LibreOffice 4.0 ships with new features, better looks
Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office
The Document Foundation has announced LibreOffice 4.0, the latest version of the free software competitor to Microsoft Office that spun off from the OpenOffice.org effort in 2010, describing it as nothing less than "the free office suite the community has been dreaming of since 2001."
"LibreOffice 4.0 is the first release that reflects the objectives set by the community at the time of the announcement, in September 2010: a cleaner and leaner code base, an improved set of features, better interoperability, and a more diverse and inclusive ecosystem," the Document Foundation's Italo Vignoli wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.
Among other improvements, version 4.0 is more compatible with Microsoft's Rich Text Format (RTF) and DOCX file formats – the latter being the XML-based Word document format first introduced in Office 2007.
LibreOffice Writer can now import ink annotations from both formats, in addition to supporting a number of new DOCX features, such as floating tables and inline comments.
LibreOffice 4.0 also supports importing Microsoft Publisher documents for the first time, and it can now read all known Visio file formats, including Visio 2013.
"We're trying to become this sort of Swiss Army Knife of file formats," Michael Meeks, who works on LibreOffice at SUSE, explained to El Reg in an interview.
In addition, LibreOffice has added support for the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) protocol, which allows the office suite to communicate directly with a variety of remote servers, including Alfresco, IBM FileNet P8, Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Nuxeo, and SAP NetWeaver Cloud Service, among others.
Progress has been made on improving the suite's overall UI as well. In particular, work has been done to make dialog boxes look nicer and more consistent across a wide range of languages.
"The previous code was just really horrendous," Meeks said. "Dialogs were constructed and drawn by hand – in fact, not even by hand. Programmers just sort of entered random numbers to lay them out, and it really looked awful."
According to Meeks, LibreOffice 4.0 now includes an automatic layout system that can adapt based on the user's locale and the text that needs to be displayed, to make sure everything is a good fit. He notes, however, that Wednesday's release is really just the beginning of this effort. He estimates that about 100 dialog boxes have been converted to use the new system, with "another 400" to go.
Support for right-to-left languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, and Indic has also been significantly improved, thanks in large part to a team working at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Saudi Arabia, which Meeks said has fixed "all sorts of embarrassing and silly bugs."
One handy new feature for presenters is a new Impress Remote Control App, which allows a speaker to control an Impress slide deck using an Android smartphone. Unfortunately, however, this feature still has a few wrinkles that need ironing, so it's currently only available for some Linux distributions. A new version that supports Windows, OS X, and all Linux versions is promised soon.
Next page: What's next after 4.0?
That's a very blinkered and crazy point of view.
Libre Office is very good for the vast majority of business users. Why? The vast majority of business users use their entire Microsoft Office suite to:
* write the odd letter, maybe even mail merge
* record a few values in a spreadsheet
While there are a large number of users that use more advanced features and there are a lot of (suicidal) organisations that somehow run their entire operation on Excel Spreadsheets, their number is considerably less than the majority. The majority of business workers do not sit in finance offices juggling Excel or Word macros across multiple documents, they sit in grotty offices using Microsoft Word in place of a type writer.
I like Libre office (and Open Office prior to that), and use Microsoft Office extensively, but what I'd like even more is for Libre Office to be challenging MS Office much closer and forcing Microsoft to actually improve their product rather than just change the user interface skin every few years and somehow make the entire thing larger, slower and more bloated with every release.
The key lock in to the Microsoft Office suite is Microsoft Outlook. Unfortunately despite being awful in a huge number of ways, it's the best email and calendaring client there is.
Re: Slowly closing the gap with Microsoft Office?
Oh go on then, I'll bite.
So everyone should just give up and buy MS or Adobe products? Please.
I use GIMP and Photoshop extensively, predominantly GIMP. And the only thing I really need Photoshop for is CMYK image support. If GIMP had that then my entire design workflow could be completed with GIMP/Inkscape.
When it comes to LibreOffice, I've seen more improvement in LO in the last 12 months than I had in OO over 3 years. It's almost equal to Office XP, which I still run because it's insanely fast on hardware from the last 5 years. The only things where LO wasn't so good: pivot charts were a bit crashy, boggy graph performance, lack of a presenter view for multi-monitor/projector setups in presentations. Other than that LibreOffice has had 95% of all users covered in the last few years.
I'll leave you to your ribbon interface and horrible bloatware but don't ruin it for people who actually use this software and appreciate the hard work of others. I'll be giving this new version a go tonight.
The problem is that people just think Word, Excel, Powerpoint. Why would anyone buying a computer from PC World be aware of any alternatives.
Being driven in droves to LibreOffice??
As a home & hobby user (but formerly a newspaper publisher and journalist) I've been intrigued with the development of OO and now LO ... and have heard endless complaints and criticisms that "nothing works like Office but genuine MS Office!"
But now with the arrival of Office 2013 on the store shelves (let's set aside the Corp/Govt distro channels for now) one slaps US $139.99 for a cute little box, not large enough to hold a CD. Opening said box at home, one finds two slips of paper: one is a keycode; the other is a download URL. WTF??
This purchase entitles the customer to a download to one machine install ... period. One machine, one user. If the hard drive pukes, pay another US $139.99; if the machine is burnt/stolen/replaced, pay another US $139.99. Want to transfer that copy to an offspring for college? Nope ... pay another $139.99. With no CD, there is no possibility of a reinstall, period. BigBro controls the install/activation, and allows no second chances. Check out the terms:
Such liberal terms and respect for customers is certain to have one effect: M$ will be driving 'em in droves to LIbreOffice !!