German city says OpenOffice shortcomings are forcing it back to Microsoft

But open source developers say the council should still consider a quick upgrade to OpenOffice or LibreOffice

The city council in Freiburg, Germany, is planning to ditch an open source office suite and go back to using Microsoft Office.

But on Friday, German open source developers reacted angrily, saying that the city uses outdated software and did not consider upgrading to a current version of LibreOffice or

In a draft resolution discussing IT problems, Freiburg's city council said it was in favor of migrating from the outdated OpenOffice 3.2.1 it is using in combination with Microsoft Office 2000 to Microsoft Office 2010,

"In the specific case of the use of OpenOffice, the hopes and expectations of the year 2007 are not fulfilled," the council wrote, adding that continuing use OpenOffice will lead to performance impairments and aggravation and frustration on the part of employees and external parties.

"Therefore, a new Microsoft Office license is essential for effective operations," they wrote.

Freiburg has been using OpenOffice and Microsoft Office 2000 side-by-side since 2007 and has been very restrictive issuing licenses of new Microsoft Office suites. Since then, the city noticed that it has been far from ideal to use only OpenOffice for digital correspondence. Microsoft Office for instance is the standard for external communication, the council wrote.

Employees had trouble with documents that were formatted in a seemingly complete random way when opened in another office suite. There were also conversion problems between the presentation programs Power Point and Impress. And spreadsheet program Calc and Impress were seen as significantly underperforming compared to the Microsoft alternative, the council wrote.

While expectations were that OpenOffice's development would progress and it would be used by more municipalities, government use of OpenOffice is not widespread, the council wrote. Besides Munich, there is no big community that decided to do the same as Freiburg, it said, adding that there are no signs that the use of open source software will prevail in the market.

The council noted that the currently used version of Oracle OpenOffice is not being developed anymore. That left the option of using LibreOffice, an office suite that has its roots in OpenOffice but is being developed independently, or choosing Apache OpenOffice, the relaunched version of OpenOffice from the Apache Software Foundation.

But using OpenOffice for word processing alone is not possible, the council said, adding that they estimated that only 80 percent of the word processing could be done using the open source suite. "With spreadsheets and presentations this percentage is significantly lower," they wrote.

"The divergence of the development community (LibreOffice on one hand Apache Office on the other) is crippling for the development for OpenOffice," the council wrote, adding that the development of Microsoft Office is far more stable. Looking at the options, a one-product strategy with Microsoft Office 2010 is the only viable one, according to the council.

Several open source groups such as the Free Software Foundation Europe, the Document Foundation and the Open Source Business Alliance protested the plans in an open letter to the council on Friday, saying the council compared apples with oranges.

"Numerous statements concerning LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice are incorrect or outdated," they said in the letter, adding that the support of LibreOffice and OpenOffice is at a professional level these days. "The assessment of the evaluation that compatibility to Microsoft Office cannot be reached in the next few years, is also wrong," they said.

According to the organizations, no open source experts were consulted in the process. Therefore they hoped the council would still consider a migration to a current version of LibreOffice or OpenOffice.

The council plans to vote on the draft bill next Tuesday.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to

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Tags LibreOfficeopen sourceapplicationsMicrosoftsoftwareOffice


Tom Ordonez


The problem is not shortcomings of the open source version but more of a company culture issue. In my company I am the only one using Open Office. I tried implementing Open Office at my company but I got a mutiny. People complained that they couldn't find some feature, that it was different and that they couldn't do their work. I had no alternative but to pay for MS Office.
Maybe if Open Office looked the same as MS Office and had the exact same features at the exact same places, people wouldn't complain about it and it would have a bigger adoption.

Andy Medrano


It's not just how they look, but the functions. The article is not wrong when they mention Calc and Impress. Calc is good enough for simple spreadsheets, but try making ones with macros or complicated formulas, or extremely large files like for managing bill of materials of a large variety of products. With Impress, the problem is more compatibility with other people's computers, because most presentations are for use outside of the organization. At the end of the day you're not making a choice between OpenOffice or MSOffice, the choice is between OpenOffice+MSOffice or only MSOffice.



#1 and #2 you're both right.

Tom you're being facetious but you're actually 100% correct. If LibreOffice has an MS Skin 90% of people would never know the difference. As long as the buttons are where they're 'supposed to be' noone cares. But learning.. learning causes anger and rage.

Andy is also right. LibreOffice is perfect for an individual because 99% of the time an individual isn't doing anything complex but organizations /might/ requires large complex files and THAT is when the MS difference matters. They really do need to assess their needs. The problem is they aren't assessing them correctly. They're not saying "oh look how it crashes when our 8 thousand cell spreadsheet is launched" they're saying "too many people are going nuts on fonts and it's looking crazy so we're out.



Who cares about this opensource pieces of s*it?



Max, somehow they are the reason for us not paying $2000 for MS Office regardless of how many people are using it.

OSB alliance fan


Open letter to the City of Freiburg from OSB alliance:

The Open Source Business Alliance and other signatories recommend the Freiburg City Council is a political and sustainable decision in favor of transforming openness, transparency, participation and collaboration from 2007 to not be too hasty in a decision about to direct royalty payments to a proprietary manufacturer in the amount of . 550,000 EUR leads. Large cities such as Munich, Jena and (have been added since the completion of the opinion in the summer of 2012) Leipzig prove that LibreOffice or Apache Office implementations of the latest generation are successful. Even small towns like the town of Schwäbisch Hall or Treuchtlingen projects running with a clear focus on open office suites to the great satisfaction and have led to significant savings. Introducing the complete letter to the council and the mayor of the city of Freiburg as the text and available for download. An open letter to the city of Freiburg (pdf) The signatories to criticize particular the failure to take account of more recent version of the free office suites, as well as some misstatements in the report and in the report of the administration. Besides the OSB Alliance also have The Document Foundation, Free Office Germany eV., Federation information and communication services, and the Free Software Foundation Europe signed the letter.



I guess Freiburg can go ahead with locked-in monopolistic software, spending more money than needed and Germany can possibly be the new Greece.

I feel Freiburg has forgotten the hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic. As a wise man once said ‘those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.’

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