You leave work for a short lunch break. You don’t have time to sit and eat at a fast food restaurant or cafe, so you use the app for of one of those establishments to place an order that will be ready for you when you arrive.
It is highly likely that you interacted with a server running a Linux operating system when you placed the order. These flexible operating systems are widely used on servers, smart devices, and many other computers that people use every day. They typically use them without knowing the operating system.
However, if you had more time to spend in a restaurant and observe people sitting in it and working on their laptops, one thing that would be rare to find is one of those computers running a Linux distro and the person editing a document in LibreOffice. This would be a rare sight at any restaurant, office, or even home around the world.
Linux distros run on about 2 percent of the desktop computers worldwide. Microsoft continues to dominate the work world with its operating systems and office suite.
This domination has caused many computer companies to go out of business. In the 1980s and 1990s, there were several operating systems and office applications on the market that were widely known. However, Microsoft was able to advance its market share on PCs with the introduction of Windows 95. Other operating systems and office applications became obsolete for this reason.
Linux was released in 1991, and was originally designed as a desktop operating system for Intel’s x86 architecture. The companies who develop Linux operating systems for servers and other devices, also maintain free desktop versions of their applications. Other organizations, that release distros, rely on donations to operate.
LibreOffice has been developed to run equally well on these operating systems, as well as Windows and Mac OS. The question is why continue to develop for platforms that collectively only run on 2 percent of PCs?
Microsoft created versions of its office applications that run on Android, iOS, and Mac, as well as Windows. It has never made a Linux version, and probably doesn’t see a viable business reason to do so.
Other companies, however, made Linux versions. They later discontinued them. For example, Corel made a version 6 of WordPerfect for Linux in 1995. Version 9 was not designed to run natively on Linux. The Corel Linux Business Division was sold to Xandros in 2001.
LibreOffice was developed from OpenOffice.org source code, which was taken from StarOffice code. StarOffice was one of the office suites that was released on Linux platforms, like WordPerfect.
Star Division, the company that created StarOffice, was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 1999. The company that created the Java language, valued open-source communities to help them develop software. In July 2000 at the O’Reilly Open Source Convention, Sun announced that the source code for StarOffice would be released. OpenOffice.org was the new community.
“Microsoft’s lock in on its Office file formats is arguably at least as important to their monopoly position as their control of the operating system itself,” said Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly and Associates (from the press release for the convention). “The availability of StarOffice under the GPL will give Linux a boost on the desktop, but more importantly, the wide availability of StarOffice Suite’s code for reading and writing Microsoft Office formats will allow other open source projects to provide compatible functionality as well. Open data is the other side of the open source coin.”
LibreOffice came on the scene in 2010, shortly after Oracle had acquired Sun Microsystems. Key volunteers at OpenOffice.org decided to form The Document Foundation, due to concerns Oracle’s commitment to open-source projects.
In April 2011, Oracle announced that it would move OpenOffice.org to a “to a purely community-based open source project”. It gave it to the Apache Foundation, never contributing the name to The Document Foundation.
TDF evolved LibreOffice’s capabilities so it could could open legacy and modern formats, including the latest Microsoft Office ones. It makes it easier for LibreOffice users to work with Microsoft Office users. LibreOffice can easily convert the Office documents to OpenDocument Formats, which are not tied to any vendor.
This compatibility and the dedication to cross-platforming gives the user a choice of what operating system he or she uses.
Linux distros advantages
One of the advantages of open software and file formats, such as ODT (OpenDocument Text), is that the source code can be studied and modified. This is important for everyone, not just programmers.
Open applications are not tied to a particular vendor and its whims. This gives users more control over their documents and systems because they won’t be forced into making changes.
For example, when Microsoft evolves and discontinues support of older software, many users lost could not open older documents because new versions of Office don’t support them. The company also has a history of forcing upgrades and doing other things the user cannot control.
While Microsoft addresses complaints, for users the fact is that the user has to wait on them or downgrade their system. There is not a way for users to fix a problem themselves or hire a programmer to fix it for them.
The Document Foundation is a community of developers and other volunteers dedicated to free and open-source software. Like LibreOffice, Linux is free and open-source. TDF, therefore, strongly believe in Linux distros as alternatives to Windows.
In addition to giving users control, they are more secure than Windows, and they also work better on older computers. There are numerous other reasons why they are better than Microsoft’s offering.
Linux distros offer users freedom and control that Windows does not give them. Over the years, graphical user interfaces have evolved, so many of these distros are easy to use.
TDF’s like-minded dedication to this freedom has led them to keep the latest versions of its office suite available on them. Linux users can continue to create and collaborate with their computers, even though they are in the minority of users.
Some well-known Linux distros: