3.0 Beta on the Mac vs. NeoOffice 2.2.3 logo 3.0 Beta is now out, and available to download. It has been a long time coming now, and one of the big new features being trumpeted is native Mac support.

I thought I would cross over to Mac OS X for this FOSSwire post, to compare the new native there to an unofficial fork called NeoOffice that has offered native support for a while now. I'll explain more about that later.

Whatever your views on the Mac platform, FOSS support on platforms other than Linux is undeniably important, so going over to view OOo from that perspective is something I think that is good to do. So let's get started!

What's NeoOffice?

For those who don't know, NeoOffice is a fork of the original code that started in 2003. Its aim was to bring the office suite natively over to the Mac platform.

The reason why this was necessary is that was written basically to run under two windowing environments - it ran under Windows natively, and used X11 for Unix systems. While it certainly is possible to run X11 on Mac OS X and therefore run, it hardly provided a good user experience, and made it a right pain to do.

For lots of different reasons, the official project wouldn't devote the time and resources to doing the Mac port, so a group of developers took the OOo source code and made their own derivative just for the Mac, called NeoOffice.

The differences between the two versions aren't just code and branding, however. The NeoOffice distribution is available only under the GPL, whereas OOo official has other licensing options available.

This meant that when the official team focused their attention on a Mac port, all the hard work that the NeoOffice guys had done on getting their Mac port going couldn't be introduced back into the core source code, due to the licence differences.

Differences Between OOo 3.0b and NeoOffice

OOo 3.0 Beta splash screen

Anyway, enough politics. Apart from the new features in OOo 3.0, what are the differences between the two native Mac implementations?


This might be just down to the official build's general speed improvements, but OOo is miles faster to cold start that NeoOffice.

The NeoOffice interface actually uses Java as a bridge to get to the Aqua user interface, as far as I'm aware, OOo doesn't. Taking Java out of the equation might be one of the elements speeding it up.

Once you're actually in the app, however, the speed of both apps is comparable, apart from in one area.

Using the mouse wheel to scroll through a document is relatively speedy in NeoOffice (albeit not as smooth as most apps), but right now is very sluggish and a bit disappointing in the OOo beta. Hopefully this should be addressed by the final release.


Branding differences aside, the two applications generally look and feel mostly the same. NeoOffice does have a custom icon set that looks more Aqua-ish, but OOo's one isn't bad either.

Dialogues and windows generally use the same layout across the two distributions. From a Mac user experience perspective, many of them still feel a bit 'Windows-like' and thus may put off the Mac user, but that is something largely unavoidable without rewriting a lot of the application.

Fonts on buttons and in interface elements do look better in OOo, in my opinion, but still look obviously out of place with other Mac applications. Again, this is pretty much something unavoidable without a completely separate app for Mac OS X - something quite infeasible and a bit unreasonable.


Functionally, there is little difference between the two, apart, obviously, from the new features offered in the new version of OOo.

Which One Is Better?

If you're not bothered about being 'official' to OOo, I would recommend that Mac users wanting to use the Free office suite stick with NeoOffice (unless you want to run a beta).

The stability provided by NeoOffice is pretty good in my experience, and the beta credentials of the official build mean that for important stuff, it's probably worth sticking with 2.2.3 right now.

There is very little to choose between the two implementations. Once OOo3.0 has matured and the final release is made (and therefore stability can be guaranteed), it might have just enough in terms of speed and subtle improvements to sway you in that direction.

Provided that the laggy scrolling issue can be dealt with, of course.

Give It a Spin Yourself!

Anyone wanting to try the new 3.0 beta can download it and give it a try, while NeoOffice can be downloaded for Mac OS X only.

Avatar for peter Peter Upfold -

Peter Upfold is a technology enthusiast from the UK. Peter’s interest in Linux stems back to 2003, when curiosity got the better of him and he began using SUSE 9.0. Now he runs Linux Mint 9 on the desktop, runs a CentOS-based web server from home for his personal website and dabbles in all sorts of technology things across the Windows, Mac and open source worlds.

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Discussion: 3.0 Beta on the Mac vs. NeoOffice 2.2.3

  1. Dmitry (guest)

    # Posted on 09 August 2008 at 06:39 AM

    Actually, NeoOffice is much faster to start and work with on my MacBook Pro. I have 4GB RAM and I do not know what makes OO so slow.

    OO is also slower to work with: page scrolling, menu opening, etc. No idea why.

  2. Jonathan (guest)

    # Posted on 02 September 2008 at 08:32 PM

    This post is out of date because the NeoOffice team has released 2.2.5. They have also begun working on NeoOffice 3.0. According to NeoOffice, slide show presentations are 33% faster in NeoOffice 2.2.5 than in OpenOffice.

  3. Rigo Muniz (guest)

    # Posted on 02 October 2008 at 12:36 AM

    Each to its own. I prefer the simplicity and speed that Neo-Office renders in Mac Osx, but I think Open Office is also a robust suite.

    So in conclusion, I recommend both office applications.

  4. Larry (guest)

    # Posted on 20 November 2008 at 03:09 AM

    I have to disagree on the speed issue. I can't find anything that's faster in OpenOffice 3.0 than NeoOffice.

    Also, a MAJOR component you left out of your comparison was user support. Both NeoOffice and have support forums but here's the difference. I posted two questions three days ago in the OpenOffice forum...still no answer. I've posted about five questions in the past 24 hours in the NeoOffice forum and not one question too more than 30 minutes to answer! To many folks...this is hugely important.

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