The Linux community was in a bit of an uproar this week when Manjaro Linux announced that it would be swapping out the open source office suite LibreOffice in version 18.1 and replacing it with the proprietary FreeOffice. It’s due to a new partnership between the Manjaro developers and FreeOffice creator SoftMaker. Fortunately, the Manjaro team was quick to respond to community feedback and is developing a solution that should end being a win/win for all involved.
The announcement first dropped quietly — and without any explanation — on the Manjaro Linux forum. An outpouring of criticism followed, mainly triggered by disappointment that a distribution perceived as mostly embracing free and open source software would replace LibreOffice (which is largely considered the go-to, pre-installed office suite on Linux) with a proprietary competitor.
To hear the reasoning behind this decision directly from Manjaro lead Philip Müller, you can listen to Linux Unplugged beginning at 13:42. The main takeaway is that the team believes FreeOffice delivers the best overall compatibility with Microsoft Office, and Müller emphasized that no money had been exchanged (yet) as a result of the partnership.
For the time being, I’m going to bypass my own commentary on this and jump straight to the good news, but feel free to listen to the upcoming episode of my podcast Linux For Everyone to hear this discussed in depth.
Originally, Manjaro announced that FreeOffice would ship by default with new installations of the Arch-based distribution. But the team obviously absorbed and took to heart all the feedback, coming up with a solution that we can all appreciate: choice.
The team took to Twitter to say that they “are currently working on a new module to select the Office Suite you may want to install on Manjaro 18.1,” alongside a few proposed images of the upcoming installer steps.
And today the Manjaro team published this update on the situation via their website. Here’s a relevant snippet:
The RC5 and RC6 installer images included FreeOffice so it could be tested. Based on that feedback, Softmaker are making changes to the free edition of their office suite. This benefits all users of the free edition.
The final 18.1.0 images, depending on the edition and choices of the edition maintainer, will either:
- Allow you to select which office software suite you would like to install
- Not include FreeOffice
So to summarise: this whole process is helping a company support Linux as a platform, bring more choice to Manjaro, and helps a wide range of other Linux distributions.
You can discuss it further in the Manjaro Linux forum.
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