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OpenOffice Novell Edition… for… Windows?!?!

Posted in Novell, Office Suites, OpenOffice, Windows at 6:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We choose not to comment on this news, but you be the judge, based on the following gist:

Features in the Novell Edition

Let’s consider a couple of the features that you get in the Novell Edition but are not likely to have been integrated into upstream OOo yet:

  • Excel VBA Macro execution
  • Performance improvements
  • AGFA fonts
  • Better Bullets (now in upstream OOo)
  • Simple Solver
  • GroupWise integration

Why a Windows Version?

If Novell is so interested in the success of Linux, then why would they produce a Windows edition of OpenOffice.org? Isn’t that a contradiction?


Let us not forget the controversial inclusion of Open XML.

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  1. Stephane Rodriguez said,

    March 14, 2007 at 8:49 am


    That was expected, and one of the reasons why Microsoft inked a deal with Novell.

    In a nutshell,

    - Microsoft claims VBA and 15 years of other legacy stuff is not part of OOXML. Yet, that does not stop them from making contradicting statements such as “100% backwards compatible documents” in OOXML.

    - Microsoft’s XML covenant not to sue does not apply to anything not documented in OOXML. Such as VBA macros. Therefore any non-Microsoft party implementing this stuff is liable.

    - Novell, magically ships support for VBA macros (that’s a claim, it remains to be seen what it means in practice), and sure enough they are going as far as shipping a Windows-only version of their own OpenOffice branch. One of the reasons they ship a Windows-only version I believe is because VBA macros can include import statements of WIN32/OLE/DLL libraries, therefore in the general case the run-time requires Windows.

    - Novell is not sued for that infringement because it inked the evil pact with Microsoft.

    - By doing so, Novell ships a bastardized version of OpenOffice that loses cross-platform capabilities, and potentially long term commitment to stability/reliability/openness, by far the greatest asset of the whole thing.

    Conclusion : Novell is just a Trojan horse against OpenOffice.

    Action item : forbid OpenOffice branch changes coming from Novell.

  2. shane said,

    March 14, 2007 at 9:23 am


    Yup. Office is their real cash cow. Remember, Sun has a deal with MS too for OOO protection.

    I also agree that the VBA support is much more ominous than even the OOXML, like you said there is no covenant for VBA (not even a hopelessly vague and flawed one), and is clearly only being included under license from MS.

  3. Ted Haeger said,

    March 14, 2007 at 10:09 am


    First, to Roy:
    You choose note to comment, but you did copy and modify text from my blog as though I stated something inherently negative in it. Perhaps you missed the point: all these features were originally developed for release in SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10. They are now available on both Linux and Windows. So, what then is the issue?

    Second to Stephanie:
    >”Novell, magically ships support for VBA macros…”
    Magically? Noel Power worked on this for months prior to Novell shipping SUSE Linux Enterprise 10.
    >”…(that’s a claim, it remains to be seen what it means in practice)…”
    No it doesn’t. The software is released in both openSUSE and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10. That means that it has already been seen.
    >”,,,and sure enough they are going as far as shipping a Windows-only version of their own OpenOffice branch.”
    This is such a vapid statement. We released the Linux version in SLE10 in July 2006. The Windows version that I note in my blog is from the same codebase. It’s no more “Windows-only” than the version you would get from the OpenOffice.org website.
    “…a bastardized version of OpenOffice that loses cross-platform capabilities…”
    Stephanie, please consider reading just a bit before penning such acrimonious babble. This fully cross-platform “Novell Edition” that you call a “bastardized version” is now included in non-Novell Linux distributions. Your reactionary statement indicates that you did not read the original blog post. That smacks of the damn-the-facts approach of pundits like Limbaugh, Hannity and O’Reilly.

    Lastly to Shane:
    “…and {VBA Macro support] is clearly only being included under license from MS.”
    Your assertion is false. We released that code long before we inked the deal with Microsoft.

