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Novell OpenOffice Fork?

Posted in Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, OpenSUSE, VBA at 8:10 pm by Shane Coyle

Novell has released a new version of OpenOffice.org 2.0.2, replete with all kinds of fancy (and possibly patent-encumbered) “interoperability” features. Let’s count the number of times we see the words "Microsoft" or "Windows", shall we?

key features of OpenOffice.org 2.0.2

The Novell® Edition of OpenOffice.org contains enhancements that are not available in the standard edition. These include:

  • Enhanced Support for Microsoft Office File Formats: OpenOffice.org supports import and export of Microsoft Office file formats, even taking advantage of compatible fonts to match document length. Transparent document sharing makes OpenOffice.org the best choice if you are deploying it in a mixed Linux/Windows environment.
  • E-Mail as Microsoft Office Document: The standard edition of OpenOffice.org supports e-mailing of files as PDF files from within the OpenOffice.org application. With the Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org, you can also e-mail any document as a Microsoft Office file. For example, you can e-mail a Writer file as a Microsoft Word file, so the file is automatically converted and attached to an e-mail in your default e-mail application.
  • Excel VBA Macro Interoperability: The Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org eases the migration of many macros from Microsoft Excel. Although not all macros can be successfully migrated, this interoperability offers more than the standard edition, which does not support migration of macros.
  • Enhanced Fonts: For the Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org, Novell licensed fonts from AGFA that use the same or similar names as the fonts available in Microsoft Office. The fonts also look similar to those used by Microsoft and have identical metrics. This allows OpenOffice.org to match fonts when opening documents originally composed in Microsoft Office, and very closely match pagination and page formatting.
  • ODMA Integration: The Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org for Windows includes initial release of ODMA integration such as GroupWise.

Okay, I didn’t really count, but there were a bunch weren’t there? Interestingly, this article notes that Novell is adding the support to its Linux version of Novell OpenOffice.org, but the download page only indicates Windows 2000/XP as the platform:

Novell has announced that they are adding support for the recently launched MS Office 2007 document format to their version of the OpenOffice productivity suite for the Linux operating system.

Novell has provided a modified version of OpenOffice.org 2.02 as a free download for their registered users, which is compatible with Office 2007 documents.

Did you catch that last part about “free download for their registered users”? What do you want to bet that is so they have a counter for their royalty payment to Microsoft for their “Interoperability IP”? Why else restrict the downloading of an "Open-Source" product, or can Novell customers not redistribute the special Novell Edition now? Is the Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org under any license other than LGPL?

I have lots of questions about this announcement that I will be further researching, Pamela Jones of Groklaw is also on the case, so be sure to check out what she has come up with:

Well, if there are any Novell supporters left, here’s something else to put in your pipe and smoke it. Novell is forking OpenOffice.org.

There will be a Novell edition of OpenOffice.org and it will support Microsoft OpenXML. (The default will be ODF, they claim, but note that the subheading mentions OpenXML instead.) I am guessing this will be the only OpenOffice.org covered by the “patent agreement” with Microsoft. You think?

Yes, unfortunately I do.

UPDATE: Miguel De Icaza says Novell OpenOffice is not a fork, but a patched version of OpenOffice.org. I did get a kick out of this though:

Btw, I believe the translator that people are discussing is built with C# and XSLT and is available here. I wonder some of the posters on the Groklaw thread are going to have a stroke over the fact that the software is hosted at source forge.

The document converter they are working on is in C#? So, I need to use Mono to use their converter for MS OpenXML? How many lawsuits must I expose myself to just to get at my own information in those documents?

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  1. konfusedkiwi said,

    December 4, 2006 at 9:50 pm


    Your quote: Did you catch that last part about “free download for their registered users”?

    You clearly do not understand the difference between open source and proprietary commercial software. Businesses charge money for commercial software. Yes, that’s right. This might be a new concept for you, look it up sometime – lightweight.

    Obviously, this is not a “royalty payment to Microsoft for their Interoperability IP” as you assert, it is simply commercial software.

  2. Draconishinobi said,

    December 4, 2006 at 11:43 pm


    The LGPL (like the GPL) requires that the source (in this case OpenOffice) be published. However, because it is the LGPL, not GPL, “programs that link to the library may be licensed under terms of your choice, so long as the library itself can be changed.” (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/LGPL/2.1/)

    Another reason to use GPL not LGPL. (of course, there are reasons for using one over the other, but if you want truly free software go with GPL)

  3. Joshua Bergland said,

    December 5, 2006 at 2:42 am


    This is insane …

    Is there anyone on this site that has actually followed Novell before the deal?

    The Windows version of OpenOffice 2.0.2 on Novell’s website has been there for months. Its part of the Open Workgroup suite of products, but if you register a free account on their site you can download it and use it. It just lacks the support that is part of the Open Workgroup product.

    The Linux version is included in SLED and OpenSUSE, also for free with the source code of Novell’s additions. Novell is simply extending the product and making their enhancements available to the OpenOffice community for inclusion.

    OpenOffice already supports Microsoft Office documents, what’s wrong with them supporting the format in Office 2007? It’s called business. What company would switch to an office application that couldn’t guarantee compatibility with their clients?

    As much as you would like to pretend otherwise, Novell has lasted many years being the underdog. The problem (and its always been their problem) is that they are going to continue having poor press relations and marketing and let sites like this publishing opinions take down the company.

    Are you guys so anti Microsoft that you would take down any company that might try to work with them?

    Please actually use Open Enterprise Server and SLES 10, then tell me that Novell hasn’t worked to take Linux to the next level of corporate readiness.

  4. Draconishinobi said,

    December 6, 2006 at 5:37 pm


    “Are you guys so anti Microsoft that you would take down any company that might try to work with them?

    Please actually use Open Enterprise Server and SLES 10, then tell me that Novell hasn’t worked to take Linux to the next level of corporate readiness. ”

    Well, I don’t know about anyone else here, but for me …

    Yes, any company that joins the evil empire (M$) becomes a part of that empire and aids in its propagation. Thus, Novell must die ! And if any other company chooses to take the same path … they must die as well ! The evil empire will be destroyed no matter what it takes. Besides, there are plenty of other distros that work better than SUSE and Novell.

  5. Juan Fermin said,

    April 3, 2007 at 10:30 pm


    I’m in the process of “Selling” a customer to swich over 20 desktops from XP to Suse Linux. One of the biggest selling points of Novell’s product was the fact that it came with a version of Open Office that’s compatible with Office 2007. This particular client gets a lot of documents, and many of them are beginning to come in on the new format, and they want to stay with the times, but can’t afford to switch to MS Office, and pay $6000.00 to get everyone switched over. They like the fact that once they go with a Suse server, they can switch their Exchange Server to Scalix, and not only save a ton of money, but also have a much more stable system that’s not subject to “How Good the Anti-Virus” is. Would you have preferred that Novell not offer this great product and they would have been Forced to buy more MS stuff? Get a Grip and wake up.

  6. Rico said,

    July 3, 2007 at 9:34 am


    Well Draconishinobi, you sound more like a fundamentalist Muslim then someone with an actual working brain. Saying a company must die just because you don’t like the software. So in fact you want all those people get fire just because you don’t like the software.

    Who was it that once said: If you can beat them, join them.

    If you don’t want it, don’t use it. Now go get a life…

  7. nox said,

    November 30, 2007 at 7:30 am


    Care! Seems that some other distros are silently adding the Novell patches into
    OOo, for example with mono and gstreamer support
    (and most of them are the same distro who complained about binary drivers, nonsense!!!!!).

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