LibreOffice 5.0 gears up for a Web and mobile future

The open source office suite boasts lots of new developers and commits, but has a lot of work to do to stay relevant

LibreOffice 5.0 gears up for a Web and mobile future

Open source office suite LibreOffice made a name for itself by taking the existing OpenOffice project, cleaning up its codebase, and stepping up its release schedule.

With LibreOffice 5.0 in the offing, the organization responsible for turning the project around, the Document Foundation, is now looking to move this very desktop-centric application into the Web and mobile realms where users spend a growing share of their time.

Polish and power-up

Most of what's new for LibreOffice 5.0 falls into one of two buckets. First, polish what's already there. The project's contributors have done this with static code analysis and careful rewriting to remove legacy code and clean up bugs.

Second, make the suite more cross-compatible with Microsoft Office -- not only in terms of, say, document filters, but also by providing feature parity between individual applications, mostly Word/Writer and Excel/Calc.

LibreOffice 5.0 InfoWorld

LibreOffice 5.0 promises more UI polish and better cross-compatibility with Microsoft Office, as its core components serve as the basis for future Web and mobile versions.

Most of the identifiably new stuff falls into that second category, along with fresh features that aren't part of any compatibility mission, such as further UI refinements and more functionality for the Calc spreadsheet app. Windows-ready 64-bit builds are now shipping as standard issue, and the suite is confirmed to work with Windows 10.

Beyond the cutting edge

The third way the suite is to be improved -- in some respects, the most important going forward -- is keeping it relevant in an age where more activity is taking place on mobile devices.

Two projects in the works at the Document Foundation, still in their early stages but said to be advancing steadily, tackle these issues. First is an edition of LibreOffice for Android, which originally appeared as little more than a document previewer. The newest version, based on core elements in 5.0, adds minimal editing functionality. However, it's a long way from being a substitute for the full desktop application, and it's not yet even a match for the cut-down mobile editions of, say, Microsoft Office.

The second project, a full-blown Web incarnation of LibreOffice, is still in the works, based on the same core document-processing code for the sake of maximum cross-compatibility. But the Document Foundation has no plans to offer it as a Web service, so hosting the product would either have to fall to a commercial outfit or to an organization that wanted to deploy it on its own.

Without the click-and-go convenience afforded by Google Docs or Office 365, it's tough to see how a Web-based LibreOffice can gain a foothold in a world where those suites, rather then desktop applications, are becoming the go-to options for both greenfield and legacy outfits.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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