    Overall, if you have a gripe with Novell, misinformation and sensationalism is not the path to making your complaint heard by Novell, by Microsoft, or by the large contingency of rational-thinking people in the free and open source software community. Can we please have a better quality of debate?


  4. shane said,

    March 14, 2007 at 10:15 am


    Thanks for stopping by rev, feel free to make the details of your deal with MS public and perhaps I will be proven wrong, on everything. I’d be fine with that.

  5. Stephane Rodriguez said,

    March 14, 2007 at 11:56 am



    I can go on point by point on what you replied, but it seems to me you missed the overall picture my comment was about : why only Novell is shipping this ; why the timing is so peculiar.

  6. Stephen said,

    March 14, 2007 at 12:04 pm


    Hardly suspicious timing given that next week Novell will host Brainshare. It’s perfect timing really! The deal was announced MONTHS ago. The work Novell have been doing in OOo goes much further back.

    Anyway, since 90%+ of real users in real offices use Microsoft Windows (unfortunately). Surely moving them to OpenOffice is a smart way to show them how damned good opensource has become? Gaim runs on Windows, as does Ekiga and a plethora of others. So if other communities have seen this as a sensible delivery vehicle, why can’t you?

  7. Ian said,

    March 14, 2007 at 12:28 pm


    Don’t forget the idea that Novell can support OO.org easier with their own build. Real business wants real support. Does the OO.org community have a 1-800 number I can call up in a worst case scenario? Moreover, it’s a tough sell to dump Microsoft all together. Since there is no MS Office for linux, there needs to be an OO.org(with proper corporate support and licensing tie-ins) to allow for a staged move away from Microsoft. This helps.

  8. Stephane Rodriguez said,

    March 14, 2007 at 1:25 pm



    Don’t fall on the easy trap.

    Do you know the cost of the VBA license (what a third-party has to pay to Microsoft in order to use the run-time legally) ? And the license is binding : to my knowledge there is no sub-licensing.


    The question is simple : did Novell pay that? If they did not, what have they traded in exchange?

  9. Ian said,

    March 14, 2007 at 2:02 pm


    I’m not sure. Maybe the same price samba paid to use Microsoft compatible SMB/CIFS integration?

  10. shane said,

    March 14, 2007 at 2:29 pm


    No, it’s what royalty did Novell agree to pay for their distributing Samba using SMB/CIFS? That Samba was somehow needing of patent licensing from MS was one of the clear implications of this deal, and the Samba team denounced it.

    “Under the patent agreement, customers will receive coverage for Mono, Samba, and OpenOffice, as well as .NET and Windows Server.”

  11. Ian said,

    March 14, 2007 at 3:45 pm


    Since we can only infer what the patent agreement ultimately means, whether it’s an admission of guilt or merely a way to make customers feel warm and fuzzy, I can only say this.; I’m willing to bet a majority of “Novell shops” lean on NCP more than Samba. Samba, while very useful and a great project, doesn’t exactly make or break Novell while NCP still trumps customers mind share.

  12. Chris Cox said,

    March 14, 2007 at 3:50 pm


    I find it all very irritating. Novell pushing GPL’d software for Windows?? What are they thinking? And wanting to support Microsoft’s formats inside of OpenOffice… sheesh…

    I’m thankful for this site and all the rest that are striving to make sure that Windows and Linux don’t work together. And I’m sure Microsoft appreciates any attempts to thwart Novell’s OOo for Windows effort.

  13. shane said,

    March 14, 2007 at 7:20 pm


    I’m all for Free Software available on any platform, just not when you’re a company that worked out a patent deal to your sole benefit and in violation of the GPL, while enabling a monopolist to further their agenda.

    I’m funny like that.

  14. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 14, 2007 at 9:01 pm


    @ Ted:

    You choose note to comment, but you did copy and modify text from my blog as though I stated something inherently negative in it. Perhaps you missed the point: all these features were originally developed for release in SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10. They are now available on both Linux and Windows. So, what then is the issue?

