Oracle’s decision to give OpenOffice.org (OOo) assets to the Apache Software Foundation and not The Document Foundation (TDF) has not stopped TDF to roll out a major release of LibreOffice (LO), a fork of OpenOffice. LibreOffice is widely adopted now and is becoming very popular. Major Linux distros including Ubuntu, Fedora and Linux Mint has dropped OOo for LO.
LibreOffice 3.4.0 is the second major release of the suite since the announcement of TDF in September 2010. LO 3.4.0 is a major release of the open-source free office suite now incorporates the contributions of more than 120 developers (six times as many as the first beta released on the launch date).
LibreOffice was created as a fork of the OpenOffice.org productivity suite back in September, of course, due to uncertainty over the future of OOo after Oracle acquired the project.
“We care for our developers, and it shows,” noted Italo Vignoli, a steering committee member and The Document Foundation official. “Our core developers have invented the mechanism of the easy hacks, which makes it simple and enjoyable for volunteer contributors to get to know LibreOffice code, challenging their development skills with basic or elementary tasks.”
“Once they have completed the first easy hacks, contributors are ready to scale to more difficult tasks”, says Michael Meeks, a senior developer working for SuSE. “We spend quite a lot of time mentoring new contributors, in order to increase the number of people working on bug fixing, patches and features. This is soon going to be reflected in the quality of the software and the number of new features of future releases”.
Improved Features of LibreOffice
Updates to Calc
Calc spreadsheet now boasts faster performance and an improved compatibility with Excel spreadsheets. Pivot Table — the new name of DataPilot — now offers support for unlimited numbers of fields and named ranges as data source.
The user interface of Writer, Impress and Draw has been improved with many new features, and several cosmetic changes have been applied to the Linux version, with a better text rendering engine and an improved GTK+ theme integration.
Support for Unity
LibreOffice’s latest release adds initial support for Unity, the new user interface of Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal).
LibreOffice 3.4.0 now offers smoother startup on Linux with a splash screen before starting to read all the application’s data, giving a faster time to splash and cleaner code.
A Smaller Windows Installer
Shrink LibreOffice Windows installer download by more than 30 Mb using better compression schemes.
Parallel Installations on Linux
LibreOffice 3.4.0 can be installed in parallel with LibreOffice 3.3 on Linux. Note that the user configuration is shared and both versions cannot be started at the same time.
Code wise, several thousand lines of German comments have been translated into English, and over 5.000 lines of dead code have been removed from Writer, Calc and Impress.
Interested users can view a complete list of new features and fixes on the LibreOffice Website.
LibreOffice Version Naming Clarification
The first release of the 3.4 series, LibreOffice 3.4.0, is targeted to community members and power users, and should not be implemented in a corporate environment. The Document Foundation has explained that following its time based release schedule – the best strategy for a distributed and cooperative development environment – the best releases for such deployments start from x.x.1. Because of this, LibreOffice 3.3.x is going to be maintained for several months to come, until the end of calendar year 2011, for the most conservative users.
LibreOffice 3.4 can be downloaded from http://www.libreoffice.org/download.