Office suites are important. In 1984, Apple introduced the first office suite—a collection of integrated software that allows us to create text documents, crunch numbers, and work with data (software to give presentations came later)—with AppleWorks. Although it was under-promoted by Apple, and ran only on the Apple ][ instead of the new Mac, it still proved to be incredibly popular. When Microsoft released Office95 to coincide with the release of Windows 95, there was no looking back. Now, many people spend most of their workday inside their Office suite.
Microsoft may currently dominate the Office suite market with their eponymous software, but things are slowly starting to change. A free, high-quality, open source Office suite has been a long time in coming, and one is finally here: OpenOffice.org. It runs on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, and it exchanges documents with Microsoft's Office suite beautifully. It's an essential tool for any computer user.
Before we begin using OpenOffice.org (known as OOo to its users), let's go over some brief history. It's good to know where such an important software package comes from, and it will also help us understand why the official name is "OpenOffice.org" and not just "OpenOffice."
Back in the mid-1980s, a German company named StarDivision was formed with the goal of producing an office suite that ran on Linux, Solaris, Windows, and OS/2: StarOffice. Sun Microsystems purchased StarDivision in 1999 and proceeded to release most of the code as open source, under the LGPL and the SISSL (Sun Industry Standards Source License). This project and its major software was called "OpenOffice.org." You'd think that "OpenOffice" would be a better name, but unfortunately, it couldn't be used, as someone else owns the trademark. On 1 May 2002, its developers released OOo 1.0 to the world, and about a year and a half later, on 1 October 2003, they made OOo 1.1 available, a great improvement over the first release.
Sun shephereded OOo for years, but was then acquired by Oracle. After much angst, Oracle divested itself of OOo, but by then most of the developers and community had forked away from OOo to form LibreOffice. Most of what I wrote in this section still applies to LibreOffice.