June 13, 2007

OpenOffice.org releases native Mac OS X preview

Author: Nathan Willis

OpenOffice.org released its first native packages for Mac OS X this week. These "development snapshots" aren't intended for end users, but are still an important milestone in porting the productivity suite to the Mac.

Disk images for PowerPC and Intel Macs are available through the Mac port subproject, via direct download and BitTorrent. The builds are prominently marked as not for production use, but they represent the first OpenOffice.org code to run natively in OS X, without the use of X11.

Using native OS X libraries instead of X11 means that the office suite can use native interface elements such as buttons, file selectors, and menus, as well as more fundamental features like the printing and font management systems. Regrettably, printing support is one of the known bugs in the current snapshots, along with PDF export, multiple monitors, and copy and paste.

The Aqua porting effort is an official part of the OpenOffice.org project. A separate effort, the NeoOffice project (which we reviewed in April), spun off while the OpenOffice.org code was still developed under the Sun Industry Standards Source License (SISSL), and pursued its own OS X integration work released under the GPL.

In addition to the licensing difference, the NeoOffice and OpenOffice.org forks also took different technical directions. NeoOffice, for instance, used both OS X's Cocoa and Java APIs -- a decision that led to the recurring misconception that NeoOffice was "written in Java." And NeoOffice has pursued hooking into new OS X features (such as Spotlight) from outside the cross-platform OpenOffice.org codebase.

At this stage in the race, NeoOffice is clear ahead of OpenOffice.org when it comes to OS X integration. It made its first general-purpose release last year, and has continued to release builds stable enough for everyday use. There's no telling yet when the OpenOffice.org Aqua port will reach that point, but the new development snapshot is an excellent sign.


  • Open Source
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  • Apple & Macintosh
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