In 2011, not long after The Document Foundation announced its OpenOffice fork, LibreOffice, the group also said it would offer an online version of LibreOffice. Four years later, it looks like we're finally going to get "LibreOffice Online" (LOOL).
LibreOffice, the best open-source office suite, which has long battled Microsoft Office, will take on Google Docs and Office 365 in this incarnation. You may be asking, do we really need another online office suite? LibreOffice's supporters would say yes, because it will be the only one that fully supports native Open Document Format (ODF).
ODF is an Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) and ISO document standard. It's designed both to be open and to not have any ties to a proprietary company. Over the years, it's also become the standard for the United Kingdom for all its official, sharable documents.While both Microsoft and Google support ODF, neither are committed to it the way LibreOffice is.
LOOL will be created by IceWarp, an open-source groupware company, and Collabora, a software company which offers LibreOffice support. IceWarp will be supplying the funding while Collabora, and the open-source community, will provide the technical chops and labor. "It is wonderful to marry IceWarp's vision and investment with our passion and skills for LibreOffice development," said Michael Meeks, VP of Collabora Productivity. Meeks developed the proof of concept back in 2011 and will oversee the development of LibreOffice Online.
The new LibreOffice will have the following features:
- 100% document fidelity between LibreOffice desktop and LibreOffice Online.
- Collaborative editing with multiple simultaneous users and cursors.
- All Writer, Calc, and Impress supported file-types supported.
- Initially will include a basic HTML5 user interface.
The project itself will be hosted by The Document Foundation, just as LibreOffice is currently. This project will be worked on at the same time as Collabora's latest LibreOffice project, LibreOffice for Android.
LOOL, however, will be released as a Linux server program. The program will also build on IceWarp Server's lightweight document management features. One advantage of this approach is that, unlike Google Docs or Office 365, companies will be able to run their own server instead of having to trust a third-party with their documents.
As the two companies state in their joint press release, "While there are several cloud-based solutions that can edit native Office formats with various degree of compatibility, none of them provides the same core values and format compatibility as LibreOffice. ... Another challenge is that the online collaboration market is under a tight vendor lock-in, and all existing commercial API offerings are merely a window into a provider-owned cloud service."
That's the good news. Now, for the bad news.
The initial release of LOOL isn't expected until the beginning of 2016. The code will be available before then of course, but you'll be on your own as far as getting it to work. As Meeks explained in the technical notes for LOOL, "LibreOffice Online is just beginning, there is a lot that remains to be done, and we appreciate help with that as we execute over the next year."
Still, it's seems like LOOL is finally really on its way. I, for one, am looking forward to using it.