Native OpenOffice for Mac Still a Long Way Off

Developers say lack of resources has plagued the effort from the beginning.

Developers of 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 to Mac OS Xs native Quartz/Aqua windowing system, and there are no plans to do so with the upcoming Version 2.0.

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

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

"Within the 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 discussion board, developer Patrick Luby said that porting 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 Sun partially completed a Mac port of StarOffice, but never released a working version.

/zimages/1/28571.gifCan 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.