LibreOffice for Android coming soon

LibreOffice is still chained to the desktop but it's looking towards cloud and mobile, with an Android version under development.

The next major LibreOffice desktop release is just around the corner and now the developers behind the open source productivity suite are preparing to extend it to Android.

It's taken a while for LibreOffice to break out of the desktop, but the project is now moving swiftly to deliver Android versions of its desktop modules word processor Writer, spreadsheet Calc, and presentation package Impress.

The Document Foundation on Tuesday announced it had assigned the work necessary to build the Android apps to two companies. The Document Foundation is hoping the result will be a "compelling, elegant and full-featured experience of LibreOffice on Android", Ital Vignoli, one of its founders, said.

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The two firms awarded the work were Collabora, which developed the LibreOffice Viewer, and Igalia, an open source software development consultancy. The pair will deliver the framework for Android versions of Writer, Calc, and Impress as well as the Draw vector image editor and Math for creating equations. Igalia will be delivering an interface for others to integrate their preferred cloud storage provider with the office suite.

A release date for the suite of Android apps has yet to be announced, however the foundation expects the several key projects underpinning it are expected to be completed during March.

The office suite will be based on the work that's already gone into the LibreOffice Viewer Beta, which was released earlier this month and lets Android users open Open Document Format (ODF) files.

The beta supports text documents and basic presentations, while spreadsheets and complex presentations are still in their early phases of development. The LibreOffice Viewer is built on a Mozilla and Android framework with contributions from the LibreOffice community, SUSE, and the Mozilla Corporation.

Vignoli noted there had been strong early support for the Viewer Beta, which has clocked up "tens of thousands" of downloads since its release on January 22. Google Play stats indicate it's been installed up to 50,000 times.

When it arrives, LibreOffice will join Microsoft's Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint Preview on Android, as well as Google's existing suite of productivity tools and others such as Kingsoft's WPS Office.

Work on LibreOffice for mobile comes as the Document Foundation gears up for the release of LibreOffice 4.4.

According to Charles-H. Schulz, another Document Foundation founder, the next major release will have an improved user interface, including "better looking toolbars, menus, colour selector, to a full set of icons finally arriving on OS X".

Another standout feature is the ability to connect LibreOffice 4.4 to Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage. The goal, combined with work on Android, is to have a suite that is better suited to multi-device use and collaboration.

"If you add to this connector the recent announcements of the work we are doing on Android, you may realize that LibreOffice is increasing its focus not just on the software features itself, but on the document and its processing logic," Schulz said.

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