Friday, May 20, 2011

LibreOffice Release Out

The Document Foundation’s LibreOffice, the OpenOffice office suite fork, is on a winning streak. No sooner than Ubuntu lets the world know that LibreOffice is its office suite of choice, than the next day the first full, shipping version of the program, LibreOffice 3.3, is released.

LibreOffice 3.3 includes numerous new features when compared to its OpenOffice parent. To my mind, the most important of these for modern office workers is that it has much better import and export tools for Microsoft Office 2007 and above OpenXML formats. Love them or hate them–I hate them myself–more and more businesses are using these formats and being able to work with them is becoming a business-critical feature. In addition, LibreOffice can also now import Adobe PDF, Microsoft Works, and Lotus Word Pro documents and has better WordPerfect document import facilities.

Screenshots: New features from LibreOffice 3.3

According to The Document Foundation, “LibreOffice 3.3 also incorporates all the new features of 3.3, such as new custom properties handling; embedding of standard PDF fonts in PDF documents; new Liberation Narrow font; increased document protection in Writer and Calc; auto decimals digits for ‘General’ format in Calc; 1 million rows in a spreadsheet; new options for CSV import in Calc; insert drawing objects in Charts; hierarchical axis labels for Charts; improved slide layout handling in Impress; new easier to use print interface; more options for Changing case; and colored sheet Tabs in Calc.”

The Document Foundation also states that it will add new features faster than OpenOffice because its “community of developers has been able to build their own and independent process, and stand on their feet in a very short time (in relation to the size of the code and the ambitions of the project).” Indeed, this in part why the fork happened. Regardless of how one sees Oracle’s management of Sun’s former open-source projects, OpenOffice was long known for being very slow to update compared to more agile open-source projects.

As Michael Meeks, Novell Distinguished Engineer and Document Foundation community member told me, “The growth and output of this community, in just a short period of time, underscores the need for and importance of a truly open project dedicated to creating the best office suite available–period. Now that we have gotten started we only expect the project to pick up steam and there is still plenty of work to do for everyone from developers to artists to translators. With new contributors joining every day, LibreOffice will continue to deliver the innovative features and functionality that users want. ”

Looking ahead, Caolan McNamara, Red Hat’s Desktop Engineer in charge of and now LibreOffice, said in a statement, “We are excited: this is our very first stable release, and therefore we are eager to get user feedback, which will be integrated immediately in the code and released very soon. After February, we will be moving to a real time based, predictable, transparent and public release schedule, according to the desire of the Engineering Steering Committee and the requests of the users”. For further details, see the LibreOffice development roadmap.

LibreOffice 3.3 is now available for both direct and BitTorrent downloads. There are versions for Windows; 32 and 64-bits RPM package Linux distributions, such as Red Hat and Novell; 32 and 64-bit DEB package Linux distributions such as Debian and Ubuntu; and both PowerPC and Intel Macs.

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