With the release of LibreOffice 4.0, the Document Foundation continues to makes strides in preparing the open source office suite for enterprise use, adding the ability to work with many ECM (enterprise content management) systems and updated compatibility with many Microsoft file formats.
"LibreOffice continues to be the chief free alternative to Microsoft Office, and the improvements in version 4.0 make it more attractive," said Forrester analyst Phil Karcher.
LibreOffice 4.0 provides a way for organisations to link LibreOffice with their content management systems, including Microsoft SharePoint, Alfresco, IBM FileNet P8, Nuxeo, OpenText, SAP NetWeaver Cloud Service and others. The software uses the CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services) standard to communicate with these systems.
With CMIS, you can check documents in and out of ECM systems directly from LibreOffice. "Previously you could do this, but you had to use a horrible web interface," said Michael Meeks, who is a Free Software Engineer for SUSE, and one of the key managers of LibreOffice development.
LibreOffice 4.0 comes with a number of other enterprise-friendly features as well. The suite can now also import documents from the latest versions of Microsoft Visio and Microsoft Publisher. It can also better render text documents written in the Microsoft .DOCX and the RTF (Rich Text Format) formats.
LibreOffice also provides some help for executives making presentations with LibreOffice's Impress. Someone running a slide presentation in a group meeting can use an Android smartphone as a remote control. Impress can now show both the notes and the presentation on the presenter's phone while displaying the actual presentation page on the display for the audience, and keep the two in synch. The remote only works with Linux computers, though a version is being ported to Windows as well, Meeks said.
The Calc spreadsheet is being refined to match the capabilities of Microsoft's Excel. Charts can now be exported as images. New functions have been added, and performance overall has been improved. "The spreadsheet is still not at Microsoft Excel's level, but we're trying to improve scalability, storage size and performance in lots of ways, and making good performance there," Meeks said.
The new LibreOffice 4.0 comes with an expanded set of APIs (application programming interfaces) that will allow developers and organisations to build better plug-ins for the software. The user interface has been refined as well.
Since its fork from OpenOffice 30 months ago, LibreOffice seems to have no shortage of volunteers to help contribute to the code. The project has thus far attracted more than 500 developers, who have submitted over 50,000 changes and updates.
The LibreOffice developers have added or replaced several million lines of code, in many cases taking advantage of new speedy C++ constructs. Deprecated methods and obsolete libraries have been removed, and many of the comments in the source code have been translated from German to English (the code base for LibreOffice originally came from a German company, StarDivision, and was known as StarOffice).
Leading the development of LibreOffice, the Document Foundation has been keeping enterprise use in mind, Meeks said. And some organisations are using the office suite as an alternative to Microsoft Office. The city of Munich, for instance, is deploying LibreOffice. Vendors are taking note of the software as well: Novel bundles LibreOffice with its GroupWare collaboration software for a combined package.
Although LibreOffice 4.0 can be thought of as an iterative release, it makes up for a lot of lost momentum that occurred when LibreOffice split from OpenOffice two years back, Karcher said. The performance improvements and updated compatibility with Microsoft file formats help in this regard, though improvements still need to be made in collaboration and mobile use, he said.
LibreOffice 4.0 can be downloaded at no cost.