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LibreOffice finally making it to the cloud in 2016

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LibreOffice is the best free and open-source standalone office suite. But these days, people like their office suites on the cloud, not on their PCs. Just look at the success of Google Docs and Office 365 and you’ll see what I mean.

Since 2011, LibreOffice has been trying to make a software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud version. Finally, in March 2015, Collabora was successful in creating a SaaS version of LibreOffice. That was the good news. The bad news? It wasn’t ready for primetime.

So in partnership with ownCloud, Collabora released Collabora Online Development Edition (CODE) in December 2015. It’s a beta of LibreOffice Online and ownCloud Server, which works on top of openSUSE Linux.

CODE’s purpose is to enable developers to get early access to the very latest, untested feature additions and updates to LibreOffice Online. The goal is for the Collabora and ownCloud partnership to deliver a combined commercial solution during 2016. This integrated product, Collabora CloudSuite, will feature a trio of online, mobile and desktop office productivity tools combined with ownCloud Server.

“We’re delighted to partner with ownCloud to strengthen our go-to-market posture as we look forward to fulfilling the considerable market demand for an Open Source cloud document suite,” said Michael Meeks, general manager of Collabora Productivity, in a statement “This initial release of CODE is our first step in this exciting journey.”

“Developers and Users will be able to easily view and edit documents while storing them in ownCloud,” added Frank Karlitschek, ownCloud founder and project leader. “This integration proves the power of integration between leading Projects and allows full support for all major document, spreadsheet and presentation file formats.”

What CODE will bring to users is the power to edit richly formatted documents from a Web browser. It includes support for such standard formats as text files, docx, doc, odt and pdf; spreadsheets, xlsx, xls and ods; and presentations, pptx, ppt and odp.

Other features, according to an ownCloud blog, will include “a simplified user interface available through the ownCloud integration app. This is not inherent to the technology; work on expansion is ongoing and the team certainly welcomes any help in adding functionality. Already many more capabilities are available behind shortcuts.”

In addition — and this is an important feature — “The rendering used is identical to the desktop version, which means documents will look exactly the same in the Web and offline version,” the blog continues. “Images, tables, graphs, word-art, styles and anything else embedded in the document will be there and will look exactly as it should. This is unique to LibreOffice, as other Web-based office suites have created new rendering engines which typically introduce subtle differences and missing features compared to their desktop counterparts and the standards they implement.”

The initial version allows basic editing. Collaborative and rich editing are on the road-map. Interested developers can download CODE and get started contributing to both projects right away.

Again, I wish this project was more mature than it is. After all, fans have been waiting for almost five years. Still, this looks to be a major step forward. I have real hopes that we’ll see a ready-to-run version for users in 2016.


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