Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New LibreOffice turns up the heat on Microsoft

Open source is keeping pressure on Microsoft with new release of LibreOffice productivity suite. It took a village to build it

Today saw the release of a landmark update of LibreOffice, the community successor to OpenOffice.org that's developed by TDF (The Document Foundation) and its global volunteer community. LibreOffice version 4 looks fresh, includes new enterprise features, and offers improved performance.

TDF is a nonprofit that allows a wide range of corporate sponsors to join with individual volunteers to build, localize, and test LibreOffice. I spent some time with core developer Michael Meeks of Suse to understand the highlights of the new release.

Raising the stakes on features
The biggest news concerns enterprise content and document management integration as well as file format interoperability features. The CMS integration is achieved using the CMIS standard created by multiple vendors at OASIS. It allows easy integration with a wide range of systems -- Meeks told me the Suse team has tested Alfresco, IBM FileNet, Microsoft Sharepoint, SAP Netweaver, and more -- and should work with any system supporting CMIS. The file format compatibility includes improved support for DOCX and RTF (which has been rewritten from scratch) as well as support for Microsoft Publisher and Visio 2013.

The spreadsheet now includes the ability to import arbitrary XML-formatted data and includes support for conditional formatting, including in-cell shading. There's new OpenFormula support and export options, and the whole thing is snappier, with multiple speed improvements and support for up to a million spreadsheet rows.

On Linux, there's new integration with Ubuntu Unity, and there's support for a new Android remote control app for presentations (which will be added to the Windows and Mac versions of LibreOffice in the next release). There are some more playful features, too. You can now personalize LibreOffice using themes downloaded from Mozilla's Firefox website, and there's a tiny built-in implementation of the Logo programming language so educators can teach programming with just LibreOffice installed.

Technical depth
Meeks was keen to point out work behind the scenes to deliver performance and stability now and set the stage for improvement in the future. Notably, the display code has been reworked to use layouts rather than hard-coded dialogs. This means user experience designers will now be able to easily customize and improve LibreOffice, and localizers will not have to worry about breaking the display of text.

According to Meeks, the code has been cleaned extensively, and new techniques for debugging huge code bases have been devised. He cautioned there's still much to do, but maintained that LibreOffice development is now within reach of even the most elementary programming and testing skills.

The project is also working to play well with the wider open source community. Features like the CMIS integration and the file import filters are intentionally designed as free-standing libraries so that other projects can use them without needing any understanding of LibreOffice or borrowing its code. Meeks told me several other projects are already sharing these libraries.

In the wake of concern about the Java platform, some people have been concerned that LibreOffice is dependent on it. While taking pains to note that Java is an important technology that will continue to be supported, Meeks explained that LibreOffice has been reworked so that almost nothing fails if Java is not available. There's now a non-Java grammar checker, and most wizards are being recoded without Java. While all existing Java-based plug-ins for OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice should continue to work, unused Java APIs are also being removed to reduce the dependency surface.

Overall, LibreOffice 4.0 promises to be a significant step up from previous versions (InfoWorld will post a complete review next week). LibreOffice 4.0 is available for Windows, Mac, and most Linux distributions, and it will be available in most of the world's languages and for BSD. LibreOffice -- and OpenOffice.org before it -- have helped compel Microsoft to avoid complacency and has driven the company to use open formats. Let's hope that push continues.

Source: InfoWorld

Java Wins Programming Beauty Pageant, But C and Objective C Gussy Up

The Java programming language, bolstered by the adoption of Android-based smartphones and tablets in the market, has regained the crown as the top language in the Tiobe Programming Community Index put together by programming tool maker Tiobe Software.

The index is based on a number of different factors, including the availability of courses and training, the popularity of searches in Google, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, YouTube, and Baidu search engines, and the number of engineers with specific programming skills based on their employment and job searches. The Tiobe Index has been around for more than a decade, and it is as much for fun as it is for information.
Java was the number one language in the Tiobe Index for February, with a rating of 18.4 percent, up 1.34 points over the past year. C was second with a 17.1 percent rating and climbing 56/100ths of a point, followed by Objective C, with a 9.8 percent rating but climbing 2.74 points. (Objective C is the variant of C that is used on Apple iOS.) Objective C has jumped two spots, passing by C++, the new-and-improved, object-oriented version of C that stopped short of becoming Java, and C#, which is Microsoft's Java-C mashup for its Common Language Runtime that was supposed to be enough like a JVM to make everyone happy except Sun Microsystems (now Oracle) and IBM. Python, Ruby, VisualBasic.NET, Pascal, Bash, Matlab, and Assembly are all climbing among the top 20 programming languages in the February ranking.
Venerable COBOL has a rating of 0.514 percent among the top 50 languages and ranked just behind the SAS statistical programming language and just ahead of Fortran (used in supercomputers) and the R open source statistical language. Good ole Report Program Generator for IBM i and OS/400 ranked number 38 on the February 2013 list, with a rating of 0.247 percent. It jumps around a lot, sometimes kissing 1 percent. This time around, it is behind Smalltalk and ahead of OpenCL.

My guess is that there are around 15 million or so programmers in the world--meaning people who get paychecks for their work--so if you apply the Tiobe numbers to this figure, you won't get anything that makes sense. It is commonly believed that there are around 10 million Java programmers in the world, and if you multiplied the Tiobe index against the raw population, you would bet something on the order of 2.7 million Java programmers. Like I said, this is more for fun than fact.

As for RPG, if there are 150,000 customers worldwide as IBM has told us, and the average shop has between two and three programmers (with the so-called CIO being a programmer with system administration and budget responsibilities), then there should be maybe on the order of 300,000 to 450,000 RPG programmers in the world (okay, so maybe 5 percent to 10 percent of them are actually COBOL programmers on the IBM i platform. If you use the Tiobe numbers percent against the raw number of 0.247 percent for RPG, you get a number that is an order of magnitude lower than this. Again, this was meant to be fun.

Source: IT Jungle