When projects of huge importance like the LibreOffice release a new major version, everyone expect to see new amazing features and the expanding of the program’s abilities and sure there are many on this release, but the most important is what happened under the hood.
Having the huge codebase of LibreOffice makes it hard to contribute, collaborate with other developers, bring new people to the community and finally evolve the application. Huge API changes and cleanups aim to make things easier, for a brighter and more dev-crowded future!
API and development changes
The 4.0 release brings the most important API cleanup that has ever occurred since the beginning of the project (OpenOffice.org 1.x). This will bring more power to the hands of the developers and will also make things much simpler and easier.
For a more detailed list about what exactly was changed, removed, replaced etc, check the API changelog webpage
Many modules were ported to gbuild, while gstreamer 1.0 is now supported. Also, https://gerrit.libreoffice.org/ is used for code review and easy contribution — close to 1500 code changes reviewed and merged with it!
As LibreOffice has not yet conquered the world, it is very important to improve interoperability with better import/export technologies, and less need for conversion. Here are the most important things done towards this direction:
- Import ink annotations from DOCX and RTF documents
- Import filter for Microsoft Publisher publications
- Import / export support for native RTF math expressions
- Various DOCX improvements: import of floating tables, OLE objects inside rectangles, margins of inline images using the WordProcessing markup.
- When opening ODS and XLSX files, the values of formula can be shown as they were saved in the files (cached), without recalculating the formula directly when opening the file
- Cached value import from ODS and XLSX
- Export color scales and data bars to XLSX
- Exporting of a single chart as a PNG or JPEG image
- XML Source dialog to quickly import arbitrary XML content
- There’s now an Impress remote control for Android phones!
New features and improvements
This is were the user’s abilities are expanded, so offering new features while improving the ones that already exist is very important. In this 4.0 release, all of LibreOffice parts offer new exciting possibilities.
- You are now able to attach comments to document text ranges
- Allow extra word boundary characters
- Improve quality of displaying images in documents
- Allow different header and footer on the first page without using a separate page style.
- Increased size limit on (uncompressed) ODF documents from 2Gb to 4Gb
- Support “type-ahead” search in the autofilter popup. It is now possible to search for specific entry via key input
- Enhanced chart visualisation – better quality rendering / print and PDF export of charts
- Improved conditional format dialogs and added three new conditional formats
- Many improvements and new configuration options for the formula engine
- Much accelerated multimedia previews, and previews of embedded video on Linux
- Presenter Console RTL support
- Improve quality of page previews in Draw/Impress with supersampling
- Multi-image support in ODF allowing a bitmap + SVG representation eg
- Circles and Ovals toolbar from Impress now also available in Draw
- Linecap improvements
The user interface is maybe the sector that needs the most attention on future releases. It needs to be modernized, simplified and maybe a bit prettified. This release, doesn’t deliver what I would like to see in version 4.0
Among the highlights are the support for Firefox personas that allow users to change the look and feel of their LibreOffice by using Firefox themes.
Some new helpful pop-ups are also positive, while the new templates manager makes things even easier. The unity integration finally landed on this version, in contrast to the port to gmenu that is controversial and still under discussion :(
Tons of more changes and little (or not so little) improvements can be found in the changelog webpage. As I said in the beginning of the article, the most important thing about this release is the new and higher hopes that the API changes bring. The value of everything else depends on the personal use, but I generally think it worths updating for everyone out there.