but that doesn't mean that all who do work are therefore Sun. It only means that those who commit code to the CVS tree are from Sun. Many not from Sun contribute patches, bug-fixes, code suggestion, you name it, via the mailing lists and IssueZilla (or version of BugZilla). The best
way to get an idea of this arrangement, and to gauge the activity of the open-source community in building Ooo, is to look at some of the project lists, such as Porting and XML.

In short, the project *leads* of most of the projects are from Sun (we have five or so from the community), but many of the developers are from the open-source community. And we are getting more. Shortly after the release of our latest build, 638c (which was substantially StarOffice 6.0 beta), we had over 112,000 downloads of the code, and have since been receiving a significant number of users interested in contributing
bugfixes and so on.

Bhorat: With over 3,600 members our community is growing and is just one year old this week. OpenOffice.org is the largest open source project with over 7.5 million lines of code. Although most of the developers are Sun developers, the
OpenOffice.org community has many external developers contributing to this core
code base than expected in the first year. Community contributions have lead to completion of a spell checker, printing functionality, a thesaurus, two ports completed for Linux PPC and Net/BSD, seven other ports in progress, localizations and more.

NewsForge: How successful has the OpenOffice project been? How do you measure
success with it?

Suarez-Potts: OpenOffice.org has been far more successful, in this last year, than anyone expected. You can measure this success using statistics: huge numbers of downloads, and they are increasing every build. A steadily increasing community of end-users and developers. More and more projects, with the majority being community-sponsored (as opposed to legacy Sun-StarOffice projects). And a vigorous end engaged effort by the community to create an identity for OOo that is distinct from that given
it by Sun.

So, really, by any measure OOo has succeeded. And this despite an economy that has very likely driven many developers to focus more on their day jobs (so to speak) and which has produced an environment where Open Source projects no longer seem to be quite as rosy as they were even a year ago. So, why are we succeeding? My guess -- anyone's, really -- is because of M$'s XP tricks. And because OOo, like other Open Source projects, is fundamentally international and welcoming of the insight people from all over the world have. What we are trying to do is create a project and software that the world can use.

Bhorat: As mentioned by Louis, success is measured by the size of our community, with over 3,600 registered members. Also by the sheer volume of downloads. OpenOffice.org just reached one million downloads in the first year of the
project; through our marketing efforts and word and mouth the numbers grow as
more users hear about the software all over the world. Success is also measured
by the passion and drive of our community to deliver an office suite that will
run on all major platforms and provide access to all functionality and data
through open-component based APIs and an XML-based file format. You can see
discussions and contributions being made daily in our many projects. We want to
encourage many developers and users to join OpenOffice.org and engage in one or
many of our projects based on their area of interest and expertise to help
deliver the office productivity suite of the future. If you are a Macintosh or
Unix developer, you can help complete the Mac OS X port of OpenOffice.org.
Success is also measured by the feedback we get from our users, on the latest
638c build, as one user said, "it rocks."

NewsForge: What's next for OpenOffice? Where do you see it going in the next year?

Suarez-Potts: OpenOffice.org is growing geometrically, if not yet exponentially. I expect this will continue. Reasons? I hazard to guess that Microsoft's XP is a good one. But OpenOffice.org also appeals to the world community in a way that
Microsoft never will. For starters, Sun has made sure that OpenOffice.org is
free: as in beer and speech.

At the same time that we are growing, the community is gaining more of an
identity that complements Sun's sponsorship. That is, the code is being
developed and added to by developers from all over and includes Open-Source
elements that add to the basic source. I think I mentioned these already,
but among them is the port to PPC Linux, the ongoing port to Mac OS X, an
Open-Source spellchecker, and numerous localized versions of the code.

But what's more, we are also taking [Open Source] in new directions, with end-user
sponsored projects such as marketing, documentation, etc. Who benefits from
all this? The user and the developer, but more as a group, not always as
individuals. The more OpenOffice.org succeeds, the more people will benefit.
And this isn't just about being an alternative. We are doing things that M$
doesn't do: provide people all over the world with a program that can be
localized and adapted for their needs -- and, most important, which is theirs.
That's the [Open Source] element: that this is a cooperative solution that necessarily
includes the user in the equation.

So, as to where we are going? We are going to get larger, that's for sure,
and will be further developing our political infrastructure so as to
accommodate our growth and increased activity. Currently, we are, I dare
say, one of the most important Open Source enterprises in existence, and
everyone, from Sun to the international community that makes up the project,
should be proud.

As to the code? There is some debate in the community for creating
OpenOffice.org 1.0. If this occurs, it would not a divergence from
StarOffice, which would still use much the same code base as OpenOffice.org
(in this sense, we would be emulating Darwin/OS 10.1, and Mozilla/Netscape),
but would rather be a declaration of identity, if not independence.


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