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LibreOffice debugs and buffs up to v.3.5

Dancing on the grave of OpenOffice

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The Document Foundation (TDF) has announced the release of LibreOffice 3.5, which it modestly describes as “the best free office suite ever.”

This latest 201MB build strips out a lot of redundant code from the OpenOffice base around which LibreOffice is built, a move which initially caused the software some stability problems. These have now been fixed – according to TDF – but in a blog post the open source group suggested that more-conservative users might want to stick with version 3.4, and recommended any companies rolling it out across the enterprise to enlist professional support.

“We inherited a 15 years old code base, where features were not implemented and bugs were not solved in order to avoid creating problems, and this - with time - was the origin of a large technical debt,” says Caolán McNamara, a senior Red Hat developer who is one of TDF's founders and directors.

“We had two options: a conservative strategy, which would immediately please all users, leaving the code basically unchanged, and our more aggressive feature development and code renovation path, which has created some stability problems in the short term but is rapidly leading to a completely new and substantially improved free office suite: LibreOffice 3.5, the best free office suite ever.”

The word processing package has been updated, with a grammar checker for English, an automatic word-count generator and better layout tools, and the drawing package now allows imports from Microsoft’s Visio as well as custom shapes and Smart Art from PowerPoint. The Calc spreadsheet package also gets an upgrade to handle up to 10,000 sheets at a time and easier importation of data. For power users, LibreOffice now comes with an integrated PostgreSQL native driver.

TDF also gave a greatful nod to the increasing numbers of volunteers getting behind the LibreOffice system. A team of around 80 developers have contributed over thirty-thousand code commits, and “hacking” or “bug hunting” hero badges were issued on Tuesday to those who took part.

“In sixteen months, we have achieved incredible results,” said Michael Meeks, a SUSE Distinguished Engineer, who is also a founder and director at TDF. “In addition to the visible features, they’ve translated tens of thousands of German comments, removed thousands of unused or obsolete methods - sometimes whole libraries – and grown a suite of automated tests.

Development work is still continuing, with TDF planning versions of the software for the iOS and Android operating systems and for cloud platforms. Meanwhile, the Apache Foundation – which now has the rights to OpenOffice – is insisting that development of the original suite is still underway, and that a new build should come out this year. ®

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