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By John Rizzo  |  Posted 2005-01-21
 
 
 

Native OpenOffice for Mac Still a Long Way Off


Developers of OpenOffice.org for Mac OS X are no longer pursuing a native Aqua port of the open-source Office-compatible suite.

The developer group said that it has been more than 18 months since the last engineering work on porting OpenOffice.org to Mac OS Xs native Quartz/Aqua windowing system, and there are no plans to do so with the upcoming Version 2.0.

Click here to read more about Version 2.0 of OpenOffice.org.

The current release, known as OpenOffice.org/X11 Mac, runs in the X11 graphical windowing system, which looks and acts more like the Linux and Unix software than a Mac program. OpenOffice.org for Windows, on the other hand, runs in that OS native graphics system.

Edward Peterlin, one of only a handful of volunteer developers for OpenOffice.org/X11 Mac, attributes the lack of a native OS X effort partly to a lack of resources.

"Within the OpenOffice.org project, all work on Mac OS X has been focused on X11 for a number of very important reasons," said Peterlin, "not the smallest of which is a lack of manpower and Mac-specific development volunteers."

But even the X11 project for Mac is starved for resources.

"Weve had to struggle just to keep X11 alive," said Peterlin. "No full-time staff has arrived for Mac OS X similar to how other corporations fund development on other platforms."

On an OpenOffice.org discussion board, developer Patrick Luby said that porting OpenOffice.org to Aqua would require significant resources.

"Realize that moving from X11 to Aqua will take a couple thousand hours of developer time," he said.

Luby ought to know, as he and Peterlin have created an offshoot of OpenOffice called NeoOffice/J, which runs on Mac OS X using Quartz instead of X11.

"Patrick managed to tackle and solve the majority of the infrastructure needed to make a native version within the NeoOffice/J project," said Peterlin, "having learned from the pitfalls he had while leading the original Mac OS X development for StarOffice."

StarOffice, once a commercial venture by Sun, was the parent of OpenOffice.org. Sun partially completed a Mac port of StarOffice, but never released a working version.

Can the Mac do without Microsoft Office? Read what David Coursey has to say.

Luby and Peterlin created NeoOffice/J using Carbon and Java, but the application still does not yet have an Aqua user interface. To the average Mac user, the NeoOffice/J 1.1 beta looks more like a Windows or Linux application. The most obvious Mac interface feature is a menu bar that is at the top of the screen instead of on each window. Even so, the two-man project is currently the only place where work is being done on a native Mac OS X port.

"[NeoOffice/J] is where most of the interesting OS X integration work is going on at the moment," said Dan Williams, another developer for the OpenOffice/X11 project.

Next Page: Source of friction.

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NeoOffice/J is an open-source project but is not one of the OpenOffice.org projects. This has been a source of friction with some OpenOffice.org developers, who dont feel that OpenOffice.org resources should be used for NeoOffice/J. Because the NeoOffice/J work is being done with the Mac OS X windowing system, which OpenOffice.org doesnt use, the NeoOffice/J project doesnt contribute technology to OpenOffice.org.

Peterlin maintains, however, that NeoOffice/J is dependent on OpenOffice.

"The X11 port was extremely important, for several reasons," said Peterlin. "We need for work on that port to continue."

Thats because literally 99 percent of the NeoOffice/J code is from OpenOffice.org/X11, according to Peterlin. This means that OpenOffice.org/X11 and NeoOffice/J have more in common with each other than do the Solaris and Windows versions of OpenOffice.org.

For insights on the Mac in the enterprise, check out eWEEK.com Executive Editor Matthew Rothenbergs Weblog.

Unfortunately for users, the NeoOffice/J and OpenOffice.org projects may need to remain separate, dividing scarce developer resources.

"The reason its happening outside of OpenOffice.org is mainly due to licensing reasons," said Williams.

OpenOffice.org uses a Limited GNU General Public License and the Sun Industry Standards Source License (SISSL), which doesnt require that code changes be contributed back to project.

"Patrick Luby … has invested many hours of time into the [NeoOffice/J] project, and even financial resources," said Williams. "He simply doesnt want some random company [even Sun Microsystems Inc.] to take all his hard work, package it up and sell it, without having to contribute their changes back to the project. Which I believe is completely understandable, since NeoOffice/J is mainly a two-person effort."

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