    I chose not to comment because I do not want to offend. I still try to set apart individuals from a more cohesive set of executives (AKA “Novell”, the company). The modifications I made were intended to make the quotes shorter and more ‘compressed’ (I thought about adding a note to indicate this and my negligence was inexcusable, in hindsight, so I appreciate your correction).

    My issue is two-fold:

    1. Why does Novell join Microsoft in press releases which say that Windows is cheaper? Novell knows this is false. What about “intellectual property”? Didn’t Novell say it was irrelevant?

    2. Why doesn’t Novell urge Microsoft to port Microsoft Office to Linux? It goes both ways, you know. Stuart Cohen said it was inevitable, but he was pressured out of OSDL for supporting (or giving his blessings to) the Novell deal.

    I have many other issues, such as Novell’s backing of OOXML. It is a format which governments do not consider acceptable. If the ZDNet article is anything to judge by, Novell is gradually becoming Microsoft’s b*tch. I have seen this happening with H-P, with Dell, with Corel, with Sybase, and with Palm. Why does Novell think that it can escape the cycle of betrayal? I cannot believe the deal was signed without an executive receiving some personal benefits. It’s a death knell. Wall Street sees this, the Linux community sees this and — quite evidently — some Novell employees who depart can see it as well. And I used to love Novell.

  15. Ian said,

    March 15, 2007 at 7:24 am



    “just not when you’re a company that worked out a patent deal to your sole benefit and in violation of the GPL”

    There has been no legal violation. The only violation could be the spirit of the GPL and even that is subjective at best.


    “And I used to love Novell.”

    That’s a problem. You put your love in a business. Businesses make business decisions, even if they’re not popular. I don’t care what company you follow, love, work for, whatever; eventually they are going to do something you don’t like or agree with.

  16. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 15, 2007 at 7:37 am


    @ Ian

    Relying on a business emotionally is usually a bad idea; alas, it’s worse when a business chooses to make a suicidal move. It’s painful to watch. I suspect that someone was getting paid for this. And it wasn’t just Novell.

  17. Lars Marowsky-Bree said,

    March 15, 2007 at 5:08 pm


    Novell did not join MS in saying that Windows is cheaper. Said customer merely stated that supporting several distributions is more expensive than Windows, which is likely true and why they are consolidating on one. Makes perfect sense to me.

    We don’t care whether MS ports their Office to Linux or not. We believe in Open Source, and OpenOffice. Just like FireFox on Windows, I believe this will help increase confidence in Open Source and enable a gradual migration to more open platforms.

  18. shane said,

    March 15, 2007 at 11:28 pm


    Um, Hovsepian said that Office and the Visual Studios were indeed things that he wanted to get onto (SUSE) Linux, but couldn’t get them included:

    What about things that were discussed that didn’t make the cut?

    One that we were very interested in would be running some of their toolsets on our Linux platform — Visual Studio and other toolsets. That one didn’t make the cut.

    Was the perennial question of a version of Microsoft Office for Linux discussed?

    Yes, that was one of the ‘toolsets’ I referred to. That one didn’t make the cut, either. As an executive, I understand that they’re protecting their franchise, and I’m respectful of that.

  19. Danny said,

    August 24, 2007 at 7:19 pm


    I just installed OpenOffice.org Novell Edition 2.1 on my personal machine. So far it’s working just fine. I was able to open documents I created with MS Office 2003 fine (with the occasional errors in layout and formatting). Sadly the ooxml filter opens just docx files. Hopefully they’d make it work with xlsx and pptx. Then I can recommend it for use in our IT department.

  20. Shauryadutt Sisodia said,

    March 12, 2008 at 5:54 am


    Can any one me the License Costs and costs involved in maintanance of Novell OpenOffice?? Although it might be overshadowing Microsoft in deployment costs but i am sure it must involving many hidden costs in maintenance and upgrdation.

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