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Ubuntu explains 3.0 decision

By   |  October 23, 2008

The Ubuntu team has decided that instead of 3.0, released last week, the default version of the office suite in the Ubuntu 8.10 release will be 2.4.1. It’s not a decision that many Ubuntu fans are happy with and Launchpad is filled with discussion on the issue, with many users arguing that not including 3.0 undermines Ubuntu 8.10.

The Ubuntu developers, however, argue that delays in the 3.0 release and insufficient time forced them to exclude it.

Ubuntu’s Colin Watson is the man taking much of the flak for the decision. Tectonic asked him why this decision had been taken.

Will 3.0 not be included by default in Ubuntu Intrepid?

That’s correct.

What will be the default application in Intrepid? 2.4.1.

Could you explain briefly why the decision was taken to exclude 3.0 from the default Intrepid release?

We’d originally been hoping to include 3.0 in Ubuntu 8.10. Our original plan had been to provide packages that could be installed alongside 2.4.1 (rather than replacing it) once 3.0 reached the late beta or release candidate stage. However, a couple of factors made this much harder than we originally expected.

Firstly, the 3.0 release schedule has slipped quite a bit. At the beginning of May, the release candidate was due on 25 July with the gold release on 2 September. By the end of July, release candidate was due on 8 August and gold on 16 September. Throughout August the release candidate was gradually pushed back until it eventually landed on 5 September, a week after our feature freeze for 8.10. There were then a series of release candidates until the gold release finally came out on 13 October. If the original release schedule had held then including 3.0 wouldn’t have been a problem, but on a six-month release schedule with many other applications involved we have to place an absolute premium on predictability.

Secondly, parallel packages turned out to be infeasible due to a number of technical problems. (In any case, we had only ever intended this as a stopgap measure so that we could test out 3.0 in Intrepid without having to be completely committed to it.)

The bottom line is that we wanted to avoid shipping anything other than a gold release of, and by the time we had a reasonable assurance that we would be able to include a gold release of 3.0 in Ubuntu 8.10 and shake out any new bugs, we were already well past beta and beginning to prepare for our release candidate, so it was too late.

We’ve learned that sometimes it is better to wait and deliver a well-tested product rather than trying to cram everything in at the last minute. With a six-month release cycle, it is never all that long for users to wait until the next one along; we fully expect 3.0 to be part of Ubuntu 9.04. answers a number of common questions about this practice.

Finally, one of the headline features of 3.0 that many people have asked about is support for Microsoft Office 2007 documents. Thanks to our use of the Go-oo patch set, we already support this important feature with 2.4.1.

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60 Responses to “Ubuntu explains 3.0 decision”

  1. Vadim P.
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

    That’s rather reasonable actually. I didn’t see anything else too important (unless Impress got a ‘Print Preview’ button…) in 3.0 besides the compatibility, which as they said will already be in.

  2. Jonathan Grubbs
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 3:04 pm

    I have been running Ubuntu 8.10 since they made the early upgrade available on their site, and have been running OOo 3.0 since RC4. When the final version of OOo was released, and I tried to install it on my windows pc I was told the same version was already installed, so there were no changes from RC4 to 3.0. I have had no problems running OOo on Ubuntu 8.10. I guess we will just have to treat it like we do with Google’s Picasa or any other third party software that is not included. You can still install it, you just have to add the extra software sources in package manager.

  3. Jerry
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 3:18 pm

    No big deal…Just download it from openoffice site and install it!

  4. tallman
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 3:33 pm

    I think they did a big mistake by no including OOo 3.0. The should’ve included it at least into their backports repository.

  5. KimTjik
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 3:35 pm

    “We’ve learned that sometimes it is better to wait and deliver a well-tested product rather than trying to cram everything in at the last minute.”

    It sounds good, but think of the consequences. Ubuntu has probably the biggest user-base and the better financial support of most. Thus add to the mix the need for a continuously improved office-suite for Linux and BSD, and I start to wonder: who’s expected to push ahead and give feedback and suggestions about possible improvements? Not Ubuntu says Ubunut, despite being in the best position for doing so.

    Even small distributions did manage to test OpenOffice 3 for a long time and then quickly add it to its stable repository the same day as the release. I’m always ready to give Ubuntu the doubt, but my impression is that they received well deserved criticism for doing too little for the development of GNU/Linux. If they don’t start to contribute more, moving those home-made patches upstreams, digging in with the rest of the GNU/Linux community Ubuntu for sure runs the risk of looking like the rich boy who takes for granted that servants are busy making his day easier.

    I want Ubuntu to succeed even more, but not without taking its due responsibility.

  6. R. Moore
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 4:01 pm

    I got OOo 3.0 running on Windows since the day it was released. Do they really think they can fix bug#1 (proposed by themselves) with a development and release model that is so obviously broken that anyone with a brain could see it? I wish them good luck.

  7. Vadim P.
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 4:17 pm

    Frankly we already have enough experiments with FF and the Catalyst drivers, thanks. What came out of that? Nothing but flak, complaints, and whines.

    It seems the same happens when that isn’t done.

  8. Vadim P.
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 4:29 pm

    @Moore: That’s awesome.

    Now let me guess… does Windows come with OOo 3.0? No.

    Does the basic version even come with a word processor? No.

    I wonder who’s model is worse.

  9. Openoffice 3.0 su Intrepid |
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  11. Ubuntu 8.10 no vendrá de serie con 3.0
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  12. R. Moore
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 6:55 pm

    @Vadim P.

    Well, Windows (and other sane operating systems) have this amazing and brand new concept: it’s called a software platform, and developers can target it to build their software on. All without forcing the maker of the OS to test and integrate third party apps themselves. That’s also why they don’t spend all their time recompiling and repacking the same things every 6 months. Awesome, don’t you think? Awesome and completely foreign to Linux-chaos-land.

  13. Actualidad Tecnologica - Ubuntu 8.10 no vendrá de serie con 3.0
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  14. NickF
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 7:04 pm

    Firefox 3.0 beta was released full of bugs on the original Ubuntu 8.04. Given it was a LTS release, I find this justification rather weak….

  15. Vadim P.
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 7:53 pm

    @NickF: I think you failed to read the article, because it says “We’ve learned that sometimes it is better to wait and deliver a well-tested product rather than trying to cram everything in at the last minute.”.

    @Moore: That’s a pretty old concept I’m afraid, and one that is completely unrelated to this discussion. However since you apparently fail to know that it’s available in Linux, check out the LSB and the Linux Application Checker. You’ll be amazed!

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  19. Timmie
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 9:16 pm

    Please tell me one thing here:
    Why was Firefox Beta 3.0 included in the last release?

    This was definately more Beta than OOo 3. It broke all extensions etc.

  20. Ubuntu 8.10 llega sin Open Office 3 - Cybernauta
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  21. R. Moore
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 9:28 pm

    @Vadim P.

    Are you sure it’s irrelevant to this discussion? Doesn’t look like that to me.

    Oh, and I know what’s available on Linux. I also know what’s irrelevant. And LSB is so irrelevant, that the very fact that we’re discussing here about the relevance of integrating a third party application in Ubuntu is better proof of its failure and uselessness that anyone would ever dream of.

  22. Mackenzie
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 10:04 pm

    R. Moore:
    It’s not as if you can’t just download the .debs from and install it yourself. That’s what I’ve done on my 8.04.1.

  23. altazor
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 11:11 pm

    WTF ! ! ! Ibex was suposed to be a xperimental release, right not a lts… that’s absurd since they releases firefox 3 in beta state for 8.04 LTS ! ! ! c’mon ! ! !

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  27. Colin Watson
    October 24th, 2008 @ 6:02 am

    @NickF, @Timmie:
    I’m not surprised that people are drawing a comparison with Firefox 3.0, and I did actually think about doing so myself when Alastair asked me about this since I was involved in both decisions, but I thought it better to answer the question I’d been asked rather than digress. However, since you’ve asked it now: Firefox 3.0 was a very different kettle of fish. In the past, we’ve had a lot of practical problems maintaining security support for old major versions of Firefox. We are in fact contributing upstream here rather than expecting others to do our work for us – our Firefox maintainer, Alexander Sack, is one of the people who’ve stepped up to maintain the old Firefox 1.5 branch, since we need it for Ubuntu 6.06 LTS – but nevertheless the web browser is a massive and complex target directly exposed to the network and it takes a lot of work to keep up security support for it.

