Version 4.3 of LibreOffice, the free and open source productivity suite developed by the Document Foundation and derived from the OpenOffice.org project, was released today. Aside from the usual array of bug fixes and new features designed to make it more cross-compatible with Microsoft Office, version 4.3 has features that give files from legacy Macintosh productivity software a new lease on life.
Most of the improvements around file handling in 4.3 involve better support for various aspects of the Office Open XML (OOXML) format used by Microsoft for its productivity software. LibreOffice users have often complained of opening Word 2010 or Word 2013 documents and finding that the formatting had been mangled or features like annotations hadn't survive being resaved in LibreOffice. Version 4.3 preserves many more of the attributes used in OOXML documents, such as style attributes for text and images.
Also new to this edition of LibreOffice is import support for document formats created by a slew of legacy Macintosh applications: BeagleWorks, ClarisWorks, Claris Resolve, GreatWorks, MacWorks, SuperPaint, and Wingz. Likewise, Microsoft Works spreadsheets and databases -- not just word processing documents -- can now also be imported into LibreOffice.
Another change, which might not directly affect many users but hints at how the refactoring of LibreOffice's code is reaching many legacy issues, involves the lengths of paragraphs. Previously, paragraphs in a LibreOffice document couldn't exceed 65,000 characters due to a bug in the underlying OpenOffice.org code that had persisted for over a decade and remained unclosed.
Other changes include comments that can now be "printed in the document margin, formatted in a better way, and imported and exported," according to the Document Foundation; better behaviors for spreadsheets; and support for animated 3D models in the Impress presentation app.
Michael Meeks, a member of the LibreOffice project, is a diligent documenter of the way code has been fixed, refactored, and improved across the lifetime of the project. With 4.3's release, Meeks posted a blog that detailed the status of many under-the-hood changes for the LibreOffice codebase, such as the use of unit tests or the automated refactoring of code using the Clang compiler.
Unlike OpenOffice, LibreOffice is released on a regular rolling schedule. The Document Foundation claims that "time based release trains have been shown to produce the best quality Free software," since it "enforces discipline in introducing fixes, gives predictability, and allows more regular releasing." The next major release -- 4.4 -- is due sometime in mid-October, and the 4.3 version will be end-of-lifed in May of next year.
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