The Document Foundation on Sunday announced the availability of the first release candidate of LibreOffice, marking the approach of the first stable version of the brand-new open source productivity suite.
Coming just a few weeks after the software's third beta version, the new release candidate is now available for download for Linux, Windows and Mac OS X. The release is not yet intended for production systems, as there are still some known issues.
Nevertheless, it's the closest look we've had at the software since The Document Foundation announced its "fork" of the popular OpenOffice.org package.
Many of the major Linux distributions will be replacing OpenOffice with LibreOffice once the final release is available, so there's no better time to check out the new software. Here are just a few reasons why you should.
1. It's powerful
Based on OpenOffice.org 3.3, for which Oracle just released a seventh release candidate, LibreOffice 3.3 adds numerous improvements that make the new office productivity suite especially attractive to business users.
Code optimisation has been a particular focus in the development work on this first LibreOffice package, for example, and developers have been working hard to improve the quality and stability of the legacy code inherited from OpenOffice.org.
Even more noticeable for users, however, is that all modules of the suite are undergoing extensive rewrites to incorporate new features, improve compatibility with Microsoft Office and generally offer more consistent performance.
2. It's free of Oracle
Ever since Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems early this year, there has been considerable concern over the future of OpenOffice.org as well as the other open source projects Oracle inherited in the process.
While Oracle has publicly asserted its commitment to keeping OpenOffice going, its behavior toward open source projects in other areas has caused many to doubt its real intentions. The company has sued Google over its use of Java in Android, for example, and it's also pulled the plug on the OpenSolaris project.
Most recently, Oracle has claimed ownership of the open source Hudson project originally developed by Sun.
Oracle's apparently profit-minded actions are part of the motivation behind The Document Foundation's decision to fork OpenOffice, and they are also a good reason to choose LibreOffice instead.
With an open, independent and meritocratic organisational structure, the project has already received support from organisations include Google, Novell, Red Hat, Canonical, the Open Source Initiative, the GNOME Foundation and NeoOffice. It promises a software package that will put user needs first, without fear of any conflicting profit motivations associated with a corporate sponsor.
3. It's free
As with all free and open source software, LibreOffice is not just free of corporate control, it's also free of cost. You can download and test out the productivity suite at will, with no financial commitment.
4. It's just the beginning
LibreOffice 3.3 already promises to be a better and more stable version of OpenOffice.org, but given that less than three months have gone by since the project was announced, it's clear that the changes we see so far are just a first taste of what's to come.
Along with the extensive rewrites being performed on each of the software's major modules, in fact, there's going to be a significant refocusing of the project back onto usability, The Document Foundation has said.
Specifically, LibreOffice aims to let users focus on the contents of their documents rather than having to worry about the mechanics of the software, as steering committee Charles Schulz recently pointed out.
In short, LibreOffice promises a more stable, open, powerful, compatible and usable office productivity package than its competition. It's also going to be the default in many Linux distributions. I don't know about you, but I think the time has come to take it for a spin.