    It was our considered assessment that it was too risky to stay back on the Firefox 2 series for Ubuntu 8.04 LTS. We knew that we were going to have to support it for three years, and we knew that Firefox 3 was about to be released and so it was just about the worst time to start such a long-term support cycle for Firefox 2. In 2011, I’d much rather that Alexander could be doing interesting things with the web browser for Ubuntu 11.04 rather than wrestling with trying to get security patches to apply to a version of Firefox that nobody else is interested in supporting! Thus, despite the fact that we knew full well that Firefox 3 was unlikely to be out of beta by the time we released 8.04, we felt this was much better than potentially being forced to upgrade 8.04 users to Firefox 3 in the middle of the support cycle, a tremendously invasive change for a stable release. We took some flak for it, and it definitely resulted in some problems in the first couple of months of 8.04 (largely cleared up in 8.04.1), but I still stand by it as absolutely the right decision. 3.0 didn’t have these kinds of considerations. Not least, Ubuntu 8.10 is only going to be supported for 18 months, and we’re confident that we can do that with 2.4.1; the historical security exposure of has been much less than that of Firefox anyway. Even if we do have to upgrade part-way through the support cycle (which, as I said, I think is unlikely), the packaging considerations of doing so are much less complex, since we don’t have the wide array of extensions packaged in Ubuntu that Firefox does.Firefox 3.0 was a very significant release, too; but considering that we already had the (very important) feature of Office 2007 import support thanks to the Go-oo project, 3.0 is more of a minor release bump for us in some ways.

    Put briefly, continuing to ship Firefox 2 in 8.04 represented a risk to our stability in itself, and the benefit of shipping Firefox 3 was substantial; continuing to ship 2.4.1 in 8.10 (with the expectation of upgrading to 3.0 in 9.04) doesn’t present anything like the same risk, even though it undoubtedly means that we miss a checkbox for some people. They were very different decisions.

    I’ve been working on Ubuntu since the beginning of the project, on Debian for several years before that and to this day, and I’ve been involved in release management for much of that time. The one thing that’s consistent about deciding which versions of major applications to ship is that it’s always a tough decision and there is usually no right answer. If you pick the newer version, you get roasted for regressions; if you hang back on the older version, you get roasted for being out of date. It is possible to win if you can devote enough QA and development resources to catching and fixing all the regressions as early as possible, but few distributions can do this for everything people care about, although we all try our best.

  28. Ian
    October 24th, 2008 @ 1:00 pm

    Thanks Colin for your considered responses – I’m glad you’re making the decisions rather than some of the others commenting :)

  29. Linux Los Angeles » Ubuntu 8.10, no vendra con OpenOffice 8.10
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  31. KimTjik
    October 24th, 2008 @ 2:33 pm

    @ Colin Watson:
    I totally accept the argument about differentiating the security level of Firefox and OpenOffice. I suppose most agree with you on this point. My disappointment in your decision has nothing to do with simple regression or out-of-date issues.

    Traditionally an office-suite has been viewed as the key for acceptance by governmental or business organisations. A more rational view might be to realize that any open-source office-suite will suffer as long as standardisation mainly is in the hands of closed-source interest. Nevertheless the quality and compatibility of a office-suite will make an impression of being either a satisfying option or an average but not so good option. Unfortunately some tend to judge without thorough validation. Thus I see the progress of an office-suite for GNU/Linux as crucial.

    Ubuntu is a big player making inroads into a difficult market. That’s very much appreciated. Still I think it’s a bad decision to not involve a big user-group in improving and tuning OpenOffice 3. Yes you can manually install it, but users are encouraged to use original repositories and most will probably do that.

    I understand that it’s a hard decision, but my personal view is that more than user opinions is on stake here. Some operations are painful but well needed.

  32. Psypher
    October 24th, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

    Personally I’m glad ubuntu has decided against adding something they don’t feel happy with. hardy is so unstable for me and has so many issues which I keep praying every week they will actually fix and better not release intrepid with those same bugs. Eg slow USB copy, “microsoft minutes” effect while copying files over USB or LAN, USB disks not mounting properly, hanging shutdown due to having mounted network shares, pulseaudio clashing with flash and up until 2 months ago if you move files in between nautilus windows your entire desktop crashes. These are all really bad bugs that shouldn’t have been present in an LTS edition and most of them caused by adding bleeding edge software (gvfs and pulseaudio) that should have been tested longer. If Ubuntu don’t want to include OO 3, then fine, install it yourself, it’s not the end of the world. I’d rather have a stable desktop but I’d rather be running Ubuntu than Gentoo. if these issues aren’t sorted out or at least have a sufficient workaround without the loss of functionality, then I’m going back to Gutsy, at least my desktop ran stable then.

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  35. Skilly
    October 24th, 2008 @ 10:12 pm

    @ KimTjik :
    I concur with your view that the quality and compatibility of an Office Suite is important for wider adoption of the Linux desktop. However, in my opinion the lack of a great replacement for MS Outlook (or an MS Exchange client, if you prefer) is an even bigger obstacle. In any event, with regard to the decision to exclude OO 3.0 from Entrepid, I think that it’s crucial to take a longer term view. Trying to include features in a production system before the system is ready is a classic mistake in systems development, which many of us have learned to our peril on more than one occasion! The short term gains of including OO 3.0 in Entrepid would be long forgotten in 6 months time however the consequences of introducing an unstable office package will be felt long thereafter.

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  37. Xtyn
    October 25th, 2008 @ 8:49 am

    It’s a little dissapointing that they didn’t include OOo 3 in 8.10. Mandriva 2009 has it and it was released 3 weeks before 8.10. I think Ubuntu has more resources than Mandriva. I believe Ubuntu will be the only big distro that does not include OOo 3 this season and Ubuntu is the most popular distro so it’s a little shameful.
    That aside, I believe 8.10 is the best release until now, the RC is very stable, very usable, all in all, it’s great. It’s way better than 8.04, even though that was a LTS. I really can’t understand this logic, to release a buggy LTS and after that a well tested, stable normal release. 8.10 should have been the LTS. :)
    Maybe they should rethink the release cycle, just a thought…

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  40. Torben
    October 26th, 2008 @ 10:33 am

    Ubuntu decided to become conservative, so don’t expect to get the new and cool stuff there in time. Telling us, we will get OOo3 with Intrepid 1 sounds like a joke, cause that is when the rest of the world will start working with OOo3.1. Same for Firefox, FF3.1 would have been a must have in my opinion, so for now we are behind and listenig to their arguments, this is on purpose and will “always” be.

    Don’t get me wrong, Ubuntu has the right to manage their releases in any way they like to and if they want to be as conservative as Debian (with all my respect to Debian, Debian is not outdated, this ist understanding), fine. It is just there were a lot of problems with Hardy LTS like PulseAudio (still not usuable in Hardy together with Flash), Firefox Beta at release and so on and instead of learning from problems they had to face with bleeding edge stuff, they now surrendered and became discouraged.

    I think at least core components like OOo and Firefox should always be up to date, who cares if upstream calls them RC, Beta or stable. Maybe they deserve additional manpower to develop stable packages in parallel as a emergency strategy, but Ubuntus goal should be to keep them up to date and stabilize them within a few weeks after release if neccesary.

    On the other hand, don’t try to give the picture of internal cohesion. It seems to me there are braver developers on other packages around. Look at network-manager e.g., which is a SVN version as 0.7 wasn’t even released upstream yet. They get thousands of bugreports and complaints, but they work hard to stabilize it and it is worth, because it has superior features over 0.6.

    Once again, I appreciate all your good work and if I sound impolite, please excuse my lousy english, that was not my intention. Just because I really like Ubuntu I hope you will revise your philosophie regarding new releases and fresh upstream versions, don’t let Ubuntu be the outdated distribution with the old stuff.


  41. James Cunningham
    October 27th, 2008 @ 1:02 am

    If you want OO3 in Intrepid use this ppa: archive

    Problem solved. Works fine.

    Here’s a nice little howto for people who like it all graphicky and clicky

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  43. Dummy00001
    October 29th, 2008 @ 4:50 pm

    I welcome conservatism on Ubuntu side. If nothing else, it tells me that they finally reaching critical mass of users, turning them from “niche player” into a “mass platform”.

    From my POV, OOo3 biggest advantages are targeted at business (= compatibility with M$Office and ODF). But business doesn’t have the habit of upgrading often – 6 months is too fast.

    End users who for whatever reason would need OOo3 can easily install it.

    End users who do not care what office suit they have – as long as it displays and prints their documents – are better off with OOo2 for the time being.

  44. Vadim P.
    October 29th, 2008 @ 11:34 pm

    Dummy00001: I think you missed the part where Ubuntu’s OOo 2.4.1 was patched with the better Microsoft compatibility, blowing the steam out of OOo 3.0.

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  46. Peter
    November 1st, 2008 @ 7:50 pm

    I updated to Kubuntu 8.10 and OOo3 two days ago. OOo is rock solid, KDE4 definitely isn’t.
    I know Kubuntu and Ubuntu don’t always share the same philosophy, but the contrast is rather surprising, all the more so if Kubuntu can’t go their own way and offer OOo3 by default. Surely an unstable desktop is more of a risk than an office suite. Despite the gremlins, I appreciate Kubuntu’s courage in going for KDE4. I’d be interested to hear about the justification in the light of what has been said about OOo.

  47. glorinand
    November 11th, 2008 @ 11:40 pm

    I could hardly be more pleased that OOo3 did not make it into Intrepid after all… The version available from the official openoffice site does not run for me at all – all it does is crash. It does not even start…

    The version from ppa – does not work that well either. Namely – updating a bibliography index longer than 4 items freezes OOo3, which renders the whole bundle provided by ppa absolutely unusable for me…

    I will rather use older, reliable package, than stop my work for a month or two, until these issues are fixed…

    In the past ubuntu often included OOo that crashed or freezed somewhere, usually thanks to some bugs in the integration packages etc… – like when using gnome open file dialog instead of the default OOo dialog and clicking cancel crashed the whole app… I think that their will to wait and test before including it might actually be a step forward…

  48. KimTjik
    November 12th, 2008 @ 12:07 pm

    @ Glorinand
    Would you say that the issues you refer to are Ubuntu or OpenOffice related? I just wonder because even though I’m using a so called bleeding-edge distribution myself, namely Arch, I still haven’t experienced any hiccups. Could it be that the Ubuntu developers have been too eager on making their own patches?

    I realize of course that my experience could be because I use other features of OpenOffice and hence haven’t encountered your difficulties. It makes me want to test the “bibliography index” and if I encounter problem send bug-reports.

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  51. Glorinand
    November 22nd, 2008 @ 10:42 am


    Well I guess I have no means to find out, as the official version does not work for me at all, but I think, that the particular bug I’ve mentioned is ubuntu specific. Well what I know for certain is, that it does not exist in the windows version of OOo, so that and the experience that the ubuntu Oo packages never really work that well at first, makes me think it might be ubuntu… :-)

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  54. rbtpt512
    December 12th, 2008 @ 11:38 pm


    Just my thoughts on this…

    I installed Ubuntu 8.10 a few days ago, and I’m very happy with it. I’ve already reduced my Vista install down to practically nothing and don’t miss it at all.

    After a few days of testing out various program variations [starred are the versions I’m using now due to the hardware I have] (Rhythmbox* vs Banshee; Evolution* vs Thunderbird; OO.o 2.4.1* vs 3.0.0; Totem* vs (Mplayer w32codecs)*; HPlip 2.8.7 Ubuntu-native vs HPlip 2.8.10 from HP*), I think I’m finished testing!

    I’m using OO.o 2.4.1 because it integrates with Evolution’s Address Book for address mail merges. OO.o 3.0.0 worked fine when I installed it – all that didn’t work was the Evolution integration (the wizard didn’t move past the initial screen when the Next button was pressed no matter which one of the radio buttons were selected). I’m trying to get a friend of mine to switch to Ubuntu and this is one of his prime needs, along with complete Palm syncing.


  55. glorinand
    December 13th, 2008 @ 11:16 am

    I finally managed to get OOo 3.0 working too… I really don’t know what it had been that had caused it to crash on every startup but after deleting the configuration directory and playing a bit with the installation settings – works… Of course in contrast to ubuntu packages – no gnome integration, but on the other hand no ubuntuish crashes, freezes and weird bugs either… No evolution integration is rather small price to pay for that, especially if one does not use evolution in the first place. 😀

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  57. rbtpt512
    December 13th, 2008 @ 6:42 pm

    Yes, glorinand, I’d probably be using something other than Evolution as my mail client. Evolution nicely, but slowly (UI choice in the wizard, not coding flaw) imported all of my TB mail perfectly. But, I did find out that Evolution has “outgoing filters” so nothing has to stay in the Sent folder. I like to keep entire threads of messages in their own subject folder.

    There are *very* few mail clients that do this, on any platform. I’ve tested as many clients as I could find, on MacOS, Windows and Linux, in my search for the “perfect” email client. Toying with computers is my hobby. :)

    KMail on KDE/Linux, PocoMail (email) and Barca(Pro) (like Evolution) for XP (not Vista) are the only other email clients I know of that have this feature. Thunderbird can’t ever have it, because of the way it’s architecture is designed.

    Hope you’re happy with whatever you’re using :)

  58. Mod
    January 17th, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

    […] for users to wait until the next one along; we fully expect 3.0 to be part of Ubuntu 9.04." En gros Linux c’est stable si on touche rien. Enfin si, ceux qui savent ils peuvent l’installer, […]

  59. glenn
    January 29th, 2009 @ 9:52 pm

    dear god
    so i have to use WINDOWS if i wish to use open office 3 ??
    i have tried to install office 3 but no luck

    this is why we always will be behind ms windows !!!!!!!

    ubuntu the easy linux os for newbies !!!!! ????

  60. glorinand
    February 17th, 2009 @ 11:32 pm


    No. It is in fact perfectly possible to use OpenOffice 3.0 (and 3.1 now for that matter) in Ubuntu 8.10. I’ve used it for 3 months or so now and it works nicely.

    Secondly – I beg to differ – we are not behind Windows